The California Boater Card: See Requirements From 2018-2025

Simone Graham – Editor: Now is a good time to prepare for the next recreation season and fun in the water. Whether you are a fisherman, water skier, or wake boarder, this information is for you or someone in your family. The link below takes you to the registration information, classes, frequently asked questions, and more. Be forewarned; the fine for not having the card in your age-group deadline is from $100 – $500.

About the card: The California Boater Card shows that its holder has successfully taken and passed a NASBLA/state-approved boater safety education examination. In 2018, the California Boater Card program began the phase-in by age for operators of motorized boats on state waterways.

For information on mandatory boating safety education requirements for each state, click here.

In California, each year a new age group is being added to those who are required to possess a valid card. By 2025, all persons who operate 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:

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 card is issued by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW). DBW began issuing the California Boater Card on Dec. 1, 2017. The lifetime card fee is $10. The lost card replacement fee is $5.

Once DBW has received your application, proof of education and payment, you will receive a 90-day temporary boater card by email. You should receive your official boater card by mail within 60 days.

+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. Violating these provisions constitutes an infraction.


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