California Boater Card

If you plan to operate a motor boat in the state’s waterways, depending on your age, you may need