Here’s what you need to know about enjoying a legal (and fun!) boat day on New York waters.
There are few spots in the country as versatile (and as beautiful) for boaters than the waters of New York State. Depending on where you are in the state, you’ll have access to the Atlantic, the Long Island Sound, the Hudson and St. Lawrence rivers, the Adirondack lakes, the Finger Lakes, the Great Lakes and so much more — making it absolutely ideal for boaters. But do you need a license to drive a boat in New York?
When it comes to the sparkling waters of the Empire State, you’ll want to make sure you’re well prepared to stay safe and legal in order to maximize your days on the water. The first step? Making sure you’re properly certified to operate that boat of yours. Here’s what you need to know about boating safely and legally on New York waters.
Do I need a license to drive a boat in New York?
In New York, you don’t need a boating license to drive most boats. However, most boaters are, in fact, required to obtain a boating safety certificate in order to operate a boat legally. The only boat operators required to hold a license are those operating boats for commercial reasons, such as ferry operators or tugboat operators.
While New York boaters have not always been required to obtain a boating safety certificate, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed Brianna’s Law into action. Named after 11-year-old Brianna Lieneck, who died in a 2005 boating accident, the law helps to ensure that everyone operating a boat in New York State is competent enough to do so. By January 1, 2025, every motorized boat operator in New York State will be required to hold a boating safety certificate.
What are the age requirements to drive a boat in New York?
To operate a boat in New York, you must be at least 10 years old and accompanied by an adult. To operate a personal watercraft in New York, you must complete a boating safety course and be age 14 or older. The new age requirements for obtaining a boating safety certificate in accordance with Brianna’s Law are as follows:
- Persons born after January 1, 1993, will be required to obtain a New York Boater Safety Education Certificate as of January 2020
- Persons born after January 1, 1988, will be required to obtain a New York Boater Safety Education Certificate as of January 2022
- Persons born after January 1, 1983, will be required to obtain a New York Boater Safety Education Certificate as of January 2023
- Persons born after January 1, 1978, will be required to obtain a New York Boater Safety Education Certificate as of January 2024
- Persons of all ages will be required to obtain a New York Boater Safety Education Certificate as of January 2025
What are the fines/penalties for driving a boat without a license in New York?
Not complying with the boating safety education requirements in New York State can result in a fine up to $250.
What types of boats need a licensed driver in New York?
In New York State, the parameters under Brianna’s Law account for operators of any motorized boat, including personal watercraft. This includes jet skis, fishing boats, pontoon boats, racing boats and everything in between. The general rule of thumb? If the boat is powered by any type of motor, it likely requires a certified operator.
If you’re operating a sailboat, kayak, paddleboard, canoe, rowboat or any other unmotorized vessel, you’re not required to obtain a boating safety certificate — however, we’d always recommend it.
How do I get a boating license in New York?
While there are no boating licenses for personal boats in New York, there are boating safety education certificate requirements. Luckily, BOATsmart! makes it easy to obtain your boating safety education certificate in just three simple steps with our engaging, narrated and animated boating safety course. Your job?
- Take the BOATsmart! New York Boating Safety Course online
- Pass your online New York Boating Safety Test.
- Print your temporary certificate immediately, and get on the water.
Are there any exceptions to needing a boating license in New York?
By January 1, 2025, every operator of a motorized boat in New York State must obtain a boating safety certificate in order to legally operate their boats. There are no age exceptions to this law — and, if you’re from out of state, New York will recognize your boating safety course certification.
At BOATsmart!, we’re huge fans of boating in New York — and we know you will be, too. With our narrated and animated boating safety course, you’ll be prepped and ready for as many lake and ocean boat days as you can fit into your season, so log on now! We’ll get you certified and ready to go in no time.