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Boating Rules and Regulations
As a boater, you have to follow a set of rules and regulations that are designed to protect you, other boaters, and wildlife habitat of the region. The rules are not onerous, most involve common sense, and responsible boaters have no trouble abiding by them.

It is worth noting that Ontario has on-the-spot ticketing and fines for boaters contravening regulations issued under the Canada Shipping Act and the Department of Transport Act (which includes the Historic Canals Regulations). This makes it much easier for the police to enforce the on-water rules and makes it safer for all boaters. Fines are not cheap, many are in the the $200+ range for offences such as not carrying enough PFDs, speeding, and failure to turn off electrical equipment while refuelling.

Boating Regulations

Operators Card:
All boaters operating a powered craft less than 4 metres in length (this includes all PWCs) and all boaters born after April 1, 1983 (operating a powered vessel of any type - see age restrictions below) must have and carry a Pleasure Craft Operators Card. By 2009, everyone operating a powered vessel will require a Pleasure Craft Operators Card. The only exception are American boaters in Canada for less than 45 days. For info see Information for American Boaters.
A number of places offer Transport Canada acreditted courses, one that provides the course via the Internet is BoaterExam.com:

All boats powered by a motor 7.5 kW (10 HP) or greater, must be licenced and the licence number must be clearly marked on both sides of the bow. In addition, any boat less than 5m (16 ft, 5 in) in length, powered by a motor 7.5 kW (10 HP) or greater, must carry a plate stating the maximum load and kilowatts recommended for it. For more info about licences and capacity plates visit the Office of Boating Safety website at: www.boatingsafety.gc.ca.


Don't Drink and Drive

The rules for piloting a boat while impaired is the same as driving a car. It is against the law. The Ontario Provincial Police have the power in Ontario to crack down on drinking and boating. If you're impared while in "care or control of a vessel," including non-motorized vessels such as sailboats, canoes and kayaks, your driver's licence will be suspended (just as if you've been impared while driving a car). It's a dangerous practice so just don't do it. Most boating accidents that involve fatalities can be attributed to alcohol. It's against the law to have care or control of a vessel underway while there is contained therein any open liquor not stored in accordance with the Liquor Act. It's fine to enjoy a drink, but it can only be done in a boat that is equipped with a permanently fitted head (washroom), sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities AND is properly docked or at anchor.

The Ontario Provincial Police have a marine unit that patrols the Rideau.

No Dumping, Just Pumping

It is against the law in Ontario to dump any holding tanks into the water. Ideally, a boat should be equipped with a holding tank for sewage that can be pumped using a through deck fitting. Portable toilets are not permitted in Ontario unless adapted for proper shore line disposal. Many marinas offer pump-out facilities. Boating guides such as the Rideau Boating and Road Guide indicate which marinas have pump outs. In addition, all the locks and most marinas have free washroom facilities, so you can easily minimize the use of your on-board facilities.

Watch Your Wake

Speed Zone MarkersThe waves generated by a boat, technically known as a boat's "wash" can do a great deal of damage. It can erodes shorelines, swamp the nests of loons and other waterfowl, damage docks and moored vessels, interfere with safe navigation, disrupt wetland habitat, and upset canoes and small boats, especially in narrow channels.

In Ontario, there is a shoreline speed zone which restricts all power-driven vessels to 10 km/hr (6 mph) or less within 30 metres (100 feet) of shore. This restriction does not apply: In addition to this general regulation, various sections of the Rideau have regulated speed limit zones. Most of these will be a posted with signs indicating a maximum speed limit of 10 km/hr.

It should be noted, that from a wash generating perspective, the absolute speed is not the issue. The issue is at what speed does your boat generate a destructive wash? In restricted channels, near shore areas, and other designated "watch your wake" zones along the Rideau, please slow it down to a point where you are generating a minimum wash.


Care should always be taken when refuelling. The following precautions should be taken prior to refuelling: After refuelling, those with inboards should turn on their bilge blower for at least five minutes before starting up. Gas fumes are heavier than air and can easily build up. Starting the engine can cause an explosion and fire. Finally, just to make sure, sniff the bilge to make sure it is free of gas fumes before you start up your engine.

Emergency Gear

Your boat must carry mandatory safety equipment, which depends on the length of your boat. A listing of this equipment is detailed in the "Safe Boating Guide" put out by Transport Canada (call: 1-800-267-6687 to obtain a copy) . For an on-line listing of this equipment visit the official Office of Boating Safety.

In addition, it is important that life jackets and personal flotation devices (PFDs) be worn while boating. If someone accidently falls off your boat, or your boat is struck by an underwater object or another boat, chances are that you may be unconscious when you enter the water. If you haven't been wearing a lifejacket for reasons of vanity ("it ruins my tan", "I don't like the look of my PFD") then that perfectly tanned body of yours is going to sink like a stone, and you will become another boating statistic. Plus, in case you missed it, tanning is dangerous to both your health (deadly melanoma cancer) and your appearance (premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, age spots, the works). Over 85% of drowning victims in Canada were not wearing a life jacket or PFD !


All recreational boats powered by a motor 7.5 kW (10 HP) or greater, and under 15 gross tons (over 12 meters), must be licensed and the licence number must be clearly marked on both sides of the bow (with letters of contrasting colour to the boat, at least 7.5 cm high). In addition, any boat less than 5m (16 ft, 5 in) in length, powered by a motor 7.5 kW (10 HP) or greater, must carry a plate stating the maximum load and kilowatts recommended for it.

If your boat is more than 15 gross tons (a measure of volume), then it must be Registered (as opposed to Licensed). People with expensive boats, and/or a boat that they plan to use outside of Canadian waters and/or a boat they want to show clear title to should get it registered.

