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Pre-Departure Checklist

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

  • By law, pleasure craft must have enough Canadian-approved flotation devices of the appropriate size for everyone on board. You can choose between lifejackets and PFDs. Remember, lifesaving cushions are not approved as personal flotation equipment on any vessel.
  • Look for a lifejacket or PFD with a label that states it has been approved by Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries & Oceans Canada or any combination thereof

Sound Producing Devices

  • Pleasure craft less than 12 metres in length need a sound-signalling device if they are not fitted with a sound-signalling appliance.  The sound-signalling device can be a pealess whistle, compressed gas horn or an electric horn.
  • Pleasure craft 12 metres or greater in length must have a fitted whistle. 

Lights and Shapes

  • Have all navigation lights as required for your boat.
  • Make sure all instrument lights are working.
  • Have aboard a flashlight and spare batteries.

Distress Signals

  • Make flares accessible and ensure they are stored in a cool, dry location such as a watertight container.
  • Carry signals at all times even if not required by Transport Canada.
  • Inform the crew and passengers of their location and safety rules for proper usage.

Tools and Spares

  • Carry a basic toolbox with tools appropriate for your boat.
  • Carry a box of spares including fuel filter, light bulbs, head parts, through-hull plugs, etc.

Fuel and Oil

  • Top off your fuel tanks.
  • If you can't, have enough fuel to provide a reasonable margin of safety for your return.
  • Check the engine oil and coolant levels.

Fire Extinguishers

  • Carry at least one fire extinguisher and make sure it is accessible.
  • Check to be sure mounts are secure and functional before departure.
  • Take the time to point out locations to passengers and crew.


  • On any powered vessel or auxiliary powered sailboat, or vessels using LPG for cooking or heat, check that all interior spaces are well ventilated before departure.
  • If fuel smells are detected before ventilating, check after running the blowers for several minutes before starting.
  • If odor persists, shut down the engine and look for the source of the leak.


  • Check to be sure bilges are reasonably dry and that pumps are not running excessively.
  • Clean up any spilled oil or waste in bilges to prevent overboard discharge.

Weather Forecast

  • Always check the weather forecast before boating.
  • Have a radio on board to receive weather updates.

Battery Care

  • If you have a dual charging system, make sure the selector switch in the proper position.
  • Make sure the power is on to the entire vessel.
  • Have aboard spare batteries for accessories such as your handheld radio, flashlight, portable navigational aid, etc.
  • If the batteries are rechargeable, make sure they're charged.

Docking and Anchoring Tips

  • Have at least one anchor set up and bent-on to your anchor line.
  • Carry two or three extra dock lines in case you encounter unusual conditions dockside.
  • Visually inspect the lines you use for chafe or wear.
  • Carry at least two fenders on-board for docking or towing if required.

Rules & Documentation

  • Have the proof of ownership, your Pleasure Craft Operators Card, fishing permit, etc. on board. 
  • Have the charts for the area you intend to cruise in, regardless of your level of local knowledge.