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Official South Carolina Boating Course

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

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NASBLA & Coast Guard Approved

The BOATsmart! South Carolina 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 South Carolina 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.

South Carolina Boater Education Card

SOUTH CAROLINA BOATING LICENCE REQUIREMENTS

WHAT IS A SOUTH CAROLINA BOATER EDUCATION CARD

A South Carolina Boater Education Card proves that you’ve obtained the knowledge needed to safely operate a motorized boat on South Carolina waterways. All boat operators who are less than 16 years of age are required to get certified to operate a boat or PWC powered by a motor of 15 hp or more, unless they are directly supervised by an adult who is 18 years of age or older. 

WHERE CAN I GET MY SOUTH CAROLINA BOATER EDUCATION CARD?

You can get your South Carolina Boater Education Card 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 SOUTH CAROLINA?

There is no minimum age to complete the South Carolina Boater Education Course and obtain your Boater Education Card.

AGE AND HORSEPOWER RESTRICTIONS

Boat operators in South Carolina who are less than 16 years of age are not permitted to operate a boat or PWC powered by a motor of 15 hp or more unless they are directly supervised by an adult who is at least 18 years of age, or they have completed an approved boater education course.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET MY SOUTH CAROLINA BOATING LICENSE?

It takes a minimum of 3 hours to get your South Carolina 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 SOUTH CAROLINA BOATING COURSE?

Yes. Boat operators in the state of South Carolina can keep up-to-date on the latest boating regulations with the free BOATsmart! Knowledge Base. Learn about boating equipment requirements, navigation and right-of-way regulations and restrictions that may apply on South Carolina waterways to be sure that you’re safe and confident on the water. 

DO I NEED A LICENSE TO RENT A BOAT IN SOUTH CAROLINA?

Boat operators in South Carolina are not required to obtain a Boater Education Card to rent a boat within the state. Operators who are 16 years of age or older may operate any recreational boat or PWC without restrictions or supervision.

Boating and alcohol in South Carolina

SOUTH CAROLINA BOATING AND ALCOHOL LAWS

It is illegal to operate any motorized boat while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or a combination thereof. Research has proven that one-third of the amount of alcohol that it takes to make a person legally intoxicated on land can make a boater equally intoxicated on the water.

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

  • They are under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person’s faculties to operate are materially and appreciably impaired.
  • They are under the influence of any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to operate are materially and appreciably impaired.
  • They are under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug or drugs, or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to operate are materially and appreciably impaired.

FINES AND PENALTIES

In South Carolina, a person convicted of operating a boat while under the influence will be subject to the following penalties:

For a 1st offence: A fine of $200 and 48 hours to a maximum of 30 days of imprisonment. In lieu of the 48 hour minimum imprisonment, the court may require the offender to provide 48 hours of public service work.

For a 2nd offence: A fine of $2,000-$5,000 and 48 hours to 12 months of imprisonment. In lieu of the imprisonment sentence, the court may require the offender to provide a minimum of 10 days of public service work.

For a 3rd offence: A fine of $3,500-$6,000 and 60 days to a maximum of 3 years imprisonment.

Any person convicted of operating a watercraft while under the influence, in addition to any other penalties, will be prohibited from operating any watercraft in South Carolina for:

  • 6 months (for the first conviction).
  • 1 year (for a second conviction).
  • 2 years (for a third conviction). 

South Carolina Boating Age Requirements

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UNDER 16 YEARS OF AGE

  • May operate any boat, including a personal watercraft (PWC) without restrictions so long as the motor is less than 15 horsepower.
  • May operate a boat of 15 horsepower or more, including a PWC, so long as:
    • They are supervised by a person who is 18 years of age or older who is not under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs or;
    • They have successfully completed a Boating Safety Course approved by the South Carolina DNR.
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16 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER

Boat operators in South Carolina who are 16 years of age or older may operate a motorized boat without restrictions or supervision requirements. 

South Carolina state flag.

South Carolina's Boating Fines

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Operating under the influence

Up to $6000

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Failure to carry South Carolina Boater Education Card

Up to $200

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Negligent Boat Operation

Up to $200

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Reckless Operation

Up to $200

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Life Jacket Violations

Up to $500

General South Carolina boating FAQs

WHO REGULATES BOATING LAWS IN SOUTH CAROLINA?

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division is responsible for regulating boating laws in the state of South Carolina. 

Boating Emergencies:

Call 911 to report a boating emergency in South Carolina. 

WHO ENFORCES SOUTH CAROLINA’S BOATING LAWS?

South Carolina’s boating laws are enforced by:

  • The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard.  
  • Other authorized law enforcement agencies.

 

Law enforcement in the state of South Carolina  have the authority to stop and board boats to ensure they are in compliance with state and federal laws.

 

State of South Caroline Department of Natural Resources Badge

How to register a boat in South Carolina

SOUTH CAROLINA BOAT REGISTRATION

In order to legally operate a boat in South Carolina, you must obtain a Certificate of Number (registration card) and validation decals. The Certificate of Number must be on board and be available for inspection by a law enforcement officer during boat operation.

The Certificate of Number and validation decals are obtained by submitting an application and fee to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Boat registration is valid for 3 years.

