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Boating without rules

Kent Driscoll
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (June 03/05) - The rest of Canada is being forced to follow new rules on the water, and Northern boaters will be asked to do the same, but not just yet.

The NWT and Nunavut were exempt when the rules started in 1999, but the eventual goal is to include the North.

"It could happen at any time, but it's not going to be in the next few months," said Stephen Sherburne, a Yellowknife-based boating safety officer with Transport Canada.

"I've heard that consultations (with the territories) will happen, I just don't have a date," said Sherburne.

One thing that Northern boaters have to do is get a licence number. This is available for free and it is unique to the boat. If you sell the boat, the licence number follows it.

The Canada Customs Agency in Yellowknife averages roughly 70 new and transferred licences a year.

This unique number helps with boating safety. "If search and rescue finds your vessel spinning in circles, they can find out who owns the boat," said Sherburne.

Boats over 15 tonnes require a registration and a name, not just a number.

In the rest of the country, you have to pass a Coast Guard test with a score of 75 percent or better to get your operator card.

Everyone under 22 years of age must take the test, and by September 2009, all boaters will need the passing grade.

Pier One Marine in Yellowknife rents power boats and a licence to use their boats could hurt business.

"It's a portion of our business," said service manager Jeremy MacKenzie. "It's something we can do to help promote tourism."

If your boat is under four meters, the test is already required in the south.

Age restrictions are already in place for the rest of the country.

"We have kids that have been running these things their whole lives. It's like a farm kid running a tractor, they know how to do it," said MacKenzie.

Outside the North, 12-year-olds and under can operate a craft up to 10 horsepower unsupervised. Those 12 to 16 years old can operate a craft up to 40 horsepower unsupervised.

There is a minimum age of 16 to operate a Jet-ski or Sea-doo.