California Boating Laws and Regulations
Do you need California Boating education?
Starting January 1, 2018, California law will require boaters to carry the California Boater Card. The law will be phased in over eight years.
There is no minimum age requirement to take this online course.
You do not have to be a resident of California to take this online course.
Boating education is currently required in several U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
Age and Operator Restrictions
California law requires a person to be 16 years of age or older to legally operate a vessel powered by a motor of 15 hp or more, including personal watercraft (PWCs).
Exceptions to this law are:
- Persons 12 to 15 years of age may operate a vessel powered by a motor of 15 hp or more, including PWCs, if they are supervised on board by a person at least 18 years of age.
- There is no age restriction for operating a sailboat under 30 ft. long (with wind as the main source of propulsion) or a dinghy used between a moored vessel and shore or between two moored vessels.
It is illegal to permit a person under the age of 16 to operate a vessel powered by a motor of 15 hp or more, including PWCs, without onboard supervision by a person 18 years of age or older.
Any person convicted of any moving violation in the Harbors and Navigation Code, the Federal Rules of the Road and regulations adopted by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways while operating a vessel must be ordered by the court to complete and pass a boating safety course approved by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways. Proof of completion and passage of the course must be submitted to the court within seven months of the time of the conviction. This boating safety course will satisfy court‐ordered mandatory boater education required by California law when a boater is convicted of a moving violation.
Coast Guard or local law enforcement officers patrol the waterways to make your boating experience safe and pleasant. Cooperate with them by following the laws and guidelines.
Carry the Card: Vessel operators who are required to have a Boater Education Card must carry the card on board the vessel and have it available for inspection by an enforcement officer.
Penalty: Not carrying your Boater Education Card when one is required can result in a fine.
Is the Boating Card the same as the Boating License?
The California Boater Card is proof that you have successfully completed all of the components of an approved Boating safety course and allows you to go boating. Because the Boating education card or certificate does not expire and does not need to be renewed, it is not called the California Boating License.
Even if not required by law to get the California boating education card, many boaters take the boat safety course in order to save on their PWC or boat insurance.
Do your part to make boating in California an enjoyable pastime! Become an educated, responsible boater by completing the Boat California course, and practice what you learn.
For visiting boaters, all states, territories, and provinces will recognize boating education cards that meet NASBLA requirements and Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator Cards that meet Transport Canada’s requirements. (This is known as “reciprocity.”)
Get Certified Online!
Take this California–approved course to receive your lifetime boating card.Lifetime Card
unlimited exam attempts
California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways
1 Capitol Mall, Suite 500
Sacramento, CA 95814
Need help? Here are the answers to the questions California Boating students most frequently ask.Frequently Asked Questions