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It's the Law

Who May Operate a Boat


Persons less than 12 years of age:

  • May not legally operate any vessel 16 feet in length or longer.
  • May legally operate a vessel less than 16 feet long and powered by a motor of 30 horsepower or less only if they are accompanied by a competent adult.

Persons 12 through 15 years of age:

  • May not legally operate any vessel 16 feet in length or longer.
  • May operate a personal watercraft (PWC) or a vessel less than 16 feet long if he or she:
    • Has passed a boating education course approved by the DNR or…
    • Is accompanied by a competent adult.

Persons 16 years of age or older may operate any boat on the Georgia state waters if he or she has proper identification on board.

PWC: Its operation has different age requirements. Read about these on Who May Operate a PWC.

Mandatory Education Requirement

Any person born after January 1, 1998, must have completed a boat education course approved by the DNR before he or she may legally operate a motorized vessel on Georgia state waters.

A person is exempt from the mandatory education requirement if he or she:

  • Is licensed by the USCG as a master of a vessel or…
  • Operates on a private lake or pond or…
  • Is a non-resident who has proof that he or she has completed a NASBLA–approved boating education course or equivalency examination in another state.

“Competent adult” means a person of age 18 or older who is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and who is carrying proper identification.

“Proper identification” means a driver’s license (or legible copy) or any other government-issued identification that contains a description of the person, a photograph, and date of birth.