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Washington Boating Laws and Regulations

Age and Operator Restrictions

Washington Boater Education Law contains the following age-specific restrictions:

  • Persons under 12 years of age may not operate a power-driven vessel with an engine that is 15 hp or more.
  • Persons 12 years of age or older may operate a power-driven vessel with an engine that is 15 hp or more if they have a Boater Education Card.
  • Persons 14 years of age or older may operate a PWC if they have a Boater Education Card.
  • It is illegal to lease, hire, or rent a PWC to anyone under 16 years of age.


Education is not required if:

  • Your vessel has an engine that is under 15 hp.
  • You were born prior to January 1, 1955.
  • You hold a valid U.S. Coast Guard Marine Operator’s License.


Washington 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.”)

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