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California Boater Card – Everything You Need to Know

Dec 8, 2022

According to California law, all boaters should have a California Boater Card, which is a vessel operator card while using a recreational vessel in its waterways.

Motorized vessel operator cards are mandatory in most states but until 2018, California was one of the five states that didn’t require a certification or even a boating license.

Planning a boating trip in California’s waterways? You need to get a California Boater Card.

The New California Boater Card – For Recreational Boats

The new law was first discussed in 2014; it originated from Senate Bill 941, which made it mandatory for aspiring boaters to receive education on boat safety before taking their vessels out into the ocean.

The new law took effect in January, 2018 which made it mandatory for boaters under the age of 20 to complete a boat safety course and get a California Boater Card. By 2025, all boaters will have to get a boater card.

Why Was the New Law Introduced?

In the year 2015, a total of 369 accidents and 48 deaths resulted from boating accidents. A large number of these accidents happened due to the negligence of boaters who hadn’t finished a course on boater safety.

To reduce the number of accidents and make California’s waterways safer for everyone, the state introduced the law that made it mandatory for all boaters to complete a boat safety course and pass a written test before receiving a California Boater Card.

How is the Law Enforced?

California boating law

The law has been implemented in 8 phases. At the start of every year, a new section of California’s boaters will be required to complete their training and apply for a California Boater Card. This will continue to happen until 2025 when everyone will be required to hold a California Boater Card.

Here’s the rollout for the remaining phases:

  • January 1, 2019 – Persons 25 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2020 – Persons 35 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2021 – Persons 40 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2022 – Persons 45 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2023 – Persons 50 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2024 – Persons 60 years of age or younger
  • January 1, 2025 – All persons regardless of age

How do I get my California Boater Card?

To get the California Boater Card you’ll need to do the following:

Complete a Boating Safety Course

Boaters will need to complete a boating safety course from an institution that is approved by California Division of Boating and Waterways and NASBLA.

Apply for a California Boater Card Online

California Boater Card applications are accepted by the Division of Boating and Waterways. Applications forms are available at

Operating a motorized vehicle without a valid boater card will result in a fine.

Boater’s Academy offers an online boater safety course that involves going through of a free study guide and completing online quizzes. After the final test has been completed, applicants will receive a boat safety certification that shows that you have the knowledge and skills to keep you safe on the boat.

Our course is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators as well as the U.S. Coast Guard. Once you receive the certificate you can apply for a California Boater Card.

Get started today!