California Boater Card Is Coming!

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, California is phasing in by age the requirement that residents who operate a motorized vessel on state waterways will be required to carry the California Boater Card. The card will be issued by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW).

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Not only is mandatory education the law, the California Boater Card Program promotes boating safety on our waterways. U. S. Coast Guard accident data show that states with some form of boating safety education have fewer accidents and fatalities than states without any boater education requirements. 

In 2015, 724 California recreational vessels were involved in reported accidents and 49 boaters died. More than 232 boaters were injured in severity beyond first aid treatment. Only one of the boat operators involved in fatal accidents had taken an approved boating safety course. Increased numbers of boaters taking approved safety courses will benefit all California recreational boaters.

DBW plans to begin issuing the California Boater Cards prior to Jan. 1, 2018, implementation date. The Boater Card Technical Advisory Group anticipates that the cost of the card will be no more than $10. The lost card replacement fee will be no more than $5.

The new requirement will begin on Jan. 1, 2018 for all persons 20 years of age and younger who operate a motorized vessel on state waterways. On that date these boaters will be required to carry a boater card issued by DBW, unless they meet certain exemptions.

Each year after January 2018, a new age group will be added to those who are required to possess a valid card. By 2025, all persons who operate a motorized vessel on California waters will be required to have one. 

Once issued, the card remains valid for a boat operator’s lifetime. California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 678.11(b) contains the following phase-in schedule based on operator age:

2018 - 20 years of age or younger

2019 - 25 years of age or younger

2020 - 35 years of age or younger

2021 - 40 years of age or younger

2022 - 45 years of age or younger

2023 - 50 years of age or younger

2024 - 60 years of age or younger

California age restrictions for operating a motorized vessel: According to California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 658.5, NO person under 16 years of age may operate a boat with a motor of more than 15 horsepower, except for a sailboat that does not exceed 30 feet in length or a dinghy used directly between a moored boat and the shore (or between two moored boats). 

The law allows children 12-15 years of age to operate boats with a motor of more than 15 horsepower or sailboats over 30 feet if supervised on board by an adult at least 18 years of age. 

According to California law the following persons will not be required to have a boater card to operate a motorized vessel on California waterways when the requirements go into effect beginning in January 2018:

A person operating a rental vessel.

A person operating a vessel while under the direct supervision of a person 18 years of age or older who is in possession of a California Boater Card.

A person who is a resident of a state other than California who is temporarily operating a vessel in California for less than 60 days and meets the boating requirements, if any, of his/her state.

A person who is a resident of a country other than the United States who is temporarily operating a vessel in California for less than 90 days and meets the boating requirements, if any, of his/her country.

A person operating a vessel in an organized regatta or vessel race, or water ski race.

pkilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2017