The only boaters REQUIRED to wear their life jackets in California are:
- •Any boaters 13 years of age or younger who are on boats under 26 feet in length.
- •PWC operators and passengers.
- •Passengers being towed (unless they are professional performers or they involved in an official regatta or tournament).
California does not require the installation of a ‘kill switch’ on a PWC. However, if you own any boat or PWC that is equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard, the state of California does require you to use the lanyard by attaching the safety device to yourself, to your clothing, or life jacket, as appropriate for the type of boat you’re operating.
It depends on your age. From 2018 to 2025, the state is phasing in mandatory boater education based on operator age, requiring boaters to have a boating license, similar to how a driver’s license is required to legally operate a car on the road. These new regulations will apply to anyone operating a motorized vessel on California waterways (including powered sailboats and paddlecraft). Beginning January 1, 2018, the mandatory education law for boaters in California applies to persons aged 20 and under. Here is the full list of dates by which boating licenses will be required:
- 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
There are additional benefits to being a BOATsmart! cardholder – once you’ve obtained the card, it will be good for life, it will keep you legal when boating in other states, and you’ll even save money on your boat insurance. Get your California Boater Card now and be prepared for the change!
Nope! Your BOATsmart! Card will be good for life. But don’t be a stranger – BOATsmart! offers free refresher lessons that will help you keep your boating knowledge up to date! California’s boating laws may change over time. Make sure you’re in the know.
Yes! The BOATsmart! Card is accepted in 40 states, which extend reciprocity. This means the BOATsmart! Course meets the National Standards established by NASBLA. This law applies to operators of motorized boats, but not in all states to operators of personal watercraft (PWCs). Always check the boating laws in the state you plan to visit prior to operating a boat or PWC there.
No. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) requires California boaters to complete the full 3-hour online study guide in order to access the online version of the Boater Education Test. However, you don’t have to complete the entire Study Guide in one sitting. BOATsmart! will automatically track and save your progress. Once you’ve completed all modules and quizzes you’ll be able to access California’s Official Boater Education Card Test.
In order to access to the next module lesson or the module quiz, you must complete the minimum time requirement on your current lesson page. You’ll likely be able to move forward by the time you check back!
Boater’s are not required to have boat insurance in California. However, in some states boaters are required to carry boat insurance, so always check with boating law authorities in the state you plan to boat in.
If you’re the ‘better safe than sorry’ type and plan on getting boat insurance, you’ll recieve a discount with most insurance companies for having a boating license. Get certified with BOATsmart! today and save!
You can take the official state approved and NASBLA approved Boating Safety Course Test on this website. Click here to access the California Boating License Course.