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Official Georgia Boating Course

The BOATsmart! Georgia  Boating Safety Course is approved and accredited by Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division. With more than 3,000 Five Star Reviews, we’re proud to be recognized as an official Georgia State Boating Course and the choice of boaters in Georgia.

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NASBLA and US Coast Guard logos

NASBLA & Coast Guard Approved

The BOATsmart! Georgia Boating Safety Course is officially recognized by the United States Coast Guard as meeting the standards of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program. BOATsmart!’s online Georgia Boating Safety Course is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) as it meets and exceeds U.S. Boating Education Standards. NASBLA develops education standards for boating safety and represents boating law administrators in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

BOATsmart! courseware on a tablet.

Watch, Listen & Learn

From anywhere, on any device at any time.

Our animated and narrated Boating Safety Course is perfect for all ages. Study from your Smartphone, Tablet or Desktop and switch between devices at any time. BOATsmart! automatically tracks your progress so you can study at your own pace.

GEORGIA BOATING LICENCE REQUIREMENTS

WHAT IS A GEORGIA BOATING SAFETY CERTIFICATE

A Georgia Boating Safety Certificate proves that you’ve obtained the knowledge needed to safely operate a motorized boat on Georgia’s waterways. As of July 1, 2014, all operators who were born after January 1st, 1988 are required to complete an approved boater education course to legally operate a motorized boat in Georgia.

 

WHERE CAN I GET MY GEORGIA BOATING LICENSE?

You can get your Georgia Boating Safety Certificate by completing the Official BOATsmart! Course online. Once you successfully complete the online study guide and final exam, you can print a temporary card immediately.  BOATsmart! will mail your permanent card within 4 weeks. 

 

HOW OLD DO I HAVE TO BE TO GET A BOATER CARD IN GEORGIA?

There is no minimum age to complete the Georgia Boater Education course and get certified.

AGE AND HORSEPOWER RESTRICTIONS

Children under 12 years of age may not operate any boat that is over 16 feet in length. Additionally they may not operate any vessel that is powered by an engine or more than 30 hp. However, they may operate non-motorized boats, or boats with a motor of less than 30 hp, so long as the boat is less than 16 feet in length, and they are accompanied on board by an adult. 

Youth 12-15 years of age are not permitted to operate any boat than is greater than 16 feet in length, however they may operate boats that are less than 16 feet in length, including personal watercraft, as long as they have passed an approved boater education course and are accompanied by an adult. 

Boat operators who are 16 years of age or older may operate any boat in the state of Georgia, as long as they have proper identification on board the boat, and have passed an approved Boater Education Course. 

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET MY GEORGIA BOATING LICENSE?

It takes a minimum of 3 hours to get your Georgia Boater Education Card online. Once you’ve completed the online course and official test, you can print a temporary card and go boating right away. Your permanent card will be mailed to you by BOATsmart! within 4 weeks. 

CAN I GET REFRESHER LESSONS AFTER TAKING THE GEORGIA BOATING COURSE?

Yes. It’s important to remember that boating regulations can change frequently. It’s important to keep up-to-date with your states boating regulations. Boaters can use the free BOATsmart! Knowledge Base, which covers everything you need to know about boating in Georgia, including boating equipment requirements, navigation and right-of-way regulations and restrictions that may apply on Georgia’s waterways.

DO I NEED A LICENSE TO RENT A BOAT IN GEORGIA?

Boat operators in Georgia are required to be at least 16 years of age to rent a boat within the state. Additionally, operators who were born on or after July 1, 2014 are required to obtain a Georgia Boater Education Card to legally operate a boat within the state. 

Boating and alcohol in Georgia

GEORGIA’S BOATING AND ALCOHOL LAWS

In Georgia, a person is considered to be under the influence if:

  • They have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher.
  • They are under the influence of drugs.

 

Additionally, it is illegal for minors (those under 21 years of age) to operate a boat or PWC if their BAC level is 0.02% or more.

FINES AND PENALTIES

In Georgia, persons convicted of BUI will be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and/or prison time for up to 1 year. They may also lose the privilege to operate a boat or PWC until they successfully complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program approved by the Georgia Department of Driver Services.  

Georgia Boating Age Requirements

Cartoon avatars of a boy holding a boatsmart card and a girl wearing a captain helmet

Children under 12 years of age may not operate any boat:

  • That is over 16 feet in length
  • That is powered by an engine or more than 30 hp. 

