07 May 2021

Watersports: Do you need insurance?

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Summer is almost here, and that’s good news for watersports enthusiasts! If you’re a first-time kayak, personal watercraft, canoe, or sailboard owner, you’re probably wondering if you need insurance for peace of mind once you get out on the water. That’s a great question, and not many water aficionados know the answer. From an insurance standpoint, watersports refers to physical activities such and kayaking and canoeing. Recreational boating, on the other hand, refers to motorized vessels.

Because we care about your safety and want to protect your property, there are certain requirements and other specifics you should know about watersports insurance. Whether you’re a veteran of the waves or you’re getting your feet wet for the first time, we have important information to help you enjoy summer on Québec’s superb lakes (article in french).

Legal obligations

Do you need a licence to operate a craft in Québec?

Yes and no. It depends on the type of craft. A Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) has been mandatory since 2009 for all types of motorized craft, including personal watercraft, regardless of engine size or length. The questions below will help you decide whether you need a PCOC.

Must I have proof of competency to operate a non-motorized pleasure craft?

No. The Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations only apply to craft with a motor.

Must I have proof of competency if I am using only paddles (and not the engine) to operate a motorized pleasure craft?

Yes. If your boat has a motor, you still need the operator card even if you’re only using paddles.

What licence(s) do I need to operate a personal watercraft?

To operate a pleasure craft with an engine bigger than 10 horsepower (7.5 kW), such as a personal watercraft, you need a PCOC AND a valid Pleasure Craft Licence, unless the vessel has already been registered as a pleasure craft.

If you need a PCOC for the upcoming season, you apply online or by mail. Once issued, the card is valid for life!

Insurance for watersports

In Canada insurance is not mandatory for watersports (liability insurance for craft owners and operators). But we must stress the importance of insuring your equipment. It’s something you care about and it can also turn out to be expensive. And should you have an accident, liability insurance for your favourite watersport will give you peace of mind. Follow our tips for stress-free fun on the water:

1. Insure your equipment

Too many watersports enthusiasts fail to insure their gear. Depending on your sport, insurance could save you from a financial loss! Coverage is available through your home insurance. Buying a new kayak, canoe, or paddle boat? Contact your insurer. They’ll point you toward the coverage you need.

2. Take out $2,000,000 in liability insurance

Subject to a certain limit, your home insurance might provide civil liability coverage for your water-based activities. Some exclusions apply. Talk to your representative to learn more.

Certain sports federations and watersports clubs offer group insurance for members. Examples are Canot Kayak Québec, a non-profit organization that promotes canoeing and kayaking in the province, and Eau Vive Québec (french only), the recreational and competitive whitewater sports federation. See if they offer the type of insurance you need.

Specifics for individual watersports

Personal watercraft

Promutuel Insurance can insure your personal watercraft through your home insurance. Contact your insurance representative to learn more.

Windsurfing

Membership in the Quebec Sailing Federation includes insurance for windsurfers. Find out if their policy is right for you.

Paddle craft

Whether sea kayaking or river canoeing is your thing, you can get accident insurance coverage by joining a club with group insurance or becoming a member of Canot Kayak Québec. Contact associations directly for more information.

Water safety is everything

Once you have your pleasure craft licence (for craft with an engine bigger than 10 horsepower and personal watercraft), a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC), and insurance for your equipment, you also need to comply with water safety rules and guidance. Here are a few important reminders from Nautisme Québec and Transport Canada to help you enjoy the water in Québec safely and responsibly:

Safety for any type of watersport:
  • Take a boating course before heading out for the first time. Comply with the craft owner and operator obligations.
  • Have a sail plan.
  • Make sure you have the right safety equipment for the type and size of your craft.
  • Act responsibly on the water.
  • Help protect our waterways so others can enjoy them.
  • Have a first aid kit on hand.
  • Review the Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide.
  • Never operate a craft under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It’s illegal, and you could even lose your driver’s licence if you are charged.
  • Do not operate a craft that is unfit for the water due to damage, poor construction, or any other issue.
  • Share the water with other watersports enthusiasts and swimmers.
  • Slow down near the shore and stay out of swimming zones.
Canoe and kayak safety:
  • Learn basic canoeing techniques and comply with international signs.
  • Know how to identify rapids and only proceed if you have the right skill level.
  • Carry the equipment required under the Canada Shipping Act: a personal floatation device, rope, whistle, buoyant heaving line at least 15 m long, pump or bucket, and emergency paddle.
  • Make sure there is equipment for getting back on board if the reboarding height from the water is greater than 50 cm.
  • Make sure you have the mandatory lights for sailing after sunset and before sunrise.
  • Have a watertight flashlight on board if your craft is more than 6 m long (most two-person canoes and kayaks).
Personal watercraft safety:
  • Check that your have your pleasure craft licence with you.
  • Have a sound signalling device, heaving line, flashlight, and flares on board (minimum required per Transport Canada regulations).
  • Do not let anyone under the age of 16 operate your personal watercraft (besides putting young people at risk, you could be slapped with a heavy fine).
  • Follow and frequently review the operating rules in the Collision Regulations.
  • Check that your personal watercraft has a pull cord to cut the engine if someone falls off.
Windsurfing safety:
  • Make sure you have the required equipment with you: a personal floatation device, sound signalling device, and watertight flashlight.
  • Check your equipment before heading out on the water.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Slow down when you are 300 metres or less from the shore and stay within 3 kilometres.
  • Use a strap to stay tethered to your board at all times.
Waterskiing and wakeboarding safety:
  • Always have a spotter.
  • Save a seat on the boat for the skier or wakeboarder.
  • Have enough floatation devices for everyone being towed.
  • Verify that the boat operator has a valid licence or card and that they know how to tow a skier or wakeboarder.
  • Agree on hand signals ahead of time to communicate with the operator once you’re out on the water.
  • If you fall, swim back to the boat (the boat must go towards you, but you must swim up to it with the engine in neutral).

Are you a keen angler, too? Read our article all about insurance coverage for fishing.

If you have any questions about watersports insurance, contact your Promutuel Insurance representative.

Have a great summer on the water!