WaterWise Boat Safety

Boating continues to account for the greatest proportion of water-related fatalities in British Columbia. The WaterWise Team encourages all boaters to follow their key messages: Prepare It, Wear It, Know It, Share It. 


Bringing the right gear can save your life in an emergency. Along with your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), you are required by law to carry the following marine safety equipment. 


all vessels require

☐ Lifejacket or PFD for each person on board

☐ Sound-signalling device or appliance

☐ Buoyant heaving line at least 15 m (49’3”) long

☐ Paddle or propulsion device

Distress equipment

☐ Canadian Approved Flares (Type A, B, C) OR

☐ Watertight flashlight

If boating in the dark or fog

☐ Navigation lights

If your boat can take on water

☐ Bailer or manual bilge pump

If it is higher than 0.5 m to climb into your boat

☐ Re-boarding device

If boat is over 6 m long

☐Class 5 fire extinguisher

you could receive a $200-$500 fine for each non-compliance.

Click here if your craft is greater than 9m.


Always make a plan and leave it with a responsible person, letting them know where you are going, when to expect you back, and what your boat looks like. If no one knows you are gone, no one will be looking for you.


Check the forecast and keep an 'eye on the sky', watching for weather changes.


When it comes to choosing a PFD, the Canadian Coast Guard strongly recommends bright colours for better visibility.  PFDs are now available in many bright colours and activity appropriate styles. Just check the label to ensure that the PFD is approved by the Canadian Coast Guard.

Choose a PFD that is comfortable and allows free movement, including walking and sitting. Try it on and do up all zippers and belts. Pull up on the collar to ensure it does not ride up and interfere with movement or breathing.

Inspect your PFD or lifejacket frequently.  Ensure seams are intact, and that snaps, belts or zippers work.  If you happen to chose an inflatable type PFD be aware that certain restrictions and criteria apply.



Post a photo of you in your favorite PFD or lifejacket on the waters of B.C. and tag @WaterWise Team for a chance to win weekly prizes. 

Make sure your pleasure craft 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.

Get properly trained

To be properly prepared, take a boating safety course  to learn how to avoid potential dangers and operate your pleasure craft safely


  • Are there enough flotation devices of appropriate sizes for everyone on board?
  • Do you have maps and charts?
  • Do you have enough fuel and oil?
  • Is your VHF radio working properly?
  • Do you have a first aid kit, basic tools and spare parts?
  • Have you checked the weather forecast?
  • Are there any local hazards or boating restrictions?

know what to do in an emergency



Marine VHF radio is generally the best way to send a distress alert. If you have a VHF radio, keep it tuned to channel 16. Know where you are at all times and be prepared to describe your specific location

REMEMBER: VHF radio channel 16 is used for emergency and calling purposes only.

When in extreme danger

When in extreme danger (for example, your boat is taking on water and you are in danger of sinking or capsizing), use your VHF radio channel 16 and say “Mayday” —“Mayday” — “Mayday.”

if you need help... but not in immediate danger

If you need help but are not in immediate danger (for example, your motor has quit and you cannot reach shore), use channel 16 and say “Pan-Pan” — “Pan-Pan” — “Pan-Pan.”

give the following information

In both scenarios, then give the following information:

• the name of your boat;

• your position;

• the nature of your problem; and

• the type of help you need.

Post these guidelines near your radio.

distress signals

If you see a distress signal, the law requires you to see if you can help without risking your life or the safety of your boat.

Recovering Someone who Fell Overboard

If someone falls overboard, sound the alarm and then:

• slow down, stop if possible, and throw something that floats to the person (this will also mark the spot if they are under water);

• assign someone to watch the person overboard;

• carefully put your boat in position to bring the person back on board; and

• use a heaving line that floats, or a lifebuoy secured to the boat with a line, and recover the person from the windward side.


Heading out on the water? Check out our photo contest.