The best trip is always a safe return trip.

Every year thousands of boaters go out on the water without the proper safety equipment required by law. Not only can this equipment be of great benefit and comfort, it can mean the difference between a great day out on the water and a potential disaster.

Required items vary depending on boat length. Here is a list of things that you require on board in good working condition and within reach each time you go out:

On a typical vessel 6 metres or less in length:

The vessel licence or registration certificate if powered by a motor of 7.5 kw (10 hp) or more

  • A Canadian approved flotation device, lifejacket or PFD, in good repair and of appropriate size for every person on board
  • Fire extinguisher (depending on type of engine, gas tank or cooking appliances on board)
  • Watertight flashlight or pyrotechnic distress signal requirements (flares)
  • Sound signaling device
  • Buoyant heaving line (minimum 15 metres in length)
  • Paddle or anchor with at least 15 metres of rope and /or chain
  • Re-boarding device
  • Bailer or manual water pump
  • Navigation lights

Other items to check:

  • Batteries are secure
  • Passive ventilation that allows air to flow through below decks
  • Exhaust fan or bilge blower that removes dangerous vapours
  • Flame arrester and heat shielding for inboard engines
  • Up-to-date charts
  • Magnetic compass
  • Radar reflector

Vessel Preparedness and How to Get a Free Courtesy Check

Consider requesting a Recreational Vessel Courtesy Check. This is a totally voluntary service and is conducted without penalty. You will receive an inspection certificate and, when you pass, a sticker. If a deficiency is found you will simply be advised of the requirement and a re-inspection will be offered when you have added these items.

Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons are currently the only nongovernmental national source for this program. They will inspect vessels that are in or out of the water. They can tell you what is required and give you specific information about each item, what items are best for your vessel and boating conditions, and even how to properly use certain items or what additional training might be available.

Volunteers can also talk to you about PFDs, sail plans, alcoholic beverage consumption while on board, sewage disposal and predeparture checklists.

For more information contact your local Canadian Power and Sail Squadron or visit:

CPS-ECP can offer free Recreational Vessel Courtesy Checks (RVCC) at your yacht club or marina during the boating season. Again, contact your local CPS-ECP Squadron.

If you have any specific boating safety related questions, please feel free to “Just Ask John” at

It is said that knowledge is power and when it comes to boating you can never have too much of it. That knowledge can give you the confidence to really enjoy your boating experience and it can give others confidence in your abilities as a safe boat operator. The best trip is always a safe return trip.