California’s Boater Safety Education Program

California joins more than 40 states with educational requirements for operating a boat or PWC on state waters.

By completing and passing this California–approved online boating license course, you will have satisfied the educational requirement for California.

It’s the Law!

Get Safe. Get Certified.

Who Needs the Card?

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 Department of Boating & Waterways while operating a vessel must be ordered by the court to complete and pass a boating safety course approved by the Department of Boating & Waterways. Proof of completion and passage of the course must be submitted to the court within seven months of the time of the conviction.

Even if not required by law to get the California boating license, 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 a safe, enjoyable pastime! Become an educated, responsible boater by completing the Boat California course and practice what you learn.

Age 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 horsepower 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 horsepower or more, including personal watercraft, 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 horsepower or more, including personal watercraft, without onboard supervision by a person 18 years of age or older.


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.”)


California 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.

For details about the boater education law, who is exempt from the education requirement, which courses are approved, the Certification Exam, and the application for the Boater Education Card, visit

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Is the Boating Card the same as a Boating License?

The California Boater Education Certificate is proof that you have successfully completed an approved boating safety course. Since the boater education card does not expire and does not need to be renewed, it is not called a California Boating License.

California Boater Education Certificate

How do I get my state boating license?

You may have heard that you need the California Boat License to operate your boat, but what you really need is the California Boater Education Certificate. You can get the California Boater Education Certificate by taking this Boat License Safety course at Find out if you need the card.

Did you lose your card? Replace it here.

Approved by:

California Department of Boating and Waterways
2000 Evergreen St. Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95815