The Division of Boating and Waterways Shares a Reminder for the California Boater Card

As the requirements around the California Boater Card change yearly, The Division of Boating and Waterways reminds boaters to stay up to date with the terms in order to continue legally boating in California.

The Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) published a reminder for California boaters on June 28 about a change in the requirements to obtain and carry a California Boater Card, which is required when boating in state waterways.

On Sept. 18, 2014, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed into law Senate Bill 941, which prohibits the operation of motorized vessels in California without a valid California Boater Card developed and issued by the DBW. The law requires vessel operators to complete an approved boating safety course and carry a California Boater Card when operating in state waters.

The law is being phased in by age group, with all boaters required to carry the card by January 2025. As of Jan. 1, the card is required for operators 45 years of age or younger, and by Jan. 1, 2023, all boaters 50 years of age or younger must carry a card. The card verifies that its holder has successfully taken and passed an approved boating safety education course. It is important to note there are exemptions to the law. For example, those operating a rental vessel or possessing a valid marine operator’s license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard do not need to obtain a California Boater Card. To date, DBW has issued more than 143,000 cards.

As of the dates shown below, these boaters will be required to carry a boater card issued by DBW unless they meet specific exemptions.

California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 678.11(b) contains the following phase-in schedule based on operator age:

  • January 1, 2018, Persons 20 years of age or younger
  • 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

“The law applies to those who operate any vessel with a motor on board, regardless of horsepower, even if it is not the sole source of propulsion,” said Information Officer for the Department of Boating and Waterways, Jorge Moreno in a July 8 email. “There are exemptions to the law.”

According to California law, the following people are not required to have a boater card to operate a motorized vessel on California waterways:

  • A person operating a rental vessel.
  • A person operating a vessel under the direct supervision of a person 18 years of age or older who possesses 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 their 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 their country.
  • A person operating a vessel in an organized regatta, vessel race, or water ski race.
  • A person who owns a current commercial fishing license.
  • A person who has a valid marine operator license for the waters upon which the licensee is operating, issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, or who is in possession of a valid certificate issued pursuant to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended.
  • A person who has successfully completed a boating course approved by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training Post.

 

“In order to receive a California Boater Card, an operator must complete one of the approved courses and apply for their card,” said Moreno. “All courses are approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and California State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways. Boaters can choose to complete an approved online, classroom, or home study course.”

All approved courses for the California Boater Card can be found at www.californiaboatercard.com and vary in price. The cost for the lifetime card is $10, and a replacement card is $5. By law, this is a cost-neutral program, and all money generated goes towards the development and operations of the program.

Boaters have an option to complete an online, classroom, or an at-home study course. Boaters only need to complete one of the approved courses. Once the DBW has received your application, proof of education, and payment, boaters will receive a 90-day temporary boater card via email. You should receive your official boater card by mail within 30 days of the application being approved.

Operators who do not comply with the law and are caught operating a vessel without their California Boater Card will be cited accordingly. This is considered an infraction, and base fines can range anywhere from $100 – $500, according to the DBW.

U.S. Coast Guard boating accident data show that states with some boating safety education have fewer accidents and fatalities than states without boater education requirements. California is one of the last states to implement a mandatory boating education requirement.

Detailed information on the process and information for available boating safety courses are available online at CaliforniaBoaterCard.com. A toll-free telephone support line is available at (844) 421-8333.

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