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British Columbia

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Motorized boat operators of all ages in British Columbia are required to obtain and carry a BC Boating License (officially known as a Pleasure Craft Operator Card or PCOC). If you’re operating a motorized boat in British Columbia, you can obtain your BC boat license by completing the Transport Canada Approved BOATsmart! Course. The Course includes everything you need to pass the Online Test and obtain your BC Boating License today.

Driving a motorized boat in British Columbia without your Pleasure Craft Operator Card on board will result in a fine of $250.

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Pleasure Craft Operator Card

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Boating in British Columbia? The FAQs.

What is a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC)?
The PCOC, more commonly known by British Columbia boaters as a ‘boating license’, is a federal competency card that proves you can safely operate a boat. You must obtain and carry your PCOC in order to legally operate any powerboat or motorized boat in Canada. Unlike your driver’s licence, your PCOC can not be suspended or revoked, and once obtained, it’s good for life! Remember, you MUST have your Boating License on the boat during operation. We recommend keeping an extra BOATsmart! Card on the boat, in the boathouse and in your wallet!
How old do you have to be in BC to get your Boating License?
There is no minimum age for Canadians wishing to take the Online Course. However, the following age restrictions apply to boat operators: Children under 12 years of age can operate a boat powered by 10 horsepower or less with supervision. Children ages 12 to 16 can operate a boat without supervision if the engine is under 40 horsepower. Operators over 16 years of age can operate a boat without supervision or horsepower restrictions.
Who needs a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) in BC?
A PCOC, or Canada Boat License, is required to legally operate any boat with a motor in Canada. If you’ll be heading down the coast to Washington, Oregon or even as far down as sunny California, and plan on operating a boat while visiting the U.S., an Official Boating License may be required, depending on which state you are visiting. But no worries, your Canadian boating license will be accepted in more than 40 states in the U.S.
Are there waterways in BC where I can’t go boating?
Yes, but no worries, with so many amazing lakes, rivers and coastal waterways in this province you won’t have any trouble finding an awesome spot to launch your boat. However, BC Parks does not allow motorized boating activities in some protected lakes, rivers and waterways.
How old do you have to be in BC to get your Boating License?
There is no minimum age for Canadians wishing to take the Online Course. However, the following age restrictions apply to boat operators: Children under 12 years of age can operate a boat powered by 10 horsepower or less with supervision. Children ages 12 to 16 can operate a boat without supervision if the engine is under 40 horsepower. Operators over 16 years of age can operate a boat without supervision or horsepower restrictions.
How do I get a Boating License in BC?
It’s easy to get your boating license in British Columbia! Just take the Online Course, pass the Transport Canada Boating Safety Test and you’ll be able to go boating right away. You can take Canada’s Boating Course online, from the comfort of home. It’s 100% open-book, and includes free Test retries. It’s everything you need in one package!
When does my BC Boating License expire?
Once you’ve taken the BOATsmart! Online Course and passed the Online Test you’ll be good for life! No renewal is needed because your BC boating license will never expire.
Do I need to insure my boat in BC?
No, boats and watercraft in BC are not required to have boat insurance. However, marine insurance is highly recommended for all boat types in Canada. You can save up to 25% off your annual policy with BOATsmart! Assure. Get a quick, online quote today!
What is the minimum age in BC to get a boating license?
There is no minimum age to take Canada's Online Boating Course. You can legally drive a boat at any age in Canada so long as you have obtained your Pleasure Craft Operator Card. However, there are certain horsepower restrictions for younger boaters. See the infographic outlining BC's age and horsepower restrictions below!
Are there free boating lessons I can take after I've completed the Course & Test?
Absolutely! We know that it can take practice to properly perform certain boating skills, like docking your boat in the wind. We also know that it can be helpful to remind yourself about the boating rules and regulations, like the rules for boating with alcohol in BC! There's also lots to know about the safety equipment you need on your boat to avoid getting a fine. That's why we've created our free BOATsmart! Knowledge Base for free. Additionally, if you would like to keep a boating safety handbook on the boat, you can order a handy BOATsmart! Study Guide. We'll keep you up-to-date, BC!
Who enforces the boating laws in BC?
The RCMP enforces the laws for drinking and boating in BC. These law enforcement officers patrol the waters all over the province, making sure that boaters are not operating under the influence of alcohol, or operating without their required safety equipment.
What is the fine for not having a BC Boating License?
Boaters who fail to carry a Pleasure Craft Operator Card on the water in British Columbia can be fined a minimum of $250.

