| Jun 28, 2007


Feature Article - June 28, 2007

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Legalese - June 28, 2007

Recreational Boating Refresher

by Susan Irwin,Executive Director/Lawyer

Legalese is a column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

Now that those hazy days of summer have finally arrived, boats of a dizzying array of size and type have also returned to our area lakes and rivers. Long gone however, are the days when any person could launch and operate a boat of any size without appropriate training, or experience.

In an effort to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities experienced in recreational boating, regulations under the Canada Shipping Act were passed a number of years ago to impose competency requirements for the operators of recreational boats equipped with a motor. Power boat operators, just like drivers of motor vehicles, are expected to be aware of the rules that govern their activities.

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The application of these rules depends on several factors, including the age of the operator and the size of the boat and motor to be used. If you want to avoid troubled waters, make sure you know how the rules apply to you and your choice of craft!

For example, all persons – regardless of their age – who are operating powerboats less than four meters in length, including Personal Water Craft (PWC or “Seadoos”) must carry proof of competency. Proof of competency to operate a powerboat can be demonstrated by:

Carrying a Pleasure Craft Operator Card issued following the successful completion of an accredited Transport Canada test administered by an accredited course provider.

Completion of a dockside boating safety checklist when renting a powerboat (good only for the time of rental), or,

Proving the successful completion of an acceptable boater safety course prior to April 1, 1999 (including a course taken in another jurisdiction).

In addition to proof of competency requirements, minimum age limits also apply to the operation of powerboats and PWCs. Only persons 16 years of age who have proof of operator competency can lawfully operate a PWC. Children under 12 years of age may not operate a boat with more than a 10 hp motor unless accompanied and directly supervised by a person 16 years or older, while 12 to 16 year olds may not operate a boat with over 40 hp without the presence and supervision of an older person.

The regulations also impose extensive safety equipment requirements for all pleasure boats, including canoes, kayaks, rowing skiffs, paddle boats, sailboats and PWCs. Generally, the larger and more powerful your boat, the longer the list of required safety equipment will be.

At a minimum, boats must be equipped with approved personal floatation devices or life jackets of appropriate size for each person on board, a towline, a “manual propelling device” (such as a paddle) or anchor, a bailer or manual water pump, a watertight flashlight or flares, and sound signaling equipment. Navigation lights may also be required.

Charges can be laid against the operators of boats who fail to provide proof of competency, or who are operating a boat without proper safety equipment. Operators can also be charged with a whole host of other offences, from being impaired to operating a craft in a careless way that could adversely affect the safety of others.

In this column only a few of the more important rules governing the operation of pleasure craft have been touched on. More information, including how to locate an accredited course provider to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, can be obtained by calling the Transport Canada Centre in Kingston at (613) 545-8714 or by visiting Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety on line at www.tc.gc.ca/BoatingSafety.

Safe Boating!

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