To operate a motorboat in California, you will need to pass an approved boating safety course and carry a California Boater Card (valid for life). The Card will be phased in over 8 years, depending on your age:
Your California Boater Card will be accepted in all states that require NASBLA-approved certification.
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The California Boater Card is proof that the holder has successfully taken and passed a NASBLA/state-approved boater safety exam. From January 1, 2018, people wishing to operate a motorized vessel on state waters will need to carry the California Boat Card. The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) issues the card.
Do your California Online Boating Safety Course, print your Boating Certificate and then apply to get your California Boater Card.
Although the California Boater Card is often called a “boating license”, there are currently no boating license requirements for the State of California. However, the California Boater Card will be mandatory for boating from January 1, 2018. Unlike a license, the Boater Card does not expire and does not need to be renewed.
Yes, the course is approved by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) under the California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 668.3.
A person under the age of 16 may not operate a motorboat of more than 15 horsepower unless the boat is a sailboat and does not exceed 30 feet in length - OR - the boat is a dinghy and is operated between a moored boat and shore, or to go between two moored boats. The law does allow anyone aged 12-15 to operate motorboats of more than 15 horsepower, or sailboats over 30 feet, if they supervised by a person on board who is at least 18 years of age.
PWC Operation: A person under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft (PWC) of more than 15 horsepower unless that person is between the ages of 12 and 15, and is directly supervised by a person on board who is at least 18 years of age. Anyone who allows an unsupervised person under the age of 16 to operate is guilty of an offense.
The new requirement will begin on Jan. 1, 2018 do not include a license. The new requirement is for anyone aged 20 years and younger wishing to operate a motorized vessel on state waterways.
Each year from January 2018 a new age group will be added to those who are required to possess a valid card. From 2025, everyone operating a motorized vessel on California waters will be required to carry the card. Once issued, the card is valid for life.
The California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 678.11(b) contains the following phase-in schedule based on operator age:
Yes, the California Boater Card will be required for everyone wishing to operate a motorized vessel, including jet skis and PWC, on California waters (except those listed in the exemptions).
The California Boater Card is often called a “boating license”. There are currently no boating license requirements for the State of California, however, the California Boater Card will be mandatory for boating from January 1, 2018. Unlike a license, the Boater Card does not expire and does not need to be renewed.
DBW has determined that it will accept proof of passing a National Association of State Boating Law Administration (NASBLA) and California Division of Boating and Waterways-approved boater education course taken between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2017. Anyone who has passed an approved examination during this timeframe will have 1 year from the effective January 1, 2018 implementation date to apply for their California Boater Card to receive the “grandfathering” exemption regardless of their age. Older courses may not include recent state or national changes to navigation law.
No. You are currently encouraged to obtain a Boater Safety Education Card and from 2018 you will need a California Boater Card.
You must carry life jackets/PFDs and a sound signalling device on all vessels. Depending on the type and length of the vessel and where and when you are boating you may need other equipment, including visual distress signals, navigation lights, a fire extinguisher etc. See the Equipment page for the full list of requirements.
Not only is mandatory education the law, the California Boater Card Program promotes boating safety on our waterways. U. S. Coast Guard accident data show that states with some form of boating safety education have fewer accidents and fatalities than states without any boater education requirements. In 2015, 724 Californian recreational vessels were involved in reported accidents and 49 boaters died. More than 232 boaters were injured needing treatment beyond first aid. Only one of the boat operators involved in fatal accidents had taken an approved boating safety course. Increased numbers of boaters taking approved safety courses will benefit all recreational boaters in California.
You must spend a minimum of three (3) hours studying the boating safety course, but you can take more time if you wish. You will then have as long as you need to complete the final exam.
Yes! All states with NASBLA-approved boater education requirements will accept the California Boater Card.
Normally you do not need to wear a life jacket in a motorboat but you must make sure there is one US Coast Guard-approved life jacket readily available per person on board. Inflatable life jackets must be worn to count towards this required. If you are operating a personal watercraft you must wear a lifejacket.
Yes, you can request a replacement card for $5.
You are certified for life.