Boating is a great way to pass the time, get outdoors and soak in what Canada’s lakes and waterways have to offer. However, given the current world-wide health pandemic many Canadian boaters are unsure of the coronavirus rules, restrictions, and regulations that are currently in place when it comes to getting out on the water in their province. 

Across the country, provincial, and national parks are closed or have restricted access, including many of the Country’s boating access areas, launches, docks, and marinas – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some time with your family on the boat. We’ve broken down restrictions and boating opportunities across the country, to provide easy access to boating information in your province.

First up – how to stay safe and healthy while boating this summer

If you’re planning a boating trip, be sure to follow health guidelines and physical distancing. To keep things simple, we’ve put together some quick tips to keep you safe:

  • Before you head out, check for boating access restrictions that may be in effect, and don’t try to use boat launches or access areas that are closed to the public. You’ll likely get a heavy fine. 
  • Only go boating with your immediate household –  those who you’ve been in isolation with throughout the pandemic. Although it may seem like a nice gesture to invite your friends and family, it’s not worth the risk.
  • Wash your hands often, and keep hand sanitizer onboard your boat to prevent any spread of germs. And don’t touch your face.
  • Operate with extra caution – even though boat traffic may be a bit lighter than usual, that doesn’t mean that accidents can’t happen. If you’re involved in a boating-related emergency, you’re not only at risk of injury from the accident, you’re also putting yourself at a higher risk of exposure to others, not to mention the font-line health workers who may need to be on the scene. Stay safe out there.
  • Keep your distance from other waterway users and don’t anchor or moor your boat close to others.
  • Check your fuel levels! Make sure your boat is fuelled up before you head out, and check the opening hours of fueling docks. Many fueling areas for boaters may be closed, so don’t assume you can gas-up at your usual spot. 
  • Stay local. Now is not the time to explore new areas of your province by way of boat. Keep to areas you’re familiar with. This will increase your safety, and reduce the risk of getting lost or being involved in other boating-related emergencies.  

Hopefully, the overall message here is clear – stay local, stay safe, and avoid any undue strain on your local emergency services. They’ve got their hands full. 

British Columbia

Presently in BC, all provincial parks, conservancies, recreation areas, and ecological reserves remain closed. This includes boat launches. Boaters should check with local authorities to determine if their local boating access areas are open, before attempting to launch their boats. 

Fortunately, the province of British Columbia will be reopening many of its Provincial Parks, protected areas, and marine parks on May 14th, which means more outdoor recreation and boating opportunities for BC residents.  

Additionally, many of BC’s marina’s have begun to open, although many have reduced hours and services. Be sure to check with your local marina if you need to take your boat out of storage, or if your boat requires service, to determine what services are being offered.  Keep in mind that new closures may also be in effect, due to an increase in traffic and demand, to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Recreational boat operators in BC are reminded to maintain social distancing measures while they’re out on the water and to check with local authorities to learn about restrictions before heading out. 

Alberta

There may be a blanket ban on large gatherings and festivals in Alberta, and the Calgary Stampede has been officially cancelled for the first time in almost a century, but thankfully there are other ways to get out and enjoy the long-overdue summer months in Alberta. Boating or paddling can be an excellent family or solitary activity. The perfect way to exercise social distancing, while enjoying Alberta’s provincial lakes and waterways.  

Alberta’s boating access currently varies by region, so be sure to check locally to determine which boating access areas are currently open to the public, however, most public boating access areas and boat launches re-opened as of May 1st.  

Boat rental opportunities in the province also vary by region. For example, the City of Calgary has mandated the closure of all recreational facilities within the City until August 2020, which impacts boat rental facilities. Boaters should contact the rental service they’d like to book with to determine what restrictions are in place.  

Additionally, Alberta Parks has put together an interactive map of all open boat launches within provincial parks, to make hitting the water a breeze. 

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s Provincial and Regional Parks officially reopened boat launch access as of May 4th, so boaters in the province are permitted to head-out on the water – just be sure to maintain physical distancing guidelines and any other social gathering restrictions that may be in effect.

Keep in mind that some regions may still have local restrictions in place, so don’t assume that you can launch your boat anywhere. Call ahead to be sure. 

Additionally, the province of Saskatchewan has recently loosened restrictions on boating with members of other households, meaning the passengers on your boat don’t necessarily need to be from under the same roof, however, the province is still strongly encouraging that members of different households maintain as much physical distance as possible.

Residents of Saskatchewan are also permitted to access properties such as cabins or long-term campsites that are located within Provincial Parks.  Non-residents may also access properties located within Saskatchewan’s Provincial Parks, however, travel between provinces is still not recommended. 

Manitoba

Many of Manitoba’s outdoor recreation areas, and campgrounds re-opened May 4th. Provincial parks have also opened to the public for the season, which includes boating access areas, however, visitors must maintain physical distancing guidelines. 

Additionally, most boat storage facilities and marinas have also remained open or re-opened, with loosening restrictions. Manitoba’s regional parks and boating access areas are also available, however many remain closed due to high water levels – so check for any notices or restrictions before you head out. 

