Maintaining a safe pleasure craft

Make sure your pleasure craft – or recreational boat – is in good working order and properly equipped before heading out on the water. More than 50% of calls for assistance from recreational boaters are because of mechanical failure.

Pre-departure checklists

Whether you own, rent, or borrow a pleasure craft, you should check the following items before setting out on the water.

Knowingly operating a pleasure craft that is unseaworthy is a criminal offence. Your recreational boat, its engine, and equipment must be properly maintained and in good working order.

Inspect your pleasure craft:

  • Inspect your pleasure craft’s hull and check for cracks or other damage
  • If you are operating a recreational boat with a motor, check its electrical, fuel, propulsion and cooling systems; and make sure the throttle is operating smoothly
  • Make sure the steering is working properly
  • Check the oil and fuel levels
    • A surprising number of pleasure craft are stranded each year due to running out of fuel
    • A good rule of thumb for fuel is: one-third for the trip out, one-third for the return and one-third as reserve
  • Check all hoses and lines for leaks or cracks and replace, if necessary; make sure all clamps and belts are secure and in good shape
  • Inspect, clean, and replace spark plugs, if necessary
  • Check and change oil and water filters, if necessary
  • Check the battery’s charge and its fluid levels
  • Make sure the drainage plug is in place
  • Check that the load on your boat is well distributed
  • Check navigation lights

Check for necessary safety items

  • Are there enough Canadian-approved flotation devices of appropriate sizes for everyone on board?
  • Do you have maps and charts?
  • Is your VHF radio working properly?
  • Do you have a first aid kit, basic tools, and spare parts?

For more information, please see “Minimum Safety Equipment Requirements by Boat Type and Length” on pages 16–19 of the Safe Boating Guide [PDF, 5.5 MB].

Consider your safety preparedness

  • Do you have your Pleasure Craft Operator Card or other proof of competency on board?
  • Have you checked the weather forecast?
  • Are there any local hazards or boating restrictions?
  • Have you filed a trip plan to let someone know where you are going, when to expect you back, and what your boat looks like?
  • Have you briefed any guests about the safe operation of your pleasure craft?
    • Guests should be shown where the safety equipment is kept and how to use it

These are just a few things to consider before setting out. To be properly prepared, take a boating safety course to learn how to avoid potential dangers and operate your pleasure craft safely.

More safe boating information

To ensure that you are prepared before going out on the water, schedule a free Pleasure Craft Courtesy Check. A trained boating safety volunteer will check your recreational boat and safety equipment, identify any problems, and discuss safety issues.

For general information on safe recreational boating, contact the Office of Boating Safety or refer to the Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide.

Safe Boating Guide
(PDF, 5.5 MB)


Find a version of the Pre-departure checklist in the Safe Boating Guide (see page 72).