At the CMAC (Canadian Marine Advisory Council) meetings held in spring 2021 Transport Canada presented information to the Standing Committee on Recreational Boating concerning some proposed changes to the Pleasure Craft Licencing scheme.

Consultations were held between November 12, 2020, and January 15, 2021. Transport Canada received approximately. 900 comments, mainly through their online Let’s Talk Transportation website.
Feedback received came from various stakeholders such as recreational boaters, marine trade associations, and law enforcement agencies; boating safety advocates; pleasure craft dealers; associations representing cottagers, anglers, hunters, trappers, and recreational fishers.

Modifications to the Pleasure Craft Licencing scheme proposed by Transport Canada:

  • Licenses issued before May 2010 had no expiry date. Since that time, licenses have been issued with a ten-year expiry. Regulatory changes would bring all licenses, into a five-year validity period.
  • Expand the requirement for licensing to include all power-driven and sail-alone vessels.
  • Above 6 meters in length. This expansion will not apply to human-powered boats (e.g., canoes, kayaks, and dragon boats).
  • Reduce the timeframe for owners to notify of a name or address change from 90 days to 30 days and specify 30 days for the buyer of a pleasure craft to notify of a sale or transfer of a vessel and to obtain a new license.
  • Provide the ability for the Minister to cancel a Pleasure Craft Licence (PCL) for reasons of non-compliance with licensing requirements or upon request from an owner to cancel their Licence
  • Introduce a $15 service fee for acquiring a new PCL; renewing a PCL; transferring an existing PCL; and requesting a duplicate PCL.

Proposed amendments to the regulations are expected to be published in Part I of the Canada Gazette in Fall 2021. A number of the proposed modifications received support during the consultation process while some were opposed by those commenting. Transport Canada indicated those comments received would be taken into consideration in the preparation of the regulatory package.


Pyrotechnic flares for distress signaling continue to be required safety equipment for recreational vessels in Canada. Flares have a relatively short life span and disposal of these devices represents a significant challenge. Electronic Visual Distress Signals (eVDSD) offer an alternate method of visual distress signaling without the disposal and lifespan drawbacks of pyrotechnics.

A construction standard for these devices has been published and accepted by Transport Canada and TC has prepared a proposed policy for the acceptance of eVDSDs certified to the RTCM (Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services) Standard 13200.0 for use on pleasure craft.

This policy would be implemented under section 4 of the Small Vessel Regulations (SVR) as equivalent to hand-held flares currently required in the SVR for nighttime use. The proposed policy would require the carriage of at least one TC-approved daytime smoke signal along with the eVDSD.

Canadian Search and Rescue authorities are being consulted. Following legal review, the policy must be presented to the Marine Safety and Security Executive for a decision.

If the policy is approved, its implementation will be accompanied by an educational component introducing the use of eVDSD in Canada.

APRIL 2021


One of the definitions of a Rubric is a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests. The Sail Canada Cruising Subcommittee has approved rubrics for the afloat portions of the Basic Cruising and Start Keelboat Sailing Standards. Thanks to the members of the group of Cruising IEs (Instructor Evaluators) that participated in the development of these resources – John Gourlay, Philip Morris, Diane Reid and Jamie Gordon.

These rubrics look at each of the afloat Performance Objectives (PO) in these standards and provide guidance on the performance expected of candidates. For each afloat objective, an observation plan is provided which describes the skill the student must demonstrate as well as comments on how the instructor can evaluate the skill.

These rubrics provide useful guidance to all instructors on student skills to be demonstrated to achieve the specific standards. They provide a valuable tool to complement the existing materials available to Sail Canada schools and instructors to support delivery of training leading to these standards and to support evaluation of student skills. These products include the Basic Cruising Skills textbook, Start Keelboat Sailing workbook, Sail Canada online checklists (for tracking performance and student certification), one-page checklists, student Theory exams, the Sail Canada recommended equipment list and a summary of Transport Canada safety equipment requirements.

The Rubrics are available now in English and are in the queue for translation into French.


When materials are modified, the effective date of the modifications is carried in the document and in the filename of the document. Instructors should be sure that they are working with the most recent versions of materials, and the published effective dates are the simplest way to identify when updates have been applied. Over the past few months, updated versions of many of the student standards have been posted on the Sail Canada website. Many of these updates reflect minor changes to language and formatting, for example, to replace references to the word course to more correctly use the word standard. A document tracking and providing a summary of updates applied is being maintained and will be added to the resources area by mid-April. Look for a document available to Schools and Instructors named Cruising Materials Update Tracking.