 

They may operate non-motorized boats, or boats with a motor of less than 30 hp, so long as the boat is less than 16 feet in length, and they are accompanied on board by an adult. 

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YOUTH 12-15 YEARS OF AGE

Youth 12-15 years of age are not permitted to operate any boat:

  • That is greater than 16 feet in length

 

They may operate boats that are less than 16 feet in length, including personal watercraft, as long as they have passed an approved boater education course and are accompanied by an adult. 

A cartoon avatar of a man holding a wakeboard

16 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER

Boat operators who are 16 years of age or older may operate any boat in the state of Georgia, as long as they have proper identification on board the boat, and have passed an approved Boater Education Course. 

Georgia state logo.

Georgia's Boating Fines

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Operating under the influence

Up to $1000

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Reckless boat operation

Up to $1000

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Violating PWC Restrictions

Up to $1000

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Boat Equipment Violations

Up to $1000

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Failure to display navigation lights

Up to $1000

General Georgia boating FAQs

WHO REGULATES BOATING LAWS IN GEORGIA?

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Laws Enforcement Division is responsible for regulating boating laws in the state of Georgia. . 

WHO ENFORCES GEORGIA’S BOATING LAWS?

Georgia’s boating laws are enforced by:

  • Conservation Rangers of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
  • All peace officers.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard (on federal waters). 

 

Boating Emergencies:

Call 911 to report a boating emergency in Georgia

How to register a boat in Georgia

GEORGIA BOAT REGISTRATION

In order to legally operate a motorized boat, or sailboat over 12 feet in length,  you must obtain a Georgia Certificate of Boat Registration (registration card) and validation decals. The Certificate of Boat Registration must be on board during operation and be available for inspection by a law enforcement officer.

 

THESE VESSELS DO NOT REQUIRE REGISTRATION IN GEORGIA

  • Sailboats under 12 feet in length.
  • Canoes, kayaks, rowboats and rubber rafts that are human-powered (i.e., are paddled, poled, oared or windblown).
  • Boats operated exclusively on private ponds or lakes.
  • Boats registered in another state using Georgia waters for 60 consecutive days or less.

 

OTHER REGISTRATION INFORMATION

Boats documented by the U.S. Coast Guard are not required to display registration numbers, but they must display validation decals.

If your Certificate of Boat Registration or your validation decals are lost or destroyed, you must renew your registration, by submitting an application and fee, in order to obtain a replacement.

 

DO I NEED BOAT INSURANCE IN GEORGIA?

Boats in Georgia are not required to be insured, however it is recommended.

Boats in Georgia are required to correctly display their registration number and validations stickers. 

Registration numbers and stickers must be displayed as follows:

  • The numbers must be applied as a decal, painted or permanently affixed to each side of the boat’s bow (boat owners are not permitted to display any other numbers in this area).
  • The numbers must be in bold block letters that are at least 3 inches high and in a color that contrasts with the color of the boat.
  • The numbers must be separated from the letters by a hyphen or by an equivalent space.
  • The number must be read from left to right.
  • Validation decals must be affixed on both sides of the boat, before the prefix letters of the registration number.
  • These requirements also apply to personal watercraft (PWCs).

Georgia lifejacket laws

 

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GEORGIA’S LIFE JACKET LAWS

In Georgia, all boats must have at least one, Type I, II, III or V life jacket or PFD that is Coast Guard-approved, wearable and of the proper size for each person on board. Type V PFDs will only be accepted when they are worn and securely fastened.

A Type V life jacket or PFD may be substituted for any other type so long as it is Coast Guard-approved and intended for the activity at hand. Type V life jackets and PFDs may not be substituted on children that weigh less than 90 lbs.

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CANOES AND KAYAKS

Canoes and kayaks must carry one one wearable life jacket (Type I, II, III or V) for each person on board. A throwable (Type IV) device is not required on canoes and kayaks. 

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BOATS LESS MORE 16 FT IN LENGTH

Boats more than 16 ft in length must carry one wearable life jacket (Type I, II, III or V) for each person on board. Additionally, a throwable device must be carried on board all boats than a more than 16 feet in length

Silhouette of PWC and rider

PERSONAL WATERCRAFT

Operators of personal watercraft, passengers and anyone being towed behind a vessel must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-Approved Type I, II, III or V PFD. Inflatable lifejackets are excluded. Life jackets worn by a persons being towed are required to be rated for towing activities

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CHILDREN UNDER 13 YEARS OF AGE

In Georgia, passengers under 13 years of age are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved, Type I, II, III or V life jacket while on board any boat that is underway, unless they are on the inside of an enclosed cabin area. 

