Boatsmart California new law changes boater card

Do I need a license to drive a boat in California?

If you operate any motorized vessel on California waterways (including powered sailboats, paddle-craft, and even undocumented vessels), you need to know about these changes. Starting on January 1st, the state is phasing in mandatory boater education based on operator age. Almost all boaters in California will be required to carry a boating license. In 2018, the mandatory education law will only apply to boaters in California aged 20 and under, but soon it will apply to everyone. Here is the full list of dates by which boating licenses will be required for every age:

○ Everyone 20 years old and under – Jan 1, 2018
○ Everyone 25 years old and under – Jan 1, 2019
○ Everyone 35 years old and under – Jan 1, 2020
○ Everyone 40 years old and under – Jan 1, 2021
○ Everyone 45 years old and under – Jan 1, 2022
○ Everyone 50 years old and under – Jan 1, 2023
○ Everyone 60 years old and under – Jan 1, 2024
○ Everyone, regardless of age – Jan 1, 2025

Get your California Boater Card today and be prepared for the changes!

Can I get a boater card if I’m under 16?

Everyone operating a motorized vessel on California waterways under 16 still requires the boater card, but there are additional restrictions to their boating. If they are supervised on board by someone 18 or older, children aged 12-15 can legally operate a boat with a motor over 15 horsepower. There are no age restrictions to operate a sailboat 30 feet long or less, a dinghy used between a moored boat and the shore, or a dinghy used between two moored boats.

What if I already have a boating license?

If you have proof you passed a NASBLA– and DBW-approved course between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2017, you have until December 31, 2018 to upload your certificate and apply for your California Boater Card to receive an exemption.

Are there any other exceptions?

Yes. If you are operating a rental vessel or you are being supervised by someone 18 or older with a California Boater Card, you do not require your own boater card. As a visitor, if you meet the requirements for boating in your home state, you can legally operate a vessel in California for less than 60 days (or 90 days if you are from another country). For example, if you’re from Florida, you can boat for up to 60 days in California if you have your Florida boating license, or if you’re from Canada, you can boat for up to 90 days with your Pleasure Craft Operator Card. You are also exempt if you possess a current commercial fishing license, a valid marine operator license for those waters, and a few other very specific exceptions.

Be prepared!

Without a California Boater Card, you could be charged a fine of $100 to $500 for operating a motorized vessel on California waterways. Once you’ve obtained the California Boater Card, it will be good for life. It will also keep you legal when boating in other states, and you’ll save money on your boat insurance. You should also know the best places in California to go boating once you’re licensed. Get a Boater Card now and be ready for the new California boating laws!


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