Boating Safety Course

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Boating license requirements in Tennessee

On any devices

Any Tennessee resident born after January 1, 1989, must show the TWRA-issued wallet Boating Safety Education Certificate as proof of successful completion of the TWRA Boating Safety exam.  

No other certificate will be accepted as meeting the requirements of the law.  The Tennessee mandatory boating education law is similar to the driver’s license law.  You acquire the study materials, study, and then take an approved boating safety exam administered by an approved representative of the TWRA

The certification is not required if there is an adult (18 years old or older) on board to take immediate control of the vessel.  However, this adult, if born after January 1, 1989, must have the boating education certification. 

Tennessee boating laws & regulations

All boats, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one wearable personal flotation device for each person on board or for each person being towed on water skis, etc.

Boats 16 feet in length or more must also be equipped with one Type IV (throwable) PFD per boat in case someone falls overboard.

It is unlawful to operate any sail or powered vessel while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs in the state of Tennessee.

All persons operating a sail or powered vessel have given their implied consent to chemical tests to determine the alcohol or drug content of their blood. Failure to consent to testing is a separate offense and may result in suspension of vessel operating privileges for six months.

A vessel operator whose BAC tests show .08% or greater by weight, of alcohol shall constitute a violation of this statute and is presumed under the influence and his or her ability to operate a vessel is impaired.

Conviction for operating under the influence will result in fines of up to $2,500 on the first offense, $2,500 on the second offense and $5,000 for the third offense. A jail sentence of 11 months and 29 days may also be imposed for any conviction and operating privileges may be suspended from one to ten years. Additional federal penalties may also be charged.

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FAQ - Boating in Tennessee

Who is required to take the boating safety course in Tennessee?

Any Tennessee resident born after January 1, 1989, must show the TWRA-issued wallet Boating Safety Education Certificate as proof of successful completion of the TWRA Boating Safety exam.

Who is exempt from the Tennessee boating license ?

Those operating boats with an engine horsepower of 8.5 or less, and operators of wind-powered sailboats.

What are the age restrictions regarding boating safety in Tennessee?

You must be at least 11 years old to earn a boating safety education certificate.

Additionally, the following age restrictions apply to TN boaters, regardless of boating education course completion. If you're:

  • Younger than 12 years old you can drive motorboats with greater than 8.5 HP IF you're supervised by an adult.

  • Younger than 12 years old you can use personal watercraft (e.g. jet skis and Sea-Doos) AS LONG AS a supervising adult is on board with you.

Do I need to register my boat in Tennessee?

Boat registration in Tennessee is a must for any mechanically powered vessel or sailboat principally used in TN waters. Although Tennessee vessel registration extends to most watercraft, the state does not require boats to be titled.

The requirements to register a boat in TN are the same state-wide, but each county’s process may vary slightly. Therefore, it is important that you check with the local county clerk’s office to get county-specific instructions.  General information on registration is outlined in the following sections.

Is my boating license good in other States?

Every U.S. state that demands a boating license will accept Boating Education Licenses from other states that conform to NASBLA requirements as well.

You should follow your safety course in the State where you are resident.

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