My 2013 Sea-Doo GTX LIMITED iS 260, without boat licence numbers

How to Get Canadian Boat Licence Numbers

All I wanted was boat licence numbers for the side of my Sea-Doo. Thus, that I could ride legally in Canada – and avoid the $250 fine. Little did I know that to do so, I’d get dropped into the middle of the federal bureaucracy. That’s right, Transport Canada handles pleasure craft licences, out of an office in Fredericton. That’s Fredericton, New Brunswick, for all of Canada!

Most experienced PWC riders or beginners don’t have to mess with this. That’s because their Sea Doo, jetski or waverunner personal watercraft dealer in Ontario and throughout Canada usually takes care of the paperwork online. It’s a relatively easy process and the site has a great Q&A section. But you can’t go online if you have actual paperwork and no way to make it digital. Or if the info you have doesn’t match the questions on the online form. But you can if you have access to a scanner, because the site accepts attachments along with your application. One of these has to be a photo of the actual watercraft being licensed.

Send to New Brunswick for Boat Licence Numbers…

So the only other way to get your PWC registered is to mail a completed application and supporting documents to New Brunswick. That’s because Transport Canada doesn’t actually have any other outlets for face-to-face transactions. Having only the one office is probably because it’s all they can afford, what with there being no charge for a pleasure craft licence. Not to be confused with a Pleasure Craft Operator’s Licence. That’s the one requires taking a boater’s test over a bottle of wine. I admit to being nervous about dropping my precious paperwork into the federal bureaucracy. Would I ever see it again?

Assuming I ever get it, my pleasure craft licence is good for ten years. Or until my PWC changes ownership. So, there’s no opportunity for the Feds to collect fees annually either. This has to be one of the last bastions of federal government largess. That and housing allowances for the senate! Hopefully, some featureless gnome whose job it is to monitor social media won’t read this post. And then suddenly have the brainwave of eliminating federal debt by starting to charge for pleasure craft licences!

So why have numbers on your PWC at all?

According to the Transport Canada website, they “allow Search and Rescue to access information in an emergency.” No wonder Search and Rescue are generally so conspicuous by their absence. They’re stuck at a computer somewhere trying to call up my file, so they can decide whether or not I’m worth saving. And the verdict’s still out on that.

So let me get this straight. The numbers are only for emergency rescue, the cost of which will likely be charged back to me. But if I get caught riding without numbers, the fine is $250. Either way, I’ll end up paying. Sounds about right for a Canadian taxpayer, doesn’t it?

I couriered my paperwork to Fredericton on May 15. Their site said to allow five business days for processing, plus time in the mail. Yippee! The approved paperwork and licence arrived at my mailbox May 28. That’s five business days (May 20 was a holiday) plus three business days for Canada Post. The online response is even quicker, with temporary licence numbers back to you almost overnight. These are the same as the permanent ones that come in the mail with your approved paperwork. Good job, Fredericton, and thanks for getting me on to the water this weekend!

If you enjoyed this post, check out my other riding tips.

The tips and advice in this article are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.


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