10 Common Boating Questions and the Answers

Knowing everything about boating can take decades of firsthand experience. Even with a boater’s education course, there’s so much that you can, and will, learn by actually practicing what you've been taught. Weave taken a look at some of the most common boating questions and provided quick answers you can use as a reference.

1. Is a teenager allowed to operate a boat without adult supervision?

Legal restrictions concerning who can and cannot operate a boat, with or without an adult, differ from state to state. Generally, anyone younger than 17 years old cannot operate a boat without adult supervision. Be sure to check your state boating laws for individual regulations. Anyone caught operating a boat without his or her required boating safety course certification may be subjected to a fine.

2. What can I use to download fishing and marine charts of the United States?


While using topography devices like a Garmin GPS may be easier for the average boater, physical maps can enhance the boating experience. You can customize and print maps from MyTopo or download charts to your mobile device from Navionics. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also offers maps for the U.S. coastal and Great Lakes regions.

3. Is there a Kelly Blue Book guide equivalent for boats?

Prospective boat owners can turn to NADA guides to browse thousands of listings. NADA’s expansive catalog covers more than 100 manufacturers of sailboats, power boats, personal watercraft, outboard motors and boat trailers. Select the boat size and features, and NADA will give you the suggested, low and average retail price.

4. Does my state boating certificate expire? If so, do I have to retake the course?

Cards issued upon completion of the boating safety education course do not expire. Unless your state legislature changes its state law, you will not have to retake the course. If you lose your card, go to your state’s page where you can find information on how to request a new one.

5. How long do I have to pay for the course?

If you take your boater’s education course with Boat Ed, you can pay any time after you have completed the course. This can mean within two weeks or more than five years. Your progress will be saved until you’re ready to officially become boater certified.

6. As a boat operator, how many and what types of life jackets am I required to have when boating with passengers?

Boat operators should always have as many life jackets as there are people on the boat. Even those on a Jet Ski or being pulled on water skis or tubes are required to wear a USCG-approved life vest.

If your state law does not require you to wear a life jacket because of age provisions or experience, Boat Ed still strongly suggests that you buy a well-fitted life vest and wear it at all times. A life jacket can save your life, even if you are a strong swimmer.

7. When should I report a boating accident?

If an accident has occurred, then the boat operator or witness should report the accident immediately to the nearest law enforcement agency. Accidents are considered reportable incidents if they:

  • Result in a death or disappearance
  • Cause injuries to a person that require medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Cause damage to a vessel or other property exceeding $200 to $2,000, depending upon your state

If you’re not sure whether or not an accident meets these requirements, err on the side of caution and report it.

8. What forms of identification does a person have to carry on board?

Boating operators should carry their permanent boating safety course certificate at all times, as well as any other identification specific to state laws.

9. I have owned a boat for more than 20 years. Can I be grandfathered into the requirement for needing a boating certificate?

Individual state boating laws determine who is required to have a boating certification. Many boaters born before 1980 don’t need to take a course, but regulations vary by state. A quick way to find out is by selecting your state and visiting the “Boater Laws and Regulations” link in the right hand column to make sure you qualify for any exceptions.

10. I have been boating for 25 years. What other reason would I have to take a boating safety course?

Depending upon your age, your state may not require you to have a safe boating certificate. However, many boaters take the boat safety course to save on insurance or for boating in other states that require a certificate or boating license. Check your state’s laws to verify boater education requirements.

You can always access our study guide online, or you can download the Boating Laws and Responsibilities e-book for your state. If you have questions that were not answered in this post, feel free to ask us on Twitter or Facebook!