South Carolina Boating Laws and Regulations

Age and Operator Restrictions

Persons 16 years of age or older may operate any boat or PWC without restrictions.

Persons younger than 16 years of age may operate:

  • A boat or PWC powered by less than 15 hp without restrictions.
  • A boat or PWC powered by 15 hp or more only if:
    • They are accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old who is not under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs or…
    • They have passed a boating safety course approved by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

It is unlawful for a person to cause or allow a child over whom they have permanent or temporary responsibility to operate a boat or PWC illegally.

Enforcement

South Carolina 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.

Reciprocity

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.”)

Need help? Here are the answers to the questions South Carolina Boating students most frequently ask.

Frequently Asked Questions