Pre and Post-Season Sea-Worthiness Checks

The beginning and ending of your boating season are ideal times to perform detailed inspections of your vessel and equipment.

Negligence of regular boat maintenance can lead to unsafe boating experiences, resulting in injury and loss of life.

  Mechanical and Structural Check 05.01#00

  • Start with an inspection of the hull. Look for cracks or other damage and repair as required.
  • Verify that the steering mechanism and associated mechanical gear is operating properly.
  • If your vessel is equipped with an engine, check that the throttle is operating smoothly and is not sticking or binding.  Check the oil and other fluid levels.  Check that hoses, clamps and belts secure and in good shape.
  • Check the battery’s charge and it's fluid levels.
  • Sailors should check mast rigging and lights before raising the mast. Pay special attention to halyards, stays and shrouds and replace if damaged.
  • Check holding tanks and toilets, if equipped, for proper operation. Ensure that holding tanks are pumped out at the end of the season. Use non-toxic recreational anti-freeze in toilets and sinks where required.
  • Ensure that water pumps are drained at the end of the season.
  • Check through-hull fittings before launch, lubricate, and check for proper operation.
  • The above list is not all inclusive. Be vigilant and check over ALL equipment at the beginning and at the end of the boating season.

  PFDs and Lifejackets 05.02#00

Check that you have one PFD or Lifejacket for each person who will be on board, and that they are the appropriate size for each person.

See the next section for details concerning sizing and testing of PFDs.

  VHF/Restricted Operator's Certificate 05.03#00

The Radio Communications Act of Canada requires that any operator of a marine VHF radio possess a Restricted Operator's Certificate (ROC) which is issued after an examination by an agent authorized by Industry Canada.

There are fines if you are found using a VHF or marine radio without a certificate.

Some new VHF radios are now being sold with a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) option (described below) that will aid rescue personnel when they respond to an emergency call.

If you operate equipment with the Digital Selective Calling feature you should obtain the DSC endorsement for your VHF/ROC card.

See the next section for a detailed description of DSC.

  Safety and Navigation Equipment 05.04#00

Your pre-seasonal check of equipment should include the following items, depending on the vessel type.     Detailed information on all of these items is included in the next section.

  • approved PFDs or lifejackets, good condition, correct size and number.
  • buoyant heaving line.
  • approved lifebuoy.
  • re-boarding device.
  • manual propelling device.
  • anchor, with regulation line length.
  • bailers, manual water pumps, bilge pumps.
  • fire extinguisher(s), fire axe, fire buckets.
  • water tight flashlight.
  • appropriate number and valid pyrotechnic distress signals (flares).
  • sound signalling device or appliance(s).
  • working and approved navigation lights.
  • radar reflector.
  • magnetic compass.
  • marine charts or topographical maps and GPS.

  Pleasure Craft Courtesy Check Program 05.05#00

Courtesy checks are offered free of charge by the Canadian Coast Guard or in some areas of Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary or other boating and water safety organizations.   With permission, an examiner will board your vessel and review with you the safety equipment required by law. The examiner will also inspect the other equipment you have and identify any deficiencies.

  Planning and Preparation Best Practices  

Contingency Planning

Just before beginning a planned trip you should do some contingency planning.

Most important - check the weather forecast before setting out and be prepared to cancel or postpone the trip if the forecast is not good.  Most boaters will avoid being underway if the possibility of lightning or strong winds (20 knots or greater) is forecast.

Weather forecasts are available from a variety of sources, including

  • TV weather channels
  • radio
  • newspapers
  • VHF marine radio weather channels
  • Environment Canada
    (Meteorological Service of Canada division)
  • personal observations

Plot your planned route. This allows you to complete the following tasks.

  • plan an adequate oil and fuel supply.
  • file your Trip Plan.
  • check charts for local hazards that you might encounter enroute.
  • identify possible locations to take shelter enroute in the event of bad weather. This information may be obtained by local knowledge, examining charts, and studying Sailing Directions and Cruising Guides for the area.
  • depending on your location, check water levels, times of low and high tides, and direction of current. Water levels and short term tide and current information may be obtained from the Fisheries and Oceans Canadian Hydrographic site at or . The Canadian Hydrographic Service also publishes annual Canadian Tide and Current tables which can be purchased from local distributors. Online printable versions are also available.
  • if travelling to U.S. waters, obtain the latest Homeland Security update.

Oil and Fuel Supply


Make sure you have adequate oil and fuel on board, if appropriate for your vessel type.

Know, or calculate your vessels approximate fuel consumption, and apply the fuel rule of thirds.   1/3 reserve,   1/3 trip out,   1/3 trip return.

