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Official Washington Boating Course

The BOATsmart! Washington Boating Safety Course is approved and accredited by Washington State Parks Boating Programs. With more than 3,000 Five Star Reviews, we’re proud to be recognized as an official Washington State Boating Course and the choice of boaters in Washington.

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NASBLA & Coast Guard Approved

The BOATsmart! Washington 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 Washington 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.

Washington Boater Education Card Requirements

WHAT IS A WASHINGTON BOATER EDUCATION CARD

A Washington Boater Education Card proves that you’ve obtained the knowledge needed to safely operate a motorized boat on Washington waterways. All boat operators in the state of Washington are required to obtain a Boater Education Card to legally operate a boat powered by a motor of 15 hp or more. 

WHERE CAN I GET MY WASHINGTON BOATER EDUCATION CARD?

You can get your Washington 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 Certificate of Course Completion immediately.  The Certificate must be submitted to the Washington State Parks Boating Program. Washington State Parks will mail your permanent card.

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

You must be at least 12 years of age to complete the Washington Boater Education Course and obtain your Washington Boater Education Card.

AGE AND HORSEPOWER RESTRICTIONS

The following age and horsepower restrictions apply within the state of Washington:

  • Children under 12 years of age may not operate a boat with a motor of 15 horsepower or more.
  • Children 12 years of age and older may operate a boat with an engine of 15 horsepower or more, so long as they have obtained and are carrying a Boater Education Card.
  • Children 14 years of age and older may operate a personal watercraft (PWC) so long as they have obtained and are carrying a Boater Education Card. 

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET MY BOATING LICENSE?

It takes a minimum of 3 hours to get your Washington Boater Education Card. 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 Washington State Parks  within 6 week.s, upon submission of your course completion certificate. 

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

Yes. Washington  boaters 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 Washington waterways to be sure that you’re safe and confident on the water. 

DO I NEED A LICENSE TO RENT A BOAT IN NEW YORK?

Boat operators in Washington are not required to have a Boater Education Card in order to rent a boat in Washington, however it is highly recommended. 

Boating and alcohol in Washington

WASHINGTON BOATING AND ALCOHOL LAWS

It is illegal in the state of Washington to operate any boat while under the influence of an intoxicating substance, such as drugs and/or alcohol. This law is applicable to the operators of both motorized boats and human-powered craft.

In Washington, a person is considered to be under the influence if, within 2 hours of operating a boat, they:

  • Have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher,
  • They exceed the legal limit for boating under the influence of marijuana of 5.0 nanograms
  • They are affected by an intoxicating substance such as alcohol and/or drugs.

PENALTIES FOR DRINKING AND BOATING

In Washington, a person convicted of operating under the influence will be guilty of a gross misdemeanour. This is a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to 364 days. 

If a person is killed as a result of operation under the influence, the operator may also be convicted of a felony which can also result in fines and imprisonment.

Washington Boating Age Requirements

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Under 12 years of age

Children under 12 years of age may not operate a boat with a motor of 15 horsepower or more.

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Over 12 years of age

Children 12 years of age and older may operate a boat with an engine of 15 horsepower or more, so long as they have obtained and are carrying a Boater Education Card.

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14 years of age or older

Children 14 years of age and older may operate a personal watercraft (PWC) so long as they have obtained and are carrying a Boater Education Card.

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Washington's Boating Fines

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Operating under the influence

Up to $5000

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Failure to carry Washington Boater Card

Up to $87

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Negligent Operation of a Vessel

Up to $500

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Life Jacket Violations

Up to $500

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Failure to carrying required boating safety equipment

Up to $500

General Washington boating FAQs

WHO REGULATES BOATING LAWS IN WASHINGTON?

The Washington State Parks Boating Program is responsible for regulating boating laws in the state of Washington. 

Boating Emergencies:
Call 911 to report a boating emergency in California

WHO ENFORCES WASHINGTON’S BOATING LAWS?

