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Chapter 1: Introduction to Boating Terminology
1.1   General Terminology 1.1   General Terminology 1.2   Vessel Terminology 1.3   Directions and Sectors when Afloat 1.3   Directions and Sectors when Afloat 1.4   More Nautical Terminology 1.4   More Nautical Terminology 1.5   Acts and Regulation in Canada 1.5   Acts and Regulation in Canada           Chapter 1 Review Quiz           Chapter 1 Review Quiz
Chapter 2: Required Safety Equipment
Chapter 3: Rules of the Road
Chapter 4: Aids to Navigation
Chapter 5: Before Heading out
Chapter 6: Underway
Chapter 7: Emergencies

Chapter 1
Introduction to Boating Terminology

The nautical field has developed its own jargon to describe the equipment, methods, and maneuvers of nautical activities. Transport Canada has its own definitions for some nautical terms. This chapter introduces you to the meanings of boating terminology that you will encounter on a Transport Canada operator competency test. In addition, definitions of the terminology used in this course can be found on our Glossary page.

The seven chapters of this study guide contain the information that you must know to pass a Transport Canada Boating Safety Test in order to obtain your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC).

This chapter contains the following sections:

  • 1.1 - General Terminology
  • 1.2 - Vessel Terminology
  • 1.3 - Directions and Sectors When Afloat
  • 1.4 - More Nautical Terminology
  • 1.5 - Acts and Regulations Affecting Pleasure Craft Operators in Canada
  • - Chapter 1 Review Quiz

1.1   General Terminology

Pleasure craft

Pursuant to Transport Canada policy, a pleasure craft is defined as any type of watercraft used exclusively for pleasure and not for carrying passengers or goods for hire.

Pleasure craft come in all shapes and sizes (canoes, kayaks, sailboats, motorboats, cabin cruisers, Seadoos, jet skis, etc.).

Seadoos and jet skis are referred to as personal water craft (PWCs) and are considered to be power-driven (motorized) pleasure craft.

Proof of Competency

According to the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations (COPCRs http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-99-53/), regardless of age or nationality all persons must carry proof of competency whenever operating any type of motorized pleasure craft on any Canadian waters (other than the waters of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut). Original proof of competency (not a photocopy) must be carried on board when operating a motorized pleasure craft anywhere in Canada (proof of competency is not required for vessels without motors). Failure to carry proof of competency risks a significant fine (usually $250 or more).

The most common proof of competency is the Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC).

Pleasure Craft Operator Card (Boater License)


A Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), better known as a Boater License, is a card that is issued by a Transport Canada-accredited course provider (ACP), such as freecourse.ca, that confirms that the holder passed the official Transport Canada PCOC test.

The Pleasure Craft Operator Card is good for life; it does not have to be renewed annually and it cannot be suspended or revoked. By contrast, the police can suspend or revoke your provincial driver’s permit for improper operation of not just a car but any powered vehicle (including a motorboat, an all-terrain vehicle, or a snowmobile).

Proof of competency can take any of four forms:

  • Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC);
  • Proof that you successfully completed a boating safety course in Canada before April 1, 1999 (i.e.: you have a boating safety certificate issued before 1999);
  • A completed boat rental safety checklist (temporary proof); or
  • Alternative acceptable proof of competency.

Alternative Acceptable Proof of Competency

If you hold any certificate on Transport Canada’s “List of Certificates of Competency, Training Certificates, and other Equivalencies as Proof of Competency”, then you already meet the requirements of the Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-99-53/) of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-10.15/) for proof of competency, and you just need to make sure you carry the original documentation or a copy of the certificate onboard when operating a motorized pleasure craft. See Transport Canada's web site for a list of equivalent proofs of competency:  

You can also obtain information by telephone via Service Canada at 1-800-267-6677.

Certificates for boating safety courses completed before April 1, 1999 are also recognized as proof of competency. Thus, if you successfully completed a boating safety course prior to the COPCRs coming into effect (i.e.: prior to April 1, 1999) and you have proof, then that course certificate is accepted as proof of competency.

Foreign residents visiting Canada

The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations (the COPCRs; which require you to carry proof of competency) along with the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and its regulations apply to any person of any age or nationality who operates a powered pleasure craft on any Canadian waters (other than the waters of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut).

If you are a non-resident visiting Canada with your foreign-registered or foreign-licensed motorboat, then you are not required to carry proof of competency on board as long as your boat is in Canada for less than 45 days.

If you do require proof of competency (because your boat will be in Canada for more than 45 days or because you wish to operate a powered pleasure craft that is licensed or registered in Canada) then you may do so using an operator card or similar proof of competency issued by your home state or country. Either way, you must keep some type of proof of competency (Canadian or foreign) on board with you at all times.

Registering or Licensing Your Vessel

In Canada, most vessels must be either licensed with Transport Canada or registered with Transport Canada. Whether or not you will license or register your vessel depends on its type, size, and the size and type of its motor.

Pleasure Craft LicensingAll pleasure craft of all sizes equipped with one or more primary propulsion motors totalling 7.5 kW (10 hp) or more must be licensed. A pleasure craft license identifies a vessel but does not imply ownership or title. A Bill of Sale is required for conclusive proof as to who owns a vessel. No citizenship or residency restrictions apply to pleasure craft licensing but the vessel must be licensed in Canada if it is principally operated and maintained in Canada. A Pleasure Craft License is not for you the operator, it is for your boat and it is valid for 10 years. Note: An update to a licence (e.g. name change or address change) does not extend the date of the pleasure craft licence by an additional 10 years.

1. Getting a Pleasure Craft License Application Form - There are three ways you can obtain an easy-to-use Pleasure Craft License Application Kit:

  • Online at the Office of Boating Safety’s web site:


  • At a Service Canada Centre (see list at the Service Canada web site):


  • Through a regional branch of the Office of Boating Safety (see their web site):


2. Submitting Your Pleasure Craft License Application Form – To obtain a free Pleasure Craft License for your boat, there are two ways that you can submit your Pleasure Craft License application form:

  • Online: To submit online, go to this web site:


  • By mail: To submit by mail, your completed application form, along with proof of vessel ownership, and a signed copy of a valid piece of government-issued identification should be mailed to this address:

Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre
P.O. Box 2006
Fredericton, NB, E3B 5G4

The Pleasure Craft License for your pleasure craft (or a good quality copy of the license) must be carried onboard whenever and wherever the vessel is operated in Canada.


When you receive your boat’s Pleasure Craft License in the mail, the form will indicate your vessel’s Pleasure Craft Licence number, which must be displayed above the waterline on both sides of the bow in block letters and numbers that are at least 7.5 cm (3 in) in height. The colour of the letters and numbers should contrast with the colour of the hull.

Vessel Registration

Registration is the legal documentation of vessel ownership, similar in nature to the title system applicable for a house. Registration is voluntary for a pleasure craft and is executed by an application to Transport Canada. To register a vessel, you must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada. A Canadian corporation or a foreign corporation may also register a vessel in Canada.

The registered name must be displayed on both sides of the bow. And both the name and port of registry must be displayed on the stern. The registration number and tonnage must be displayed inside the hull. Both the bow and stern registration numbers must be displayed above the waterline in block letters and numbers that are at least 10 cm (4 in.) in height and that contrast with the colour of the hull.

To learn more about pleasure craft licensing or vessel registration, please:

Ownership information

Make sure that you carry current proof of ownership (Pleasure Craft License, Vessel Registration, and Bill of Sale, etc.) with you onboard whenever operating your pleasure craft. You should also be mindful of the fact that the vessel ownership information that you carry must be kept up to date (meaning that you must obtain updated records from Transport Canada if the name or address of the owner changes).

The owner may operate the pleasure craft for 90 days after the date of change of name or address, before the owner receives the new license updated with the correct name or address. However, during this period, the owner must carry on board documents establishing the date of change of name or address, documents setting out the new name or address, and the previous license in need of updating. Note: A pleasure craft’s license alone is not accepted as proof of ownership when entering the United States (or returning to Canada). Thus, ensure that you are carrying up-to-date proof of ownership (ex.: Pleasure Craft License or Vessel Registration plus a Bill of Sale, etc.) for your pleasure craft.

Hull Serial Number – All pleasure craft (with or without a motor) used in Canada must display on their hull a hull serial number (HSN). No character of the HSN is to be less than 3.2 cm (1 ¼ in.) in height or width. The HSN is 12 digits in length (beginning with the manufacturer’s code) and must be permanently marked on the exterior upper starboard corner of the boat’s transom.

Hull serial numbers are used extensively by police to facilitate the recovery of stolen vessels. Pursuant to the Small Vessel Regulations (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/sor-2010-91/page-1.html) of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, no person shall alter, deface or remove a hull serial number. If your vessel does not have a hull serial number, one can be obtained from the manufacturer.  If the owner is unable to obtain an HSN from the manufacturer, then the owner is not required to take any further action but may be asked to demonstrate that they made reasonable attempts to obtain an HSN.

Commercial Vessel

A commercial vessel is any vessel that is used to earn revenue. Commercial vessels include water taxis, tour boats, freighters, tankers, ferries, fishing boats, tugboats, and excursion boats.

Power-driven vessel

A power-driven vessel is one that is propelled by any type of engine or machinery (including steam engines and electric trolling motors). All operators of power-driven pleasure craft must obtain a PCOC and carry it on board.

Sail-Driven Vessel

Any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used. Thus, even if a sailboat has its sails raised, it is considered to be a power-driven vessel whenever it is being propelled by a motor and, thus, it must obey the Collision Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/C.R.C.,_c._1416/) for power-driven vessels. Also, the operator must carry proof of competency if the sailboat is fitted with a motor. The PCOC must be carried even when under sail without the motor in operation.

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Failure to wear a flotation device is the leading contributing factor in boating fatalities. When on the water, the single-most important thing that you can do to prevent drowning is to always wear a properly adjusted PFD or lifejacket of appropriate type, size, and fit.

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