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Boat Operator

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

Date which proof of competency required on board.

All operators


So How does this effect you?

  • If you operate a boat under 4M in length, you are required to have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card whenever you are out in a boat with a propeller.  This includes electric motors and gas powered motors regardless of horsepower or thrust.  All non-motorized are exempt.

  • If you operate a craft over 4M in length you have until 2009 to obtain your operator card. If you get your card now, you won’t need to do it again.

  • The Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCO Card) is valid for lifetime and does not need to be renewed.

The Leisure Pool offers a variety of course and exam option. Give Sherry a call at 250-788-3939 to discuss your options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the PCO card?

Pleasure Craft Operator Card. This is the card that meets the Canadian Coast Guard regulations for proving competency of the boat operator. Many people have been referring to this as their “Boat License”.

How do I get my PCO Card?

You will need to pass the Pleasure Craft Operator Exam.  Many agencies throughout Canada are offering programs, courses, workshops and exams. Each agency bases their course from the 149 knowledge statements provided by the Coast Guard. Locally, the Leisure Pool can provide you with either the self-study Red Cross Programs or the Lifesaving Society course, workshop or self-study guide.

Who can I call to find out more information on the regulations?

The Chetwynd Leisure Pool (788-3939) can provide you with answers to most of your questions.  If you would like to contact the Canadian Coast Guard call 1-800-267-6687

What is the test like?

The test consists of 36 multiple choice questions. You will need to get 27 out of 36 to pass the test. Re-writes are available.  There are a variety of tests, so not everyone will write the same test questions. The format is the same for all tests.

Is the test the same for all age groups?

No. There is a different test for children 8-12 and 13-16 years of age. The content is the same throughout all of the tests and the children and teen test cover the same content, just a different format. For example, the kids test shows a variety of buoys and beacons and they would match up the buoy to the correct name. The adult test shows a buoy and you have 4 choices to choose from.

Can I challenge the test?

Yes. You can challenge the test as many times as you like. There is an exam writing fee for each time you write the test.

What options do I have to study from?

The Safe Boating Guide is free. You can pick up your copy at the Leisure Pool or Sporting Store.  At the Leisure Pool you can also purchase the safe boating study guide which outlines “What do you really need to know” to write the test and is an excellent reference for all boaters.  You can purchase from the Leisure Pool or from Canadian Tire, the Red Cross CD Rom and book.  The CD Rom is a good visual tool and shows video clips on the water, practice questions and goes through each section of the manual.

What is the different between a Boat License and a Vessel License?

The PCO Card (Boat License) is your proof of competency to operate a boat. Your vessel license is a license issued by Canada Customs and revenue agency. Vessel licenses are required for all crafts under 20 gross tons and powered by an engine of 10hp or more. Hence, one of the reasons the 9.9 hp motor is so popular.

Do I need to learn the buoys and beacons if I never plan to go out on the ocean?

Yes. The course and PCO card are valid for all bodies of water in Canada. There is only one PCO card and it allows you to operate anywhere in Canada.

How long is my PCO card valid for?

It does not expire and at this point there is no indication that you will be required to take the test or renew your license at any time.

When do I have to have my Pleasure Craft Operator (PCO) Card by?

Anyone born after 1983 or anyone who operates a craft under 4M in length, including personal water craft are required to have proof of competency on board now. Anyone who operates a boat over 4M in length have until September 15, 2009 to get their PCO card.

Can my child continue to operate our personal watercraft once they have their PCO Card?

Depends.  Anyone under the age of 16 is not permitted to operate personal water craft regardless if they have their PCO card or not.  Children under 12 years of age are limited to 10hp. Children aged 12-16 years are limited to 40hp.  If a child is accompanied in a vessel with an adult and under close supervision, then their are no horsepower restrictions – (this does not include personal water craft).

What are my options for learning the material?

Self Study, workshop (under 8 hours), or course (8 hours). Most boat operators have been choosing to take a workshop (about 3-4 hours) and then write their exam.  Workshops cover the overall content of the course, just not as in depth as an 8 hour course.

Do I have to get wet (go into the pool or lake) in the course?

No. The course is all classroom sessions. No practical skills are evaluated.