Throughout all of Canada and much of the United States, authorities require boaters to possess a valid pleasure craft operator's card (PCOC) in order to operate a motorized boat. Businesses, such as charters, also require a valid PCOC in order to rent and lease powerboats. Failure to comply with the law, such as operating a motorboat without proper documentation or a valid license, can result in substantial financial penalties. It can also result in temporary, and eventually permanent, loss of boating rights in the province, state or country where the infraction occurred.

Acquiring Your PCOC

In order to acquire your PCOC there is a one-time fee and a PCOC exam that you must take and pass. The fee is usually less than $100, and it includes unlimited retests, should you fail the test, and thus need to take it again. In Canada, the PCOC is a lifetime license, meaning that it never expires, and it never requires renewal. In the US, this varies between states. Generally, there is a PCOC equivalent, and at worst, the license requires the boater to renew it every two years. Like with a driver's license, renewal usually does not require the licensee to retake the exam.

Topics and Questions on Your PCOC Exam

Canada has standardized their PCOC. In the U.S., the exam varies between states. However, exams in both Canada and the U.S. are quite similar, and the differences in questions generally deal with specifics of the region where the test is given. The basic topics on all PCOC exams include vocabulary, safety equipment, other boat equipment and features, emergency practices, safe boating practices, safe boat operation and so forth. The test also covers laws, rules and regulations. If taking the test in the U.S., familiarize yourself with the regulations specific to that state. You can even try a practice test here.

Study Materials and Other Resources

Most experienced boaters will be able to take the exam without study. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to look at a sample test in order to familiarize yourself. In addition, in Canada, you can use the Safe Boating Guide, which is available free locally and on the internet. The U.S. makes similar free literature available. There are also deluxe training courses available, locally and online. If you intend to take the course online, for instance, then it can be very helpful to use their specific training materials because they prepare you precisely for that particular test.

The Length of the PCOC Exam and Other Tips

The exam generally takes an hour. In Canada, they give you a 75-minute time limit. However, most test-takers will finish within 45 minutes or even less. Although the exam is available locally, it is generally best to take it online.

The online test is simply more convenient. In addition, the trouble most people have with the PCOC exam is stress related. Taking the test in a relaxed environment makes it much easier.

Katia Daniels is a boating instructor from British Columbia helping boaters from across the province acquire their BC Boat License.

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