Frequently Asked Boating License Questions

Do I need a Pleasure Craft Operator Card?

All operators of power driven pleasure craft, including Personal Watercraft, motorized sailboats and electric trolling motors, used for recreational purposes within Canada are now required to carry proof of competency. The following are considered proof of competency:

I've been boating for years do I still need a card or is there a "Grandfather Clause"?

There is no "grandfather" clause. There is also no minimum or maximum age exemption. All Canadian boaters operating pleasure craft are required to obtain a boating license.

What is the fine for operating a boat without your boat card?

The fine for operating a powered watercraft without a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (or proof of competency) on board is a minimum of $250.00 plus provincial administrative charges. Some provinces may impose summary convictions up to $10,000.

Is there a PWC License?

All operators of Personal Watercrafts are required to carry a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, commonly known as a boating license (or proof of competency).

How old do you have to be to drive a Personal Watercraft?

To operate Personal Watercraft you must be at least 16 years of age and carry a valid Pleasure Craft Operator Card (or proof of competency) with you.

Who will enforce the law and issue fines?

The law requiring boat operators to carry a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (or proof of competency) is enforced by peace officers including RCMP, Provincial Police and Conservation Officers (depending on province and/or jurisdiction). The law requires operators of powered watercraft to carry proof of age as well as a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (or proof of competency) on board at all times.

Is the Pleasure Craft Operator Card a boating license?

Although it's commonly referred to as a boating license, the Operator Card is actually a "Competency Card". By successfully passing the BOATsmart!® Exam and obtaining your Operator Card you have proven your competency as a safe boat operator.

If the Operator Card isn't a boating license, can it be revoked or suspended?

A "license" can be revoked, suspended and typically has an expiry date. However, a Pleasure Craft Operator Card cannot be revoked or suspended and once obtained, the operator card good for life.

Do I need a boating license and a Pleasure Craft Operator Card?

No. Canadian law does not require recreational boaters to obtain a boating license. The only legal requirement for boaters is to carry proof of competency, such as a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, on board at all times.

Do I need a driver's license to operate a boat?

No, a driver's license is not required to operate a boat. However, you must carry a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (or recognized proof of competency) on board at all times while operating a powered recreational watercraft or vessel.

Is there a difference between a Pleasure Craft Operator Card and a Pleasure Craft License?

The Pleasure Craft Operator Card is required for the operator of a boat, whereas a Pleasure Craft License is required for all boats fitted with a engine of 10 HP or more. The original Pleasure Craft Licence certificate must be carried on board at all times and the Pleasure Craft License number must be displayed in a visible area on the both the port and starboard side of each recreational vessel. Specific regulations as to the size and placement of the License numbers can be found in the Canada Shipping Act Small Vessel Regulations.

You can apply for a Pleasure Craft License at your local Service Canada outlet. For the location nearest you please visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca or call 1-800-O-CANADA.

How do I get my Boating License?

You can obtain your Pleasure Craft Operator Card by passing the 50 questions, multiple choice exam offered by BOATsmart!® Canada. You must achieve a score of at least 75% (38 out of 50) in order to pass the exam and obtain your Operator Card.

Is my Boat License good for life?

Yes. Once obtained, your Pleasure Craft Operator Card, commonly known as a boat license, is good for life. If your Operator Card is lost or stolen you can purchase a replacement from BOATsmart!® Canada.

I have already completed a boating safety course, does that count?

Certificates for recognized boating safety courses completed before April 1, 1999 may exempt you from taking the exam. If you've already taken a course prior to these regulations - and have proof - then that course certificate or card will be accepted as proof of competency. The ORIGINAL course certificate must be carried on board the pleasure craft at all times. Photocopies are not valid.

Do visitors from other countries need to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card?

Non-residents operating their pleasure craft in Canadian waters for more than 45 consecutive days are required to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, commonly known as a boating license.

How do I prepare for the boat license?

Boaters have three options to prepare for the boating license exam:

Is there an online safe boating course or Canadian Safe Boating Course on the internet?

Yes. BOATsmart!® Canada offers a comprehensive safe boating course online. The online boating course includes all of the knowledge required to take the boat license online and is mandatory for any boater who wishes to complete the exam online.

What will I learn in the boating safety study guide?

BOATsmart!® Canada educational resources include all the knowledge you need in order to obtain your Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Topics include:

  • Canadian Boating Rules and Regulations
  • Properly Equipping Your Craft
  • Operating Your Boat Safely
  • Ensuring the Safety of Your Passengers
  • Understanding Navigational Aids
  • Properly Maintaining Your Craft and Equipment
  • Responding to Emergencies and Distress Signals

How much is the official Online Exam?

The online exam is a standard fee of $49.95 plus tax. The cost includes a Temporary Operator Card Slip, issued immediately following your exam and your permanent Pleasure Craft Operator Card will arrive by mail within 4 weeks. Multi-family and friends member discounts are available at BOATsmart!® Canada.

Where can I take the BOATsmart!® Exam?

You can take the official Transport Canada accredited exam at BoatSmartExam.com. Click here to access the boater license. Boaters can also attempt the exam at one of BOATsmart!® Canada's Certified Affiliate Locations across Canada.

BOATsmart!® Canada Safe Boating Teams also offer the Operator Card exam at special events, boat shows, and community events each season. Check our Locations page for a BOATsmart!® Exam location near you.

How many safe boating questions are on the Boat License?

The exam for boaters consists of 50 multiple questions. Boaters have a maximum of 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete the final boating license.

What score do I need to pass the exam?

You need to answer at least 38 questions correctly to achieve a score 75% in order to pass the final exam and obtain your Operator Card.

Can I retry the boating license if I happen to fail?

Yes, the BOATsmart!® Canada Exam includes retries at no charge. However, you must wait 24 hours from the time of completion before retrying the boat license either online or in-person. Once you have attempted the Pleasure Craft Operator Card exam online twice, you are required to repeat the online study guide. Once the study guide has been completed, you will regain access to the final exam.

I want to take my Pleasure Craft Operator Card exam online but I've already reviewed the study material. Am I still required to complete the 3 hour online Study Guide?

To access to the online Pleasure Craft Operator Card exam Transport Canada requires that you must complete a mandatory 3 hour online Study Guide. You do not have to complete the entire study guide in one sitting; you may log out and log back in at your leisure. Once you have completed all modules and quizzes you will have access to the final Pleasure Craft Operator Card exam.

If you've already studied and are confident with your boating knowledge and want to take the boating license exam immediately, you can take the BOATsmart!® Exam in person. The official in-person exam can be taken with a BOATsmart!® Canada Safe Boating Team at participating Canadian Tire Stores, boat shows and community events across Canada. You can also take the exam with a certified BOATsmart!® Canada Affiliate.