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What is a Personal Watercraft (PWC)?

June 1, 2021

A personal watercraft (or PWC) is a small recreational watercraft in which the operator is sitting, standing or kneeling on the vessel rather than being completely inside of it (as is the case with a standard boat). PWCs use inboard jet drives (engines that sit inside the watercraft and receive power from a jet pump) as their main propulsion system, similar to jet-powered boats.

Perhaps the easiest way to call to mind a personal watercraft is to think of a Jet Ski or Sea-Doo, two of the most popular brands of PWC. Now that you have an idea of what a PWC is, we will go over some of the most important things to know about a personal watercraft.

Do personal watercraft need to be licensed in Canada?

Yes. In Canada, all recreational vessels equipped with motors of 10 horsepower (7.5 kilowatts) or more, including personal watercraft (PWC), require that you obtain an official boating license (i.e. Boat registration).

What is the minimum age required to operate a personal watercraft?

In Canada, the minimum age for operating a personal watercraft such as a Sea-Doo or Jet Ski is 16 years old. Unlike with the regulations concerning motorboats, where minors can operate a pleasure craft if accompanied by an adult, under no circumstances is a minor under the age of 16 permitted to operate a personal watercraft (PWC). Violation of this condition can result in a fine of $250 or more.

<H2> What safety equipment is required on a personal watercraft (PWC)?

All persons operating a personal watercraft (PWC) are required to always have certain equipment on board. The most basic equipment requirement is a lifejacket or PFD (Personal Flotation Device) for each person on board. For a list of all lifejackets and PFDs approved in Canada, see the Approved Products Catalogue Index from Transport Canada.

Beyond this basic requirement, the items you need to have on board will differ based on whether or not everyone is wearing a lifejacket or PFD. Here is the basic list of equipment you will need when operating a PWC in which everyone on board is wearing a lifejacket or PFD:

  • 1 watertight flashlight OR 3 Canada-approved flares (Type A, B or C of which no more than 1 is a smoke signal)
  • 1 buoyant heaving line (minimum 15m (49’3”) in length)
  • 1 sound-signaling device (whistle, air horn, etc.)
  • 1 magnetic compass (if PWC is navigated out of sight of seamarks)
  • Navigation lights (if operating PWC after sunset, before sunrise or in poor visibility weather conditions)

Additionally, the following equipment is required if one person is not wearing a lifejacket or PFD:

  • 1 manual propelling device OR 1 anchor and at least 15m (49’3”) of cable, rope or chain in any combination
  • 1 bailer OR manual bilge pump
  • 1 5BC fire extinguisher

Get your boat license to operate a personal watercraft (PWC)

If you are interested in operating a personal watercraft, you can take the official Canadian online boating course to learn how to drive a boat and obtain your Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

If you have any questions about obtaining your Pleasure Craft Operator Card, feel free to contact us today and we’ll gladly answer you. Happy boating!