  • Washington’s boating laws are enforced by:
  • State Park Rangers (within park boundaries)
  • Fish and Wildlife Officers.
  • City police officers.
  • Deputy sheriffs.
  • Other officers with law enforcement authority.
  • The Coast Guard (on federal waterways)

Washington State Parks Badge

How to register a boat in Washington

WASHINGTON BOAT REGISTRATION

To operate a boat in Washington, your boat must have a Washington title, registration card and registration decals. You must carry the registration card on the boat whenever the boat is being used. All registered boats must also be titled through the Washington State Department of Licensing. Boat registration expires on June 30th and must be renewed each year. 

To register or title your boat in Washington you must provide the required application form, fees and proof of ownership to the Washington State Department of Licensing.

 

THESE VESSELS DO NOT REQUIRE REGISTRATION IN WASHINGTON

  • Human-powered craft.
  • Boats less than 16 feet in length with a motor of 10 horsepower or less, that are only operated on non-federal waterways.
  • Boats that are registered in another state or country so long as the operator uses Washington waters for 60 days or less.

 

CARBON MONOXIDE WARNING STICKERS

In Washington, motorized boats are required to display a carbon monoxide (CO) warning sticker. Operators will receive this sticker upon registering their boat or renewing their registration. If your motorized boat does not have this warning sticker, contact your local vehicle licensing office to obtain one.

 

DO I NEED BOAT INSURANCE IN WASHINGTON?

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

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

Registration numbers and stickers must be displayed as follows:

  • The registration number must be painted or affixed to the forward half of each side of the boat and must be clearly visible.
  • The registration number must be read from left to right.
  • The registration number must be at least 3 inches high and be in bold, vertical, block letters.
  • The color of the registration number must contrast with the background color of the boat.
  • The letters and numbers in the registration number must be separated by a hyphen or by an equivalent space.
  • Registration decals must be affixed on each side of the bow, towards the stern of the boat, in line with the registration number.
  • These requirements are also applicable to personal watercraft (PWCs).

Washington lifejacket laws

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WASHINGTON’S LIFE JACKET LAWS

All boats in Washington are required to carry a Coast Guard-approved, wearable life jacket for each person onboard. 

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Canoes and Kayaks

Canoes and kayaks must carry one one wearable lifejacket (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 than 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

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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.

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12 Years of age & Younger

Children under 12 years of age are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when on board a boat that is less than 65 feet in length (including canoes, kayaks and rowboats) unless they are in a completely enclosed cabin.

Boating Restrictions & Regulations

RECKLESS BOAT OPERATION REGULATIONS

In the state of Washington, it is illegal to operate a boat in a reckless or negligent manner that may endanger the life, safety or property of another person.

‘Reckless’ boat operation is defined as acting carelessly and heedlessly in willful and wanton disregard of the rights, safety, or property of another.

Examples include:

  • Weaving through boat traffic.
  • Operating in restricted areas.

 

NEGLIGENT BOAT OPERATION

Negligent boat operation is defined as operating a boat in disregard of careful and prudent operation, or in disregard of careful and prudent rates of speed, or in a manner that unduly or unreasonably endangers the safety, life, property or other rights of any person entitled to the use of such waters.

Examples include:

  • Breaking the navigation rules.
  • Creating a dangerous wake.
  • Riding on the gunwale, bow or transom of a boat not equipped with adequate railings to prevent falls overboard.
  • Not maintaining a proper lookout.
  • Body surfing on the wake behind a motorized boat.
  • Teak surfing and platform dragging (operating a motorized boat while a person is holding onto the swim platform, swim deck, swim step, swim ladder or any portion of the exterior of the boat’s transom).

MUFFLER AND NOISE LEVEL REQUIREMENTS

All boats equipped with an engine must also be equipped with a muffler system to prevent excessive engine noise.