 

THESE VESSELS DO NOT REQUIRE REGISTRATION IN SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Non-motorized boats.
  • Boats that have been documented by the Coast Guard.
  • Boats that have been registered in another state or country and are using South Carolina’s waters temporarily.

 

BOAT TITLING REQUIREMENTS

All boats are required to be titled. The only exceptions are boats that have been documented by the Coast Guard, paddleboats, rowboats and sailboards.

Additionally, outboard motors of 5 hp or more are required to be titled, with the exception of battery powered trolling motors.

 

DO I NEED BOAT INSURANCE IN SOUTH CAROLINA?

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

Boats in South Carolina 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 number 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 numbers must be read from left to right.
  • Validation decals must be affixed on both sides of the boat, preceding the prefix letters of the registration number, and 6 inches following the registration number.
  • These requirements also apply to personal watercraft (PWCs).

South Carolina lifejacket laws

 

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SOUTH CAROLINA’S LIFE JACKET LAWS

In South Carolina, all boats must have at least one, Coast Guard-approved, Type I, II, III or V life jacket or PFD (wearable) for each person on board or being towed. Each PFD must be in good condition, readily available and the proper size for the intended wearer. 

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BOATS MORE 16 FT IN LENGTH

Boats that are 16 feet in length or greater must also carry a Type IV (throwable) flotation device, in addition to a wearable device for each person on board.

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PERSONAL WATERCRAFT

Any person operating or riding on a PWC is required to wear a Coast Guard-approved, Type I, II or III or V life jacket.

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CHILDREN 12 YEARS OF AGE AND UNDER

In South Carolina, passengers under 12 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 under 16 feet in length.

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TOWED SPORTS

Any person being towed by a boat is required to wear a Coast Guard-approved, Type I, II, III or V, life jacket.

Boating Restrictions & Regulations

NEGLIGENT OR RECKLESS BOAT OPERATION

It is illegal in the state of South Carolina to operate any boat or to manipulate any water-skis, aquaplane or similar device in a careless, reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person.

Examples of reckless operation include:

  • Weaving a boat or PWC through congested traffic at more than idle speed.
  • Jumping the wake of another boat when within 200 feet of the other boat.  
  • Crossing the path or wake of another boat when the visibility around the other boat operator is obstructed
  • Waiting until the last possible moment to swerve to avoid a collision.
  • Creating a hazardous wake.
  • Harassing or disturbing wildlife with your boat.
  • Riding on, or allowing passengers to ride on the boat’s bow, seatback, gunwale or transom.
  • Allowing boat passengers to swim within 50 feet of a boat ramp of public landing
  • Overloading a boat beyond the safe carrying capacity.
  • Overpowering the boat beyond the recommended horsepower capacity.
  • Boating in a restricted area without regard for other water users, speed limits or wake restrictions.

BOAT SPEED LIMITS IN RESTRICTED AREAS

In South Carolina, it is illegal to operate a boat at greater than idle speed when within 50 feet of:

  • A wharf, dock or pier.
  • A person in the water.
  • A moored or anchored boat.

Environmental Protection

NON-NATIVE AQUATIC SPECIES

American waterways have been under threat from foreign aquatic plants, fish and invertebrates. Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) are transferred from boats and boating equipment that originate from external waterways. Once introduced to a new waterway, the ANS will detach from the contaminated boat and spread like wildfire. ANS include: Milfoil, Zebra Mussels and Quagga Mussels.

Why are ANS such a serious threat?

  • They have no natural predators in U.S. waters.
  • Some ANS can actually survive out of water, making transfer easy.
  • They reproduce quickly.
  • They have harmful effects on the native wildlife, habitats and ecosystems.

 

For more information on Aquatic Nuisance Species, visit: www.protectyourwaters.net/impacts.php.

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.
  • Refer to specific drying times.

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.

SOUTH CAROLINA AIS REPORTING

https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/us/south-carolina

The Palmetto State, Blue Waters, Good Times

South Carolina state flag.

South Carolina Boating Destinations

SOUTH CAROLINA’S BOATING DESTINATIONS

Home to 12 major lakes, ranging from 7,500 to 110,000 acres in size, South Carolina’s waterways open the door for boaters to explore all of the state’s awesome scenery. You can see everything from the breathtaking mountains upstate, to the coastal beaches and the areas of low-lying, swampy wilderness. So, whether you live in the historic city of Charleston or the charming town of Beaufort, you’re guaranteed to enjoy your time on the water in South Carolina.

 

BEST BOATING LAKES

Covering 110,000 acres, Lake Marion is South Carolina’s largest lake. With scenic views, endless waters to explore, and an abundance of fish, it’s no wonder Lake Marion is one of South Carolina’s top boating spots.

Lake Murray, the state’s third largest lake is another go-to destination for boaters. Featuring picturesque views, this lake also offers deep-lake diving opportunities. Don’t miss the chance to check out historical bomb island. This tiny land mass in Lake Murray was the site of a WWII training location for fighter pilots. Who knows, if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a sunken B-52 bomber looming during your day on the water.

If that weren’t enough, Oconee County known locally as the “Land Beside the Water” is bordered by the intricate Lake Keowee. Offering boat rentals, lake tours, lodging, camping, hiking and rafting, you’re sure to find something that “floats your boat” when visiting Lake Keowee.

Helpful resources for boating in South Carolina