For long trips, plan your fuel stops and top up when appropriate.

Trip Plan


A Trip or Sail Plan should be filed for all water related activities.

Before heading out, complete a Sail Plan with the necessary details that could be used to assist in initiating a Search and Rescue call in case of an emergency.

File the plan with a responsible person who is familiar with the instructions and procedures to follow in case of emergency.

If circumstances detailed in your Sail Plan change while you are en-route, you must contact and update the person holding the Sail Plan. Be sure to report back to that person on return from your trip. Failure to do so could result in unnecessary Search and Rescue activity.

Your Sail Plan should include the following information:

  • name and number of pleasure craft
  • sailing or power driven
  • size, type, and colour
  • distinguishing features
  • type of engine
  • name, address, and telephone number of owner
  • number of persons on board
  • type of radiotelephone, if any, and channel monitored
  • cell phone number, if any
  • safety equipment carried, including flares, lifejackets, and life rafts
  • description of trip, time of departure, time of return, proposed route
  • instructions in case of emergency


Sail Plan

Step 1 – fill out applicable information for EACH VOYAGE

Step 2 – leave with a responsible person

Step 3 – close sail plan upon termination of the voyage

 Sail Plan

 Owner Information

 Name     _________________________________________________________

 Address _________________________________________________________

 Other Safety Equipment ____________________________________________

 Telephone Number(s) ______________________________________________

 Emergency Contact Number(s) ______________________________________

 Boat Information

 Vessel’s Name and Licence Number _________________________________

 Sail              Power            Length __________  Type ______________

 Colour            Hull  __________     Deck  __________     Cabin  __________

 Engine Type ____________ Distinguishing Features ____________________

 Radio Channels Monitored _____________   HF       VHF       MF  

 MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) Number ____________________________

 Satelite or Cellular Telephone Number ________________________________

 Safety Equipment on Board

 Lifejackets or PFDs (include number) ________________________________

 Life Rafts _______________________________________________________

 Dinghy or Small Boat (include colour) ________________________________

 Flares (include number and type)   ___________________________________

 Other Safety Equipment ___________________________________________

 Trip Details - Update These Details Every Trip

 Date of Departure _______________ Time of Departure _________________

 Leaving From __________________ Heading to _______________________

 Proposed Route _________________________________________________

 Estimated Date and Time of Arrival __________________________________

 Stop Over Point _________________ Number of Persons on Board _______


 Search and Rescue Telephone Number ______________________________



Emergency Assistance


Before departing, you should review the various methods you would use to call for help or assistance in the event of an emergency, and then check that all of the appropriate aids are in good working order.

The following items should be on your check list.

  • VHF radio
  • whistle or other sound signaling device or appliance
  • watertight flashlight
  • cell phone, with phone number list of emergency organizations
  • pyrotechnic distress signals (flares)
  • other recognized distress signals

Detailed information on how to use these devices will be found in other sections of this course.

Crossing U.S. Borders


U.S. Homeland Security Requirements

If you are crossing the border to a U.S. port you should first check with the U.S Department of Homeland Security for the latest information on entry requirements.

You can start your search for the latest information by checking the U.S.Homeland Security internet site at .

At the present time, assuming you are not denied entry for a variety of causes listed on the internet site, a valid passport or enhanced driver's license is required for adult identification and entry. Youth under 16 years of age may present a valid birth certificate.

There are a number of alternatives presented on the internet site for check in at a U.S. port including

  • personal appearance at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) location.
  • check in at a video Outlying Area Reporting Station (OARS) location.
  • telephone check in to CBP if in possesion of a current I-86 entry permit.
  • presentation of a NEXUS card in lieu of a passport allows pre-screened travelers expedited processing by United States officials at designated northern border ports of entry and at marine reporting locations. Approved applicants are issued a photo-identification, proximity Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card.

You should also be aware that certain items may not be carried into the U.S. All travelers entering the United States are required to DECLARE any meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, animals, and plant and animal products (including soup or soup products) they may be carrying.

Some foods, including beef and some fruits, may be prohibited.

Proper Loading


Be aware of your vessel's loading capacity.
(See the Capacity Plate (Compliance Notice) for vessels up to 6 metres in length.)

Load your vessel properly, distributing weight as evenly and as low as possible.    Loose items should be stowed in lockers or drawers, or tied down securely.

Pre-Departure Briefing


Brief your passengers before departure on the location of safety equipment and their duties in the event of "person overboard" and other emergencies.

Explain to everyone the importance of wearing a PFD.

Make sure your communication equipment works correctly and that everyone knows how to use it.

Do a quick check over your equipment list before departure.

Before departure from dock a pleasure craft operator should check that the boat is in good working order.