Boat Safety Equipment
Whether you’re using your inflatable boat as a pleasure craft for fishing and day cruising or a non-pleasure vessel for guided trips and commercial rides, remember always to pack essential safety gear.
Meeting the safety equipment requirements is essential. If something occurs on the water, having the right equipment on board will make you much better prepared for a possible situation.
All safety equipment on board must be:
- in good working order;
- easy to reach for every person on board;
- maintained and replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
In Canada, the boat safety equipment required on board depends on the type and length of your boat. You can find the length of your boat by reading the manufacturer’s product information or measuring it yourself.
Basic Safety Equipment Requirements
The following list names the minimum boat safety equipment required onboard a pleasure craft. You may want to bring more equipment based on your boat type, activity, and current and forecasted weather and water conditions.
Even though the Canadian-approved list of boating safety equipment depends on a specific kind and size of a vessel, some basic gear will help keep you safe and out of trouble with the local authorities.
Here are a few must-haves as well as should-haves to get you ready for this boating season.
1. Life Jackets and Wearable Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
A convenient, wearable PFD is a life jacket that must be available for each person on board. Kids under 12 must always wear their PFD on a moving vessel. In case of an emergency of any kind, the first thing you should do is ensure that all passengers onboard a pleasure craft or other vessel immediately put on their life jackets — or for extra safety and peace of mind, we recommend that every person on board just put their PFDs on at the dock right before departure. Although not required, your pet should have a lifejacket too.
Learn more about choosing the right life jacket or PFD and receive additional information and resources on the Transport Canada website.
2. Throwable Flotation Devices
Along with the life jackets you wear, you need at least one floating device (Type IV) that you can throw at an individual in the water in case of trouble. It can be a cushion, a ring buoy or other device. While only one is required, we recommend having several. Some of these items may come with a buoyant line attached, so you’re able to pull a person closer to the boat and then get them back onboard.
A Buoyant Heaving Line
A buoyant line is a floating rope with a soft buoyant mass on one end. The purpose of a buoyant heaving line is to be thrown toward a distressed person in the water. To improve the throw’s precision to a person overboard, a balloon or other floating object should be attached to the buoyant heaving line. In addition, boaters should practice throwing the line to develop their boating safety knowledge and ability to be contained in an emergency.
- A buoyant heaving line is fit to use as long as it floats and is in good condition;
- It must be made of one full-length rope, not a few shorter ropes tied together;
- It should be long enough for the boat you will be using and used only as safety equipment so that it’s easily recognizable during an emergency.
Minimum required length:
- 15 meters for all pleasure crafts and non-pleasure vessels under 24 meters (78’9”)
- 30 meters for all pleasure crafts and non-pleasure vessels over 24 meters (78’9”).
3. Fire Extinguisher
There are different kinds and categories for extinguishers, but to keep it simple, remember that boats under 26 feet need at least one B-1 type extinguisher. It will be a good thing to demonstrate to your family and guests boat safety basics and teach them the proper ways of operating a fire extinguisher: pull the pin, squeeze the handle and aim at the base of the fire.
4. Visual Signalling Devices
Visual distress signals come in various forms, and there are different requirements by the size of the vessel and even by the state where you go boating.
- Boats under 16 feet must have flares or nighttime signals.
- Boats over 16 feet must carry visual signals for both day and night use.
Pyrotechnic devices or flares that qualify are orange or white smoke and aerial light flares. Keep in mind that some flares are self-launching, while others are sent into the sky with a flare gun. Other nighttime devices include a strobe light, yet flags may be used only during the day.
5. Sound signalling device
Sounds can attract help day and night and are especially effective in foggy conditions. A portable or fixed horn or whistle counts as a sound signalling device for all inflatable boats and significantly improves your boating safety.
Recommended additional safety equipment
Depending on your boating activity and where you do it, some may be required or only recommended boat safety equipment. Either way, we heavily advise you to pack most of these boating safety equipment aboard even the smallest of boats – be it a pleasure craft or a commercial vessel.
- First Aid Kit. To cover accidents or injuries that could befall any member on board, a first aid kit is essential. Remember, seasickness is debilitating. So carry the remedy.
- Knife. A knife is always handy and has many uses. Keep your knife sharp at all times.
- Rope. Additional rope onboard can be extremely useful for various purposes and for towing.
- Fresh Water. A good supply of fresh water is essential when boating, as the sun and the salt can quickly dehydrate you. Make sure that your water is fresh and clean and kept in a suitable container.
- Alternative Power. Spare outboard, oars or paddles to get the boat to safety in the event of a power failure. Also, we offer Power Stations to provide you with maximum security in case of a motor emergency.
- Torch. A torch or a waterproof flashlight can be useful in an emergency situation, attracting attention and checking bilges.
- Tool Kit. There is no substitute for an adequate tool kit on board your boat. When you are out on the water, you are on your own. The tool kit should include a spark plug spanner, spare spark plugs, a spanner set to suit your motor, a screwdriver set, pliers, electrical tape, and a hammer.
- Anchor with a line to hold your boat in place while you wait for help to arrive.
- Bailing device or bucket to dewater and stay afloat.
- Oars or paddles if the outboard engine quits.
- Cellphone and VHF radio to call for help.
- Snorkel mask to inspect what’s going on under the boat.
For more information on boating safety, be sure to read our guide on How to Obtain Proof of Competency, which outlines the basics of receiving a Transport Canada boating license to ensure you get legal rights to drive the boat. You may also be curious to check our article about Canadian-approved Licensing and Registering Your Inflatable Boat, which outlines everything you need to know about the legalization of your pleasure craft or non-pleasure vessel.