Getting your Pleasure Craft Operator Card

Boy running outboard motor
Look who has his Pleasure Craft Operator Card!

We moved to the South Shore of Nova Scotia for the sailing, essentially. Lots of folks here have boats. There are kayaks, runabouts, sleek motor cruisers built for speed, a few “trawlers” (non-planing motor cruisers), fishing boats converted into pleasure boats, “personal watercraft” (sea-doos), small and medium-sized sailboats of all vintages, some wooden, and more (if I left your kind of boat out, no offense; just leave a comment below). No mega yachts to speak of; when you do see one of those, it’s probably “from away.”

Even if your boat is just a runabout with an outboard, and even if you’ve been running about with it since God was a boy, since September 2009, if it has a motor, you’ll need your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) to run about with it in the future – in Canada, that is.

So there’s a bit of a rush on to get the card. Courses are popping up here and there, and presumably they’re being filled by those who’ve been putting it off all these years.

Courses are offered by various groups, such as the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (CPS), where I got mine in 2003 as part of their more in-depth Boating Course. CPS now offers a standalone Boat Pro course which is geared towards the PCOC exam.

Converted fishing boat
Converted fishing boat

My husband, a lifelong sailor, and our 9½-year-old son recently took a 2-evening course with local instructor Michael Ernst. Ernst uses the curriculum developed by the Lifesaving Society.

Taking a course with a group of people and a teacher who knows what he or she is talking about is actually fun. It allows you to ask questions and learn from other people’s experiences.  There are also online courses available, or you can study the materials on your own and write the standardized exam online with a proctor. Exam challenges are also held at boat shows around the country.

Course prices vary from $30 to $85 or more, depending on venue costs and what the instructor charges. Some teachers, such as the CPS instructors, offer the course voluntarily, as part of that organization’s long-standing interest in promoting safe boating through education. For other providers, including the online courses, it’s obviously a business. Some of these providers are probably showing up in the Google ads on this page, above left.

We are proud of our new young cardholder!  The card is good for life, so he has lots of time to benefit from getting it now.  It serves as a great base for developing his boating knowledge.

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