BC's boating laws & fines:

Failure to carry a Pleasure Craft Operator Card
$250

Operating a PWC under 16 years of age
$250

Violation of age and horsepower restrictions
$250

Operating a vessel in an unsafe manner
$500

Insufficient number of Transport Canada approved lifejackets or PFDs (Warning: the fine applies for EACH missing or improper lifejacket or PFD)
$200

BC’s laws for boating & alcohol.

  • The fines and penalties for driving a boat while under the influence of alcohol in BC are the same as those for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.
  • A boat operator’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level cannot exceed 80 mg. This is the legal alcohol limit in BC.
  • There is NO difference between drunk driving & drunk boating.
  • Boat passengers may consume alcohol on board a boat in BC so long as the boat is licensed for alcohol consumption, or the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked.
  • Contact the RCMP of British Columbia for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in British Columbia.

BC's age & horsepower restrictions.

12 years of age & under: Can operate a boat without supervision so long as the engine is not more than 10 horsepower and they have proof of competency. They are not allowed to operate a PWC under any conditions.
12-16 years of age: Can operate a boat without supervision as long as the engine is not more than 40 horsepower and they have proof of competency. They are not allowed to operate a PWC under any conditions.
16+ years of age: Can operate a boat or PWC without supervision or horsepower restrictions so long as they have proof of competency.



How to get a boat license in BC:

A Pleasure Craft License or ‘boat license’ is a document and a set of I.D. numbers. The document must be on board your boat at all times and the numbers must be displayed on the bow of your boat at all times.

Do I need a Pleasure Craft License?

All motorized boats and PWCs in BC powered by 10 horsepower or more are required to have a Pleasure Craft License. The number must be displayed on both sides of the bow, above the waterline, as far forward as possible, in block letters at least 7.5cm high that contrast with the colour of the boat.

You can obtain a 10 year license for free from Service Canada. You must renew the license after the 10 year period has expired.

How to get a Pleasure Craft License

You can obtain a 10 year license for free one of the following two ways:

Option 1: Apply for a free Pleasure Craft License online.
Option 2: Download a paper application form and mail the form to the Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre at the following address:

  • Pleasure Craft Licensing Centre
    P.O. Box 2006
    Fredericton, New Brunswick
    E3B 5G4

Wondering how to officially register your boat in BC? There are added benefits to boat registration, but a fee will apply. Click here for more information.



Boating in British Columbia!

British Columbia

BC is peppered with lakes, rivers, and a coastline that’ll keep boaters exploring for years. Some of our favourite lakes for watersports and lakeside festivals include Okanagan Lake which spans 130 km, Harrison Lake with almost unlimited boating access, and Cowichan Lake where the top water-skiing and wakeboarding fanatics have been known to land some tricks! More of a ‘cruise along the coast’ type of boater? Check out Tofino for some amazing shoreline scenery, sunsets and world famous surfing competitions, or start at Fraser River and work your way up the Sunshine Coast to Desolation Sound for weeks of endless beauty!

Trust us, fishing in BC is where it’s at! To get where you’re going, use Discover Boating’s Marina and Boat Launch finder, and before you cast a line, be sure to read and understand BC’s Freshwater Fishing Regulations and Offshore Fishing Regulations. British Columbia is an angler’s paradise with freshwater and offshore fishing opportunities for sturgeon, salmon and trout! So get out there and reel em’ in!

We're boaters too, so we get it.

Think of us as your boating coaches and get in touch by phone, email or chat anytime you need our support! Our bilingual team of safe boating experts can answer any questions you have about getting your Boating License, Canada's boating laws or they can even just hook you up with some great tips and advice to help you enjoy your time on the water.
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The BOATsmart! Card is good for life and valid in all of Canada's Provinces & Territories including Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon.