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Age Restrictions for boaters in USA

Age restrictions

California

In California, boaters who have reached 16 years of age can legally operate any powerboat including PWC. 

All boaters between 12 to 15 years old may operate boats with a motor of more than 15 horsepower, while supervised by an adult of at least 18 years of age.

There is no age restriction for operating:

  1. A sailboat under 30 feet long, propelled solely by sail.
  2. A dinghy used between two moored vessels or between a moored vessel and the shoreline.

Ohio

For PWC

  • Children under 12 may not operate PWC, not even with an education certificate.
  • Children 12 to 15 can operate PWC as long as they are under the direct supervision of an adult (18 or older) who is onboard AND as long as the child AND the supervising adult (if born on or after January 1, 1982) have education certificates. 
  • Children 16 or older can operate PWC as long as they have an education certificate. Adult supervision is not required.

For Powerboats greater than 10 HP

  • Children under 12 can operate any other type of powerboat greater than 10HP as long as they are under the direct visual and audible supervision of an adult (18 or older) who is onboard AND as long as the child AND the supervising adult (if born on or after January 1, 1982) have education certificates.
  • Children 12 and over may operate any other type of powerboat greater than 10HP as long as they have an education certificate. Adult supervision is not required.

Alaska

Alaska does not have any minimum age requirements to legally operate a powerboat or a PWC.  

Hawaii

It is illegal for any person under the age of 15 to operate a thrill craft. Additionally, it is illegal to permit, or mislead another person into permitting, a person under 15 years of age to operate a thrill craft.

A person under the age of 16 is not permitted to operate a power-driven vessel on the waters of Hawaii unless accompanied on-board and supervised by a person of 21 years of age or older who holds their required certificate of completion.

Oregon

It is illegal for anyone aged 11 or younger to operate any motorized vessel in Oregon. 

A person aged between 12 and 15 who possesses and is carrying his/her Boater Education Card may operate a vessel powered by motor of 10 horsepower or less alone.

A person aged between 12 and 15 who possesses and is carrying his/her Boater Education Card may operate a vessel powered by motor of more than 10 horsepower or a PWC if they are accompanied by a supervising adult at least 16 years old who also possesses a Boater Education Card. To operate a PWC, the supervising cardholder must be at least 18 years old.           

Florida

There is no minimum age to operate a boat, however, PWC regulations and boating safety requirements are age specific and do apply.

  • A person must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft in Florida.
  • A person must be at least 18 years of age to rent a personal watercraft in Florida.

Texas

In Texas a person cannot operate a windblown vessel over 14 feet in length, a motorboat with more than 15 horsepower, or personal watercraft unless he/she:

  • Was born on or after September 1, 1993, and has passed a boater education class or equivalency examination approved by the department.
  • Is at least 13 years of age and has successfully completed a boater education course approved by the department.
  • Is supervised by someone at least 18 years of age who can lawfully operate the motorboat and is on board the motorboat when underway.

Indiana

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 15 to operate any motorized vessel (including PWC) greater than 10 hp in Indiana.

Tennessee

A supervisor at least 18 years of age must accompany on board persons under 12 years of age wishing to operate a power vessel of more than 8.5 hp. The supervisor must be able to take immediate control of the vessel if necessary and, if born after January 1, 1989, must hold a Boating Safety Education Certificate issued by the TWRA.

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to rent a personal watercraft (PWC).

West Virginia 

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 12 to operate any motorized vessel (including PWC) in West Virginia.

Anyone aged 12 to 15 may operate a motorboat up to 10 horsepower on their own*. Anyone aged 12 to 15 may operate a motorboat or personal watercraft of 10 horsepower or more if accompanied on board by a person aged 18 or over*.

*Subject to mandatory boater education requirements.

North Carolina 

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, must hold a North Carolina Boater Safety Education Certificate to legally use a boat propelled by a motor of 10 horsepower or more on North Carolina waters. 

It is illegal for anyone younger than aged 13 or younger to operate a PWC in North Carolina. 

Anyone 13 years old or older may operate a PWC in North Carolina provided that they have successfully completed a boater safety education course and carry on board proof of age and a North Carolina Boater Safety Education Certificate, or they are accompanied by someone at least 18 years old and who meets the education requirements. 

It is unlawful to knowingly permit anyone younger than 16 to operate a PWC unless they have first completed an approved boating safety course.

Iowa

Anyone may operate a motorboat with a maximum of 10 horsepower on his or her own.

A person under the age of 12 wishing to operate a vessel with more than 10 horsepower must be accompanied on board by a supervisor who is at least 18 years old and who has experience operating the vessel.

Anyone aged 12 to 17 (inclusive) may operate a motorboat or personal watercraft of 10 horsepower or more if accompanied on board by a person who is at least 18 years old and who has experience operating the vessel or if he or she has successfully completed a boater education course that is approved by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Anyone required to have completed a boater education course must carry their boater education certificate on board and keep it readily available for inspection by a law enforcement officer whenever the vessel is in operation.

Washington 

No person under 12 years of age is permitted to operate a motorboat of 15 horsepower or more.

Anyone who does not have a boater education card and is 12 years of age or over can operate a vessel with more that 15 HP if they are accompanied by and are under the direct supervision of a person 16 years of age who has a boater education card.

Maryland 

Anyone under the age of 16 without a boating safety certificate must be supervised by an individual born before July 1, 1972 or someone at least 18 years of age and who possesses a valid boating safety certificate when operating a motorized vessel 11 feet or greater in length. If the vessel is less than 11 feet in length, anyone possessing a valid boating safety certificate can provide supervision.

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 12 to operate a vessel towing someone on water skis or similar device.

PWC operators must be at least 16 years old, even if they have a boating safety education certificate.

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