  • The muffler must be in good working order, be well-maintained and must always be in operation.
  • An effective muffler does not produce sound levels in excess of 90 decibels (when subjected to a stationary sound level test).
  • For engines manufactured on or after January 1st, 1994, the maximum noise level is 88 decibels (when subjected to a stationary sound level test).
  • For engines manufactured prior to January 1st, 1994, the maximum noise level is 90 decibels (when subjected to a stationary sound level test).
  • When the sound level is being measured from the shoreline, the maximum noise level is 75 decibels.

 

It is illegal to modify or remove your boat’s muffler system, if doing so will increase the engine’s sound level. Additionally, the use of a muffler cutout or muffler bypass system is illegal, unless the boat is engaged in racing events and is in an area that has been designated for that purpose.

Environmental Protection

NON-NATIVE AQUATIC SPECIES

Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) pose a risk to Washington’s native aquatic wildlife, ecosystems and to all of Washington’s water-based recreation. Common ANS in Washington state include: Zebra Mussels, Asian Clams, Sea Squirts, New Zealand Mud Snails, Aquatic Weeds, Chinese Mitten Crabs and a variety of Aquatic Weed types.

Unfortunately, Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) like these, spread easily from one body of water to the next, which is why Washington state has the following laws in place:

  • It is illegal in Washington to transport ANS on boats (of all sizes and types), on boat trailers, on fishing equipment (i.e. bait wells, and buckets, etc.).
  • When trailering a boat into Washington state from another state, you are required to have documentation proving that your boat is free of ANS.
  • Be aware the state authorities in Washington are permitted to arrest  and detain and boater they suspect to be transporting a boat or any boating equipment that they suspect to be contaminated with ANS.

More information about Washington’s ANS (those prohibited in the state) can be found here: wdfw.wa.gov/ais/species.html

HELP PREVENT THE SPREAD OF NON-NATIVE SPECIES

Boaters in Washington state must actively prevent spreading ANS by taking the following measures each and every time their boat leaves a waterway:

  • Looking closely for ANS on the boat, boating gear and your boating equipment and removing anything you discover.
  • Pulling the boat onto dry land and draining all of the boat’s components before you trailer the boat away. This includes the bilge, motor, live well, diving equipment, fishing gear and bait buckets.
  • Washing, rinsing and air-drying your boat and equipment before you leave the area!
  • It’s a good ANS prevention practice to allow your boat to dry thoroughly (for at least 3-5 days) before launching it into a new body of water.

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.

WASHINGTON AIS ONLINE REPORTING

Visit https://invasivespecies.wa.gov/ to easily report sightings of AIS in Washington.

The Evergreen State, Blue Waters, Good Times

Washington Boating Destinations

WASHINGTON BOATING DESTINATIONS

Washington state offers outdoor enthusiasts a playground that’s rugged, gorgeous and straight up hard to beat! Between the Cascade Range and the Olympic Mountains there are countless places for outdoor activity. Whether you’re interested in boating, whitewater rafting, paddle sports, hardcore rock climbing or mountain biking through an old-growth forest, there’s always something awesome to do in Washington state! 

But the water is where it’s at for us and when you combine the Pacific Coastline, the extensive tidal waterways and the island perimeters of Washington, there are 3,000+ miles of coastline to explore by boat. Now that’s cool. So whether you’re visiting a big city like Seattle or Olympia, or maybe you plan on visiting a small town like Long Beach or cozy Leavenworth, known for it’s awesome rock-climbing, Washington has a water venue for everyone! So grab a map and start exploring!  

 

STATE PARKS

Washington State Parks offer outdoor enthusiasts over 80 parks across the state and endless stretches of rugged, untouched terrain. So grab your Discover Pass and start your Washington state boating adventure! 

If you’re into sailboarding, Washington State Parks has waterways with some of the world’s best windsurfing conditions. The scenic Columbia River Gorge has more than a half-dozen state parks located on it which boast ideal sailboarding conditions. Doug’s Beach is rated for advanced windsurfers, but nearby Columbia Hills has the perfect combination of calm water and high winds for beginners.

Helpful resources for boating in Washington