Ontario Boating Regulations

In order to keep boating a safe activity, Ontario has several regulations in effect.

The Canadian province of Ontario has many bodies of water, and according to the Ministry of Natural Resources, over 250,000 lakes. These lakes and waterways have made boating a very popular recreational activity in Ontario. In order to keep boating safe, several provincial boating regulations are enforced.

Operator Competency

The Province of Ontario requires that all boat operators are properly trained and competent. This requirement helps ensure that all craft are operated safely, and that operators are familiar with all laws related to boating. In order to enforce this rule, motorized pleasure craft operators must carry proof of competency at all times.

Three different items qualify as acceptable proof. The first is the “Pleasure Craft Operator Card”, which is obtained by completing a boaters safety course. The second is a certificate indicating completion of a boating safety course before April 1999. The third is a completed safety checklist from a boat rental company.

Life Jackets

Life jackets, or Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), are designed to keep people afloat even when cold water or injury has limited the ability to swim. Because of their importance in saving lives, Ontario requires that one approved PFD per person be on board every boat. Children under the age of 11 are required to wear their PFD at all times while boating. While it is not strictly required that older passengers wear the life jacket, this practice is strongly encouraged by the Canadian Coast Guard.

In order to be considered an approved PFD, a flotation device must be wearable. Cushions, such as those designed for boat seats, do not qualify. Any flotation device that is certified by the Canadian Coast Guard as a PFD will be tagged with an official Coast Guard approval number.

Boat Speed

The standard boat speed limit in Ontario is 10 kilometers an hour or less, anytime that a boat is operating within 30 meters of the shore. Boaters can be fined a maximum of $500 for violating this speed limit. Other speeds are posted on waterways using a round, white sign with the speed listed.

In addition to speed limits, wake zones are also in effect throughout Ontario. These zones are indicated by a sign with a wavy blue line and a red ring, and are most commonly found near the shore or in marinas. When operating in a “no wake” zone, the boat must be kept at a slow idle speed with no damaging wake being created.

Alcohol Consumption

Just as laws regarding the consumption of alcohol help save lives for drivers, regulations limiting alcohol use on the water are important to keep boating safe. Alcohol slows the body’s ability to make sound judgement and move with coordination.

In Ontario, the limits and penalties for alcohol consumption while boating are the same as while driving on the land. If an operator’s blood alcohol level is between 0.05 and 0.08 percent, his drivers license can be suspended for up to one month. An operator with a blood alcohol level of over 0.08 percent will have his license suspended immediately, and will face criminal prosecution.

Required Equipment

In addition to life jackets, all boats operating in Ontario are required to have other equipment. One floating heaving line, or rope, with a length of at least 15 meters is required. A re-boarding device, such as a ladder or swim platform, must also be on board. The boat must have either a manual propelling device, such as a handheld paddle, or an anchor with at least 15 meters of attached rope.

Several rules regarding lighting also apply. Every boat must have a watertight flashlight or three signal flares. The navigation lights on the bow and stern of the craft must operate properly. For boats operating outside of inland areas, a radar reflector must also be installed.