We don’t have to tell you twice that British Columbia has something for everyone, with hundreds of lakes and a seemingly endless coastline. But before you set sail this summer, check out our guide to boating in BC!

Q: Do I need a boat licence in BC?

An educated boater is a safe boater – which is why a valid Pleasure Craft Operator Card, commonly known as a boating license, is required in all Canadian provinces including British Columbia, when operating motorized vessels. Boaters need to be able to supply a boating license regardless of their age, the size of their boat or engine horsepower. It’s the law. Boat operators in BC caught without their card face a minimum $250 fine.

What’s the difference between licensing a boat and getting my boating license?

Licensing your boat, often referred to as vessel licensing or registration, refers to the unique ID number that must be displayed on your boat, much like the registration plate on a car. You only need to license your boat if it meets certain criteria, however this is not to be confused with your personal boating license – or Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC). Every driver of a motorized boat must carry a valid PCOC on board at all times in order to avoid getting fined, and to stay safe on the water!

Q: How long does it take to get my BC boat licence? 

It takes a minimum of 3-5 hours to complete the boating license course from any Transport Canada approved provider. The Pleasure Craft Operator Card exam is available online and can be completed in your own time. When you pass the test, you will receive your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) as proof of competency to operate a motorized boat on all Canadian waterways.

Q: What if I don’t pass the boating license exam?

Boating should be carefree – so do not panic if you don’t pass! One of the great things about getting your boating license is that you can re-take the test free of charge until you successfully complete the course. After passing your exam, you will receive a temporary boating license – allowing you to get out on the water immediately!

Q: What age do I have to be to drive a boat in British Columbia?

There is no minimum age to drive a boat or obtain your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) in BC, but there are supervision requirements and horsepower restrictions for young boaters. Click here to learn more about the age restrictions for various types of vehicles on the water.

Q: Do I need a licence to drive a jet-ski?

A boating license is legally required for all motorized vehicles on the water – and that includes jet-skis or any other personal watercraft! No matter what kind of vessel you’re captain of, make sure that you are carrying your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) or boating license with you at all times.

Q: Where Is the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) valid?

Your boatng license or PCOC is valid in each province of Canada, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Q: What is the fine for operating without your card?

Not having your boating license on board with you while driving a motorized boat in Saskatchewan will result in a fine of $250, excluding administrative charges. Click here to learn more about boating fines in British Columbia.

Q: Who enforces these laws?

The boating laws and regulations will be enforced by peace officers, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), provincial and municipal police forces and other local authorities. Officers may inspect your boat and monitor your activities at any time to ensure that you are in compliance with boating laws. You can expect to see these officers on the lakes and rivers throughout the province, so make sure the captain of your boat is carrying their Pleasure Craft Operator Card, as well as proof of age, with them at all times – no excuses.

Sign up for your boating licence and get out on the water today! If you have a question about boating in British Columbia, get in touch!

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