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District of Columbia Boating Laws and Regulations

Age and Operator Restrictions

No one under 18 years of age may legally operate a vessel over 16 feet in length unless he or she:

  • Has a District of Columbia Boater Education Certificate showing successful completion of a boating safety course approved by the Harbor Master or…
  • Is under the supervision of a person at least 18 years of age who has completed an approved boating safety course successfully.


District of Columbia 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 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.”)