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California Boater Card

The Division of Boating and Waterways plans to start accepting California Boater Card applications in late 2017. In the meantime, you can take a DBW approved boating safety course (Aceboater course) and be grandfathered into receiving your card. Once you have passed the course, please hold onto your certificate until the Division starts accepting applications. DBW will be accepting all certificates of completion dated January 1, 2015-December 31, 2017.

DBW plans to begin issuing the California Boater Cards prior to Jan. 1, 2018, implementation date. The Boater Card Technical Advisory Group anticipates that the cost of the card will be no more than $10. 

What are the age restrictions to operate a motorboat in California?

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.

When will boat operators be required to have a California Boater Card?

The new requirement will begin on Jan. 1, 2018 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:

  • January 1, 2018: persons 20 years old or younger.
  • January 1, 2019: persons 25 years old or younger.
  • January 1, 2020: persons 35 years old or younger.
  • January 1, 2021: persons 40 years old or younger.
  • January 1, 2022: persons 45 years old or younger.
  • January 1, 2023: persons 50 years old or younger.
  • January 1, 2024: persons 60 years old or younger.
  • January 1, 2025 All persons regardless of age.

Is this course approved for court-ordered boating safety education?

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.