Does Canada’s ‘competency’ reg for boaters apply to Americans?

Answer: Only if you’ll be there for 45 days-plus

St. Paul – In September, new rules in Canada took effect to
address boating safety. But do the new “competency” rules affect
the thousands of Minnesotans who each year take fishing excursions
to that country?

The correct answer is: sometimes.

According to the Transport Canada web site (a link provided by
the Minnesota DNR), “As of Sept. 15, 2009, all operators (of
boating pleasure craft) will be required to have proof of
competency.”

According to TC, the regulations apply to nonresidents, if: they
operate their pleasure craft in Canadian waters for more than 45
consecutive days; or if they operate a pleasure craft that is
licensed or registered in Canada (including rented or chartered
boats).

The regs don’t apply to nonresidents who operate their pleasure
craft in Canadian waters for less than 45 consecutive days. A proof
of residency is required on board at all times.

“The big thing is, if you’re going to be (in Canada) for less
than 45 straight days, you don’t have to worry about it,” said Tim
Smalley, boat and water safety specialist for the DNR. “And most
people don’t go on a 45-day vacation.”

Still, he said it’s a good idea to take the state’s course as a
means to enhance boaters’ knowledge of rules and safety issues.

If you’re one of the likely minority that’s required to have
“proof of competency,” you may get such proof – free, in some
instances – from the state DNR, according to Smalley. A state DNR
“boater education certificate” may be obtained through the DNR’s
“home study course,” which is free or by taking the online “Boat
Minnesota” course, which costs $20.

One other option is to take a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S.
Power Squadron’s public boating safety course, obtaining a DNR
Comparable Course form upon completion, and sending it to the DNR
for a boater education certificate.

Boaters also may get the Canadian boating safety competency
card, also an online, albeit a more expensive, option.

Smalley said boater education certification in the state has
been around since the 1970s. There’s also a Minnesota watercraft
operator’s permit that’s required of youths ages 12 to 17, in order
to legally operate a boat with a motor greater than 25
horsepower.

One other thing to remember: According to the DNR, if you’re
renting a boat in Canada, the rental agency can give you a rental
safety check list that you’ll need to carry on board.

If you’re intending to boat in Canada in 2010, it’s probably
helpful to review some of the other of the country’s boating
requirements, even if you don’t need “proof of competency.”

For example, according to the Transport Canada website, “foreign
pleasure craft need to comply with equipment requirements of the
country in which the vessel is usually kept.”

Also, boating while impaired is an offense under the Criminal
Code of Canada (operators with more than 80 milligrams of alcohol
per 100 milliliters of blood may face a first-offense fine of at
least $600).

For more information about the rules governing Canadian waters,
visit the web at www.tc.gc.ca/marinesafety.
To find out more about the Minnesota boater education program, call
(651) 2599-5400 or visit http://boat-ed.com/mn.

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