Personal watercraft laws & regulations

HOURS OF OPERATION

PWCs may only be legally operated from sunrise to sunset.

 

AGE REQUIREMENTS

All operators of PWCs in Georgia must be at least 16 years of age or older to operate a PWC, without adult supervision. 

GEORGIA PWC REGULATIONS

  • Life jackets must be worn at all times by PWC operators and passengers.
  • All PWCs in Georgia must be equipped with a self-circling device or lanyard-type cut-off switch. If the PWC is equipped with a lanyard style cut-off switch, the lanyard must be attached to the operator. 
  • PWCs may not tow another person unless it has been designed to carry 3 passengers, to ensure there is a spotter or “observer” on board at all times.

Environmental Protection

NON-NATIVE AQUATIC SPECIES

Non-native aquatic species, plants, fish and animals are invading New York’s  waters. These pests can increase dramatically under the right conditions, displacing native species, clogging waterways, and impacting navigation and recreation.

Once introduced, they are nearly impossible to eliminate, and can be accidentally transported by recreational boaters when caught in propellers, intakes or attached to hulls. 

Be sure to report new infestations of non-native aquatic species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (209) 946-6400 or to your regional Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Office: https://georgiawildlife.com/about/contact#fish

HELP PREVENT THE SPREAD OF NON-NATIVE SPECIES

  • Inspect all surfaces of your boat and remove aquatic plants or animals before leaving any body of water.
  • Ensure you flush raw-water cooling systems and clean sea-strainers before moving your boat from one body of water to another.
  • Empty and dry any buckets before leaving a body of water. 
  • Remove any plant fragments from bait wells, fishing gear, trailers, dive gear or props. 
  • Dispose of plant fragments and bait into a garbage receptacle on land.  
  • Avoid chopping vegetation with your boat’s propeller.
  • Clean and dry all live-wells prior to transporting your boat.
  • Drain all water from your motor and bilge and dry all areas. t.
  • Thoroughly wash your boat, including the hull, before putting it into a new body of water.

 

For more information on how to stop the spread of AIS in Georgia, visit https://georgiawildlife.com/aquatic-nuisance-species

Infestations of non-native species

Report new infestations of non-native aquatic species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (209) 946-6400.

GEORGIA AIS REPORTING

Chttps://georgiawildlife.com/aquatic-nuisance-species

The Peach State, Blue Waters, Good Times

Georgia state logo.

Georgia Boating Destinations

Boating in Georgia?

What’s your favourite way to spend a day on the water in Georgia? Rip it up on a PWC? Glide across a freshwater lake in your kayak? Capture an epic tube wipeout with your GoPro camera? Whatever your favourite type of watersport, if you’re visiting Georgia, you’ll have no trouble finding a spectacular waterway for your boating activities!

So, will you be visiting Savannah, the gateway to the Atlantic coast? Or the popular boating and fishing waters of the Lincoln County area? How about Lake Sinclair, known for it’s over 417 miles of scenic shoreline? Or maybe you’ll be visiting Georgia’s big cities, like Atlanta, Augusta or Columbus? Truth is, it doesn’t really matter where you’ll be, there’s boating opportunities all over the beautiful state of Georgia.

 

GEORGIA’S STATE PARKS

Georgia’s 63 state parks offer historic sites, waterfalls, mountain ranges, state trails and sparkling lakes for outdoor enthusiasts to check out. These beautiful parks are here for you to use – so get out there and enjoy them! Get active and go for a hike, drop a fishing line, or head out on a kayak trip. Looking for some R&R? Visit Black Rock Mountain State Park and kick back at a cottage to watch the sunset from Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

If you plan on boating in Georgia’s state parks, find out where the boat launch ramps are before you head out with your boat trailer in tow. If you’re an angler, you’re in luck – several of Georgia’s state parks, like Crooked River State Park, have awesome fishing – just make sure you learn up on Georgia’s fishing regulations, fishing license requirements and boating license requirements before you go.

 

GEORGIA’S BEST BOATING LAKES

So, with endless boating options, where do you start? To help you plan out your Georgia boating trip, we’ve listed a few of our favorite places to go boating in Georgia and thrown in a couple ideas for boating activities too. But don’t let our list limit your travels – there are endless miles of shoreline in Georgia for swimming, whitewater rafting, tubing, kayaking and boating. 

Helpful resources for boating in Georgia