Believe it or not, California is currently one of only five states which do not require boater certification or a boating license to operate a motorized watercraft, but all of that is about to change, in large part due to the number of reported boating-related deaths plaguing our state. Due to the passage of Senate Bill 941, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 18, 2014, beginning on January 1, 2018, California require all boaters under the age of 20 to carry a California Boater Card issued by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways while operating a motorized vessel on California waterways (but by 2025 everyone will need one). The new law requires vessel operators to take boater safety education classes as the U.S. Coast Guard reports those who have taken boater education classes tend to have fewer accidents.
So those of you under 20 should probably start studying up. Boat-Ed.com/California offers a detailed breakdown of the important California boating laws and regulations. If you are required to have a Boater Card and are found operating a motorized vessel the fines can range from between $100-500.
Of course, there are some exceptions. Non-residents of the state, commercial fishermen, and those granted a marine operator license by the Coast Guard, along with those operating a vessel in an organized regatta or vessel race, or water ski race, will not be required to obtain a California Boater Card.
To get a Card, you'll need to (1) Complete a boating safety course, either classroom, home study or online, which is approved by NASBLA and the California Division of Boating and Waterways, and (2) Apply for the California Boater Card online at CaliforniaBoatingCard.com.
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