Pleasure craft licences are issued by Services Canada. For more information about this licence call Services Canada at 1-800-622-6232 or visit their website at servicecanada.gc.ca

Vessel registration is provided by Transport Canada. For more information call Transport Canada at 18772428770 or visit their website at: www.tc.gc.ca


The Charts and Publications Regulations require all vessels (not propelled by oars) to have on board, maintain, and use, appropriate charts, tide tables, sailing directions, list of lights and other nautical publications.

For the Rideau, hydrographic charts 1512 and 1513, cover the full length of the waterway. You can order these on-line from Friends of the Rideau. Depending on where you are coming from, and where you plan to go, you many require other charts. A more complete list of maps and charts can be found on the maps, maps, maps web page. For a complete listing of hydrographic charts, pop over to the Canadian Hydrographic Service Web Site.

Historic Canal Regulations

The following are a few of the Historic Canal Regulations: When visiting one of Canada's historic canals, your vessel must be equipped with good mooring lines and any fenders attached to the vessel must be securely fastened to the vessel and made of material that will float.

Boaters should be aware that there are a number of activities prohibited while in a canal. These are not limited to, but include:

Lock Procedures

The full lock through procedures for Rideau Canal locks can be found on the Boating Page.

Rules of the Road

Last, but certainly not least, are the nautical rules of the road. All boaters should be familiar with these rules. Those wishing detailed information are encouraged to take a safe boating course from their local branch of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons.

The most basic rules are as follows:

Navigation Markers

Buoy MarkersThere are many different types of navigation markers, but a very basic rule of thumb to remember is "Red Right Returning" which means that if you are in the navigation channel, that red coloured buoys will be on your right (starboard) when you are returning upstream to home port. In the Rideau, since it crosses a height of land, we actually have two upstream directions, with Newboro being the home port in both instances. Kingston to Newboro is upstream, so travelling this direction, markers to Newboro will have a red buoys on the right, and green on the left. Past Newboro it switches since you are now travelling downstream to Ottawa, so red will now be on the left and green on the right.

If you are travelling from Ottawa to Kingston, you will have red buoys on your right from Ottawa to Newboro as you travel upstream, and then the red buoys will be on your left as you travel downstream from Newboro to Kingston. Pretty simple all in all. The charts clearly show this so you can't go wrong.

Changes to navigation aids is published in the Notice to Mariners, available on-line on the Notmar Web Page.

Collision Avoidance

Here are the basic rules:

Boating Safety Regulations Summary

Anyone born after April 1, 1983, or anyone operating a powered vessel under 4 m (abt. 13' - this includes all PWCs) in length must have a Coast Guard Approved Pleasure Craft Operators Card. Everyone else will have to have one of these cards by September 15, 2009. The following is a summary of the regulations.

Age-horsepower Restrictions*

How this applies to operators of pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes Power restrictions as of April 1, 1999
Under 12 years of age, and not directly supervised** Can operate a vessel with no more than 10 hp (7.5 KW)
Between 12 years and under 16 years of age, and not directly supervised** Can operate a vessel with no more than 40 hp (30 KW)
Under 16 years of age Cannot operate a personal watercraft
16 years of age and over No power restrictions


These requirements apply in areas outside the Northwest and Nunavut Territories at this time.
** Directly supervised means: accompanied and directly supervised by a person 16 years of age or older.

Operator Competency Requirements*

How this applies to operators** of pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes

Date at which proof of competency required on board

All operators born after April 1, 1983 September 15, 1999
All operators of craft under 4 m in length, including personal watercraft September 15, 2002
All operators September 15, 2009


These requirements apply in areas outside the Northwest and Nunavut Territories at this time.
** Applies to non-residents operating their pleasure craft in Canadian waters after 45 consecutive days. Operator card or equivalent issued to a non-resident by their state or country will be considered as proof of competency.

The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations require operators of pleasure craft fitted with a motor and used for recreational purposes to have proof of competency on board at all times. These requirements are being phased in over ten years (see table).

Proof of competency can take 1 of 3 forms:

  1. proof of having taken a boating safety course prior to April 1, 1999;
  2. a pleasure craft operator card from a Canadian Coast Guard accredited course provider following a test;
  3. a completed rental-boat safety checklist (for power-driven rental boats).

The operator card is good-for-life. Boaters can obtain their card after receiving a mark of at least 75% on a Transport Canada accredited test after having completed an accredited course. Boaters also have the option of taking this test without first completing a course. Professional mariners will see their qualification recognized. Check the Office of Boating Safety for a list of organizations that provide approved training courses in Canada.

You can view the regulations on the Office of Boating Safety webpage.

Use the links below for more information:

American Boaters

A brief synopsis of information for American boaters can be found on the Information for American Boaters Page. Detailed information can be obtained from the Transport Canada's Office of Boating Safety (see contact info below).

Transport Canada Boating Information

For more information on safe boating, including information on the new regulations, call the Transport Canada's safe boating information hotline at 1-800-267-6687 (North America only) or visit the Office of Boating Safety website.

O.P.P. Marine Unit

The Ontario Provincial Police - Eastern Ontario Marine Unit fields several marine officers who check for various boating infractions. For more information have a look at the O.P.P. Leeds & Grenville and Lanark Counties Marine Officer's page.

It all boils down to being considerate of others that share the waterway with you. Don't rush your trip. Relax and enjoy your Rideau adventure. Use the motto of the Town of Perth as your credo -- "Make Haste Slowly".

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This page was last updated on: July 16, 2006
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