Ontario

Boating access in Ontario has begun the process of re-opening, meaning you’ll soon be able to get your boat out of storage and on the water. As of May 4th, marinas within the province were permitted to begin preparations for the boating season. Recently, the province has also announced that as of Saturday, May 16th, marinas, boat clubs, and public launches are permitted to open for recreational use – just in time for the long weekend.

Some municipal boat launches in Ontario, including those in the City of Kawartha Lakes, have already begun to open (or will open soon), but restrictions are still in place in some regions. Boaters are reminded that even if boating access areas are open, they must maintain physical distancing guidelines. 

Most of Ontario’s lock systems, however, are closed or restricted, this includes the Trent Severn Waterway and the Rideau Canal. This includes lock stations, boat launch, and mooring areas, visitors centers and day-use areas. 

Another point of confusion for boaters in Ontario has been the guidelines around boat rentals. Some facilities which offer boat rental services are continuing to operate, with increased health and safety measures and physical distancing guidelines. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re planning to rent a boat you’ll need to be sure that the launch you plan on using is also open. It’s recommended that boaters who plan on renting contact the rental service for specific information, restrictions, and availability, and don’t forget to get certified with your Canadian Boating License (Pleasure Craft Operator Card) before you head out on the water.  

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) has also put together a list of boat launch and public access area statuses, so hunters, anglers, and boaters can easily check the status of their local launch area. 

Boaters in Ontario should also keep in mind that if they have access to a private dock, and their boat, there’s no reason they can’t head out on the lake, so long as they’re staying safe and practicing social distancing. 

Quebec

Quebec has been, by far, the hardest hit Canadian Province throughout the pandemic. Although the province has begun the process of re-opening, marina’s, boating access areas, as well at the province’s locks, canals and the St. Laurence remains closed to boaters.  

Additionally, as of May 5th, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Provincial Parks stated that they do not have any current plans to re-open. The province has also maintained that, although it may be tempting to get your paddle craft or SUP board in the water, regional travel associated with such activities is discouraged.  

The Surete du Quebec has also followed suit with Canadian Coast Guard recommendations stating that now is not the time for recreational boating or the regional travel associated with it. 

The news certainly isn’t ideal for boaters looking to get out on the water but, hopefully, with decreasing numbers, there’s still hope that boating access will begin to open back up in the coming weeks within the province.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Great news Newfoundlanders! Although some boating access areas may still be somewhat restricted, the province no longer has restrictions on recreational boating

Recreational boat operators are welcome to head-out on the water, however, there are limitations around who’s allowed on board. The province has stated that only those who are living within the same household are permitted onboard a single vessel – so no bursting your COVID bubble with friends or family who don’t live with you. 

Recreational hunting and angling are also now permitted within the province; in addition to some loosening of social gathering restrictions – which now allow people to gather in groups of 10 or less. 

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has significantly loosened its restrictions on outdoor recreational activities, which includes the boating industry. Those who have boats within sailing or boat clubs are permitted to work on their boats and put them in the water, so long as they’re maintaining physical distancing guidelines. 

Additionally, recreational fishing is permitted from a boat, although derbies and festivals are still postponed until further notice. 

The province is also reminding its residents that although they’re permitted to enjoy some time on the boat, they must only allow passengers on board who are from the same household. 

New Brunswick

New Brunswick is another province that has been able to loosen restrictions for outdoor recreational activities, thanks to a significant reduction in COVID-19 cases. Recreational hunting and angling are now permitted province-wide and boating access areas are open to recreational boaters. 

The province has also opened campgrounds, parks, and other recreational areas. Residents are permitted to gather within these areas so long as they maintain social distancing. 

Prince Edward Island

As of May 1st, marinas and yacht clubs were permitted to open within the province of PEI. Since then, restrictions around outdoor recreation have continued to loosen. Boating access areas and launches are also open although some do have restrictions in place (such as setting an appointment for launch), so boaters should call ahead to check restrictions. 

As of May 8th, residents of the province are also permitted to access their seasonal properties, meaning you can head to the cottage, get your boat on the water, and begin to enjoy all that the summer months in PEI have to offer. 

Your Friendly Boating Safety Reminder:

Remember that even in the age of mask-wearing and social distancing, boating safety is still as important as ever. So here’s your a quick BOATsmart! Safety Checklist as we get into boating season:

  1. Wear your life jacket! More than 80% of Canadians who drowned while boating were not wearing a life jacket. So remember (while you’re putting on your mask) that you’ll also need to wear a properly fitted life jacket. 
  2. Water on the water and beer on the pier. Stay safe and sober when you’re spending time on the water this summer. Boating while intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol is illegal in Canada, and dangerous.
  3. Be prepared. Load your boat with all of the required safety equipment for your trip, file a trip plan before you head out, and exercise safety while you’re on the water. Emergency services may not be as readily available as usual, so it’s critical that boaters take extra precautions this boating season. 
  4. Get certified. Remember to get certified with your Pleasure Craft Operator Card if you’ll be operating a motorized boat. The PCOC is required for all operators of recreational motorized boats in Canada. You can get certified with BOATsmart! in 3 easy steps.
  5. Be aware of cold water risks. Even though summer is just around the corner, the water in most regions is still dangerously cold throughout the spring. Cold water can be deadly, so wear your life jacket and be aware of the impacts of cold water immersion.