Buoyant Heaving Line: Purpose, Regulations & How to Throw

July 25, 2022

A buoyant heaving line is a rope made of buoyant material designed to float on water and is to be used in the case of a person who falls overboard on a boat. A weighted floating device is attached to the end of the line so that the line itself can more accurately be thrown and seen by the overboard person.

What is the purpose of a buoyant heaving line? How do you throw the line properly? What are the regulations regarding heaving lines?

In this article, the experts at the National Boating Safety School explain everything you need to know about buoyant heaving lines.

Buoyant heaving line regulations

Buoyant heaving lines are part of the required safety equipment on a boat. All vessels, regardless of size or type, must be equipped with buoyant heaving lines.

Although there are several styles of heaving lines, they all work the same way: to save lives. Each heaving line must have a container or weighted bag attached to the buoyant rope and must be at least 15 meters (50 feet) in length.

In order for a floating heaving line to comply with Transport Canada’s regulations on a boat, it must meet several conditions:

  • It must be in good condition, float, and consist of a single line along its entire length
  • It cannot consist of multiple lines tied together
  • It must be long enough for the size and shape of the boat carrying it, and must be a minimum of 15 meters (50 feet) long
  • It must be accessible at all times in case of emergency

It is the responsibility of the operator to inform their passengers of the location of the emergency heaving line as well as the rest of the boat’s safety equipment. This way, every passenger knows the safety measures in place in case of emergency.

How to throw a heaving line

Before throwing a buoyant heaving line, it is critical to ensure that the end of the line is securely tied to the boat with a sailor’s knot. The line should not be tied around the hand or any other part of the body.

It is also important that the other end of the line be attached to a weighted floating device so that the line is easy to catch and does not become entangled in the propeller.

To deploy a buoyant heaving line, it is recommended to follow these five steps:

  1. Remove the equivalent of one meter (3 feet) of line from your bag or container
  2. Hold the line in one hand and the floating device in the other
  3. Warn the person in the water that they will be receiving the rope
  4. Aim a few meters beyond the person in the water
  5. Throw the floating device from below while letting the rope unwind with your other hand

In order to develop good reflexes in case of emergency and to improve throwing accuracy, it is recommended that boaters practice throwing a buoyant heaving line from time to time.

Boat safely with National Boating Safety School

Buoyant heaving lines are just one piece of safety equipment among many. Knowing all of the life-saving equipment and their uses is essential to safe boating.

To learn more about emergency instructions and general boating knowledge, the National Boating Safety School is your best bet.

Want to take a boating exam so you can legally and safely navigate Canadian waters? Take our Transport Canada-approved online boating safety course and get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card!

Get your card today