California Boater Card: Don’t Leave Shore Without It

Staff Note: This is a guest column authored by the staff of California’ Division of Boating and Waterways and does not reflect the views of The Log.

SACRAMENTO—Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor recreation has been on the rise and boaters are escaping to local waterways to cool off. Before hitting the water, be a prepared boater: only boat with family members who reside in your home and learn the boating rules of the water by taking a safe boating course and obtaining a California Boater Card. The California Boater Card is verification that its holder has successfully taken and passed an approved boating safety course.

As of January 1, 2021, boaters 40 and younger will be required to carry a California Boater Card to operate a motorized vessel. The program is being phased in by age to give boaters ample time to obtain their card. By 2025, all operators of motorized vessels on California waters will be required to carry a California Boater Card.

The cost of the lifetime California Boater Card is $10. No profit is made from the card, as the money goes toward program implementation and management.

California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) maintains the list of approved safe boating courses, which includes classroom, online and home study options. Applying for the California Boater Card is an easy, two-step process: pass an approved boating safety course and apply for the card and provide proof of passing an approved course.

Boaters have an option to apply for the card before or after passing an approved course. Once DBW has received your application, proof of education and payment, you will receive a 90-day temporary boater card by email. You will then receive your official California Boater Card by mail within 60 days.

Violation of this law is considered an infraction. Those stopped by law enforcement must present a valid California Boater Card or they will be cited. The initial conviction will be a fine of not more than $100, second conviction is a fine of not more than $250 and a third or subsequent conviction is a fine of not more than $500. In addition to the fines imposed, the boater will be required to complete and pass an approved boating safety course and provide proof of completion to the court.

Boating accident data from the U.S. Coast Guard verifies that states with some form of boating safety education have fewer accidents and fatalities than states without any boater education requirements. California is one of the last states to implement mandatory boater education, with only four states left that have no boating education requirement.

To find out more about the approved courses and the phase-in schedule or to apply for your California Boater Card, please visit www.CaliforniaBoaterCard.com. A toll-free phone support line is also available at (844) 421-8333.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, DBW advises boaters to follow public health guidelines. Visit https://dbw.parks.ca.gov/COVIDBoatingTips for more information. Thank you for keeping California safe for everyone!


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