August 3, 2016

10 Things Every Boater Needs to Know

boating on the river

This summer couldn’t be wasted. Not a second of it. Fresh out of a (very) long year of university, I knew I had to make my moments on the water count. So I did. It took me over 6 weeks, but I took an old tin boat that resembled a piece of Swiss cheese and turned it into a functional fishing boat. How? It all started at Christmas earlier that year.

Any Canadian knows that the winter withdrawal from boating is, well… long. Being a full-time student, part-time worker, and all-the-time DIY-er, I was craving a project I could throw some time into this upcoming summer. Something that would push me to learn, encourage me to have fun, and get me back into the spirit of boating in Canada! The 40-year old tin boat that had been sitting upside down on a hill at my cottage was definitely top-of-mind.

old aluminum boat

After some asking around during the winter months, I was cleared to take the tinner and old outboard motor and fix it up! Fast forward to May and it was finally time to start the DIY boat project I’d been waiting all winter to dive into. There were so many steps that I started by writing a list of ‘to-do’s’ that included inspecting the boat, identifying any fixes needed, fixing the 9.9 hp outboard motor, buying my boating safety gear… and the list went on, adding up the dollars and cents… I had so many questions… like:

1) How would I patch up the holes in my old tin boat?
2) Who can fix my old 9.9 hp outboard motor?
3) What boat safety gear did I need? Where would I get it?
4) Where do I get my Ontario boating license?
5) Do I need boat insurance?
6) How do I launch my boat?
7) What kind of lifejacket do I need?
8) Do I need a Pleasure Craft License?
9) What are the alcohol and boating rules in Canada?
10) What happens if I get caught in a storm?

… And what kind of snacks were good for a boat reno project? All this thinking was making me hungry. But the most sensible thing was for me to get started and figure it out along the way. After all, how hard could it be, right?

NOTE: It wasn’t easy! I should have done more research beforehand. But now, you have this article to help you figure out everything you need to know to start your boating life on the water!


Because the tin boat had been left outside for so many years, the old marine sealant had been weathered down and cracked. Ultimately, the boat was full of holes from years of use and weathering. The first step was to strip out all the old sealant with a paint scraper so that I could re-seal the holes.

NOTE: If you’re doing this, you’ll want to sand these areas afterward so the reapplied sealant will stick as best as possible.

Then, I applied 3M 5200 Marine Adhesive Sealant to all the holes and let it dry (this can be applied to a variety of boats with holes or leaks).

Next, the transom. For those who don’t know, the transom is the stern cross-section of the boat. On a tinner, it’s a horizontal beam that reinforces the stern of the boat, and is what holds the outboard motor on my tin boat. The old transom had rotted away after 15 years of sitting on the ground and needed to be replaced.

old boat transom rotted wood

Now you may be thinking – that’s easy. Just cut some wood into the proper shape and that will do, right? Wrong. Crafting a proper transom is almost an artform. Because normal plywood is pressure and chemical treated, it is more susceptible to rotting from the water if you don’t seal it. There are marine grade woods out there too – but those will often run you twice as much money. And university debts aren’t free.

I crafted my transom after a quick trip to Home Depot to pick up ½” plywood, and some waterproof deck stain. After cutting the plywood, I sealed the transom pieces with two coats of waterproof deck sealant to keep water out, which worked great. It’s been about 5 half-day trips so far, and the transom is holding steady!

new transom on aluminum boat

Of course, I could go into great detail about optional additions to the old tin boat that I added. Things like seats, rod holders, fishing decks, fish finders, live wells, and more, but we’ll leave that for another blog. I can tell you that the first addition I opted for was a removable fishing deck with the leftover plywood I had, and it’s quite convenient for casting and holding fishing gear. You should always keep in mind that adding extra wood to your boat makes it significantly heavier so check your boat’s capacity plate and make sure your motor has enough juice to get you upstream.

aluminum boat with gear tied on shore


Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to learn how to fix my outboard engine (and I’m not that mechanically inclined). What I can tell you is that there are TONS of small engine mechanics, outboard motor professionals, and marinas out there that can service your outboard motor. Usually, if your motor has been sitting for a few years it’s just a tune-up that’s required.

outboard motor 9.9 hp

Once you get your outboard motor fixed, a good way to keep it in good working order is to only use gasoline with NO ETHANOL. I like to use Shell High Test No Ethanol (also called Premium gas). It’s a little more expensive, but it’ll keep your motor running cleaner and longer.



To be quite honest, this wasn’t my first thought when I took on the project. Or even my second thought. After countless hours learning all the rules, though, I’ve summed it up for you quickly.

In order to boat safely in Canada, you are required to carry certain pieces of safety gear with you onboard at all times, or risk a fine of $250 and up. The requirements vary for boat size, type, engine horsepower, etc., but I’ll touch on the average requirements. There are four types of Boat Safety Equipment:

1) Personal Safety Equipment
2) Boat Safety Equipment
3) Distress Equipment
4) Navigation Equipment

I think it’s worthwhile to mention that although it costs a few extra dollars to gather this equipment, it IS required by law, it does save lives and it is used every single day by boaters. Don’t take this section lightly, especially if you’re new to boating. That being said, here’s the list of essential equipment you need on your boat.

NOTE: The list below is a general list for all boats. Click on each item to determine if it is a required piece of equipment on your boat.

1) Lifejackets and personal floatation devices: one for every person onboard
2) Buoyant heaving line: at least 15m in length
3) Bailing device
4) Life buoy: approved by Transport Canada
5) Bilge pump: either manual or electric
6) Manual propelling device: usually spare paddles
7) Axe: only for boats longer than 12 m
8) Re-boarding equipment: if the freeboard is greater than 0.5 m
9) Fire extinguisher: see the types of boats that require a fire extinguisher here
Anchor: for boats 9 m in length or longer
Watertight flashlight: can also be used as a navigation light in some cases
Flares: depends on the size & type of boat
Sound-signalling devices: must be audible for a minimum of 0.93 km.
Navigation lights: must be displayed during certain hours of the day
Radar reflector: check to see if your boat requires a radar reflector here

Whew… that seems like a lot. I know. But once you have it all sorted out, it’s easy to pack and keep in a gear bag. Also, you can get some of the above in combined packages. For example, you can get a 4N1 Safety Kit which encompasses a bailing device, sound-signalling device (a whistle), a buoyant heaving line and a watertight flashlight. I have one, and it’s pretty handy (check out the orange bucket on the boat floor by the fishing rods in the image below).

girl packing aluminum boat river


It’s incredibly convenient to get your boating license nowadays. You can sign up to take your Online Course & Test in a few hours and be on the water boating the same day! Just don’t forget to print your Temporary Card.



Technically, you do not need boat insurance in Canada. Nevertheless, it’s a great thing to have. Personally, I didn’t get boat insurance on my 40 year old tin boat because my boat isn’t worth enough to claim. However, if your boat is valued at $5,000 or more, you should insure your boat with BOATsmart! Assure.



There are a few steps involved in towing and launching your boat and it’s definitely something you want to do properly. Check out this article that covers everything you need to know about launching your boat. There are some amazing videos in there too, which helped me out a lot.



We talked about this briefly, but for more information refer to this page about Personal Safety Equipment. I wear a comfy slip-over lifejacket, which is what I wanted in a lifejacket – comfortability and safety.

lifejacket and boat selfie


A few common confusions among boaters are the differences between a boating license, Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), and Pleasure Craft License. Let’s make this as easy as possible.

A boating license and a Pleasure Craft Operator Card are the same things. Why? Because a PCOC is commonly called a boating license. A Pleasure Craft License is a document with a unique license number belonging to a specific boat (pleasure craft). It’s like a license plate for your boat. If your boat is powered by more than 10 hp, you’ll need a Pleasure Craft License.

Still confused? This article clears up the confusion between Pleasure Craft Operator Card and Pleasure Craft License.



Depending on what province you are in, the drinking & boating rules differ slightly but are generally the same. Before you head out on the water you should Know the Facts About Drinking And Boating in Canada.



There’s a situation nobody likes to think about, BUT, being prepared is better than being surprised. When it comes to storms on the water, it’s all about avoiding the situation and not putting yourself in a bad spot. On top of that, boating in bad weather can lead to boating accidents which is never good. Stay safe and plan ahead when it comes to your boating trips.

See why I said it was a lot of work? Yeah, it’s a lot to learn. But if you’re dedicated to getting on the water, nothing will stop you. My first boat ride in my project tinner was so fulfilling and exciting that I would do it again every year if I had to. Now, I always look forward to packing the boat full of gear and heading out for an adventure on the water!

9.9 hp outboard motor boating across lake




Hmm... It looks like this post has no other posts related to it.

Comments are closed.