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California Boating License Requirements

California State Parks Boating and Waterways

United States Coast Guard

NASBLA - National Association of State Boating Law Administrator

As of the dates shown below, these boaters will be required to carry a boater card issued by DBW, unless they meet certain exemptions. **

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

* While this statute takes effect on January 1, 2018, DBW is in the process of promulgating regulations.  Pending the adoption of the regulations, DBW will continue its education and outreach efforts regarding the California Boater Card Program.  The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the California Boater Card Program regulations in early 2018.  DBW will post information regarding the regulations soon.

**California age restrictions for operating a motorized vessel: According to California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 658.5, NO person under 16 years of age may operate a boat with a motor of more than 15 horsepower, except for a sailboat that does not exceed 30 feet in length or a dinghy used directly between a moored boat and the shore (or between two moored boats). The law allows children 12-15 years of age to operate boats with a motor of more than 15 horsepower or sailboats over 30 feet if supervised on board by an adult at least 18 years of age who is in possession of a California Boater Card as required by California law. Violating these provisions constitutes an infraction.

According to California law the following persons are not required to have a boater card to operate a motorized vessel on California waterways:

  • A person operating a rental vessel.
  • A person operating a vessel while under the direct supervision of a person 18 years of age or older who is in possession of a California Boater Card.
  • A person who is a resident of a state other than California who is temporarily operating a vessel in California for less than 60 days and meets the boating requirements, if any, of his/her state.
  • A person who is a resident of a country other than the United States who is temporarily operating a vessel in California for less than 90 days and meets the boating requirements, if any, of his/her country.
  • A person operating a vessel in an organized regatta or vessel race, or water ski race.
  • A person who is in possession of a current commercial fishing license.
  • A person who is in possession of a valid marine operator license, for the waters upon which the licensee is operating, issued by the United States Coast Guard, or who is in possession of a valid certificate issued pursuant to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended.
  • A person who has successfully completed a boating course approved by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training Post.

California Boating License

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