Basic Cruising Standard Examination, Answer Sheet and Answer Key
Over the past few weeks 3 updates to the Basic Cruising Standard exam have been posted. The most recent versions of these documents are dated 17 March 2021 and the cumulative modifications include:

  • Updates to language and format
  • Update to tide and current tables to reflect the 2021 publication format
  • Changes to Q10 to specify that the vessels in consideration are powered and are equipped with an additional fuel-burning appliance
  • Corrections to specified wind speed ranges – light (0-11), moderate (12-19)

Navigation Standards and Examinations
With the expanding availability of satellite constellations used for position determination and for navigation, the wording references to these satellite systems are being altered in Sail Canada navigation standards and exams. The acronym GPS is used to refer to the American Navstar satellite constellation and is often also taken as a more general reference to Satellite Navigation systems. In navigation materials, references to GPS are being changed to reference a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) to clarify that references in these materials are intended to encompass the range of systems that devices may connect to which now include Beidou, Glonass, and Galileo as well as NavStar.

Basic and Intermediate Powerboat Standards
The Basic Powerboat Standard has been updated to correct errors identified in Performance Objective (PO) numbering. Expect more changes to this standard as it is scheduled for review.
The Intermediate Powerboat Standard has been updated to be consistent with recent changes to the Intermediate Cruising Standard.

Intermediate Student Notes and Voile croisière intermédiaire
The student notes for Intermediate Powerboat and Intermediate Cruising Standards have been updated to be consistent with the changes made to the standards. An updated version of Voile croisière intermédiaire will be available soon.

Basic Cruising Skills textbook
A new version of the text has been published, incorporating minor changes. Specific updated areas include the tide and current tables, enhancements to the discussion on cold incapacitation, and minor additions resulting from a review of Basic Clinic candidate resource materials.

Practices and Procedures Document
The forms that were attached to this document have been removed and are presented in a separate zip file. This change simplifies maintenance to the Practices and Procedures manual and accommodates the addition of dates to the filenames of the forms. The document still includes the appendices defining the recommended training and challenge times, and other related characteristics of courses leading to specific student and instructor standards.

Changes to content include the addition of a 1-year document retention policy, asking schools to retain student exams for a minimum of one year following completion. Recommended time to deliver training leading to the Basic Cruising standard has been changed to 28 hours, to match the times defined in the student standards. References to the RYA training scheme have been removed as at the current time there is no agreement in place between Sail Canada and the Royal Yachting Association.


For a number of years, there has been discussion about the current recertification policy for Cruising Instructors. IEs have raised concerns that under the current policy Instructors may continue their certifications with no contact with Sail Canada for many years and in fact, some instructors have renewed for more than 10 years without any face-to-face touch points with Sail Canada IEs. The CANSail (dinghy) training scheme moved away from re-certification by activity and application a number of years ago.

Starting in 2022, the certification period for Learn to Cruise Instructors will be extended to a period not exceeding 5 years. At the end of the certification period, instructors will be required to attend an Instructor Development Clinic to renew their certification. Instructors with certifications expiring in 2022 will need to attend a development clinic to renew their certification. The certification period for new instructors in their first certification period will be no more than 3 years.

The activities involved in certification renewal are still under discussion, however, they are expected to include coaching on lesson delivery, demonstration of sailing skills, evaluation of candidate Rules and Buoyage knowledge, and an update on Sail Canada services and Learn to Cruise, Powerboat, and Navigation policies and procedures. Conversations are ongoing on how to recognize the Professional Development activities that some provinces require of instructors within the revised national re-certification requirements.


Updates to the Learn to Cruise, Power and Navigation training scheme are communicated from Sail Canada and through the Provincial Sailing Association (PSA) of the Instructor’s province of residence. Instructors are expected to receive and review communications from Sail Canada and their PSAs. Under the current legal framework, your role as an instructor allows PSAs and Sail Canada to direct communications to you.

In your Sail Canada Profile, there is the option to select not to receive communications. Many PSAs also provide options not to receive their communications. We would ask that you do not turn off communications from these organizations. Instructors need to continue to receive these communications to remain current with the training schemes and to ensure they are aware of and are using the most recent resources available.


Over the past 2-3 years both Cruising IEs and CANSail LFs (Learning Facilitators) have contributed efforts to build distance learning tools to support their training schemes and delivered these through a varied number of Learning Management Systems (LMS). These tools provide a student with an internet-accessible learning environment without direct interaction with an instructor. In the Learn to Cruise environment, Bob Davis has been a key contributor to this effort, supported by John Gourlay and a number of IEs located in Ontario.

In 2021, Sail Canada is piloting delivery of e-learning for Cruising Instructor Training and for Start Keelboat Sailing theory. Existing instructor development material has been moved to an LMS supported by Sail Canada and has been made available to IEs conducting Cruising Instructor Development clinics in 2021.

The e-learning product designed to support Start Keelboat Sailing is offered at a minimal cost in pilot mode and can be made available to any interested organizations. Interested parties should contact Sam Crothers at Sail Canada at Revenues from this product will be shared among Sail Canada and the PSAs where the school and where the student resides. This type of product will provide distance learning options for the delivery of training for Sail Canada schools that may not have the resources to develop and support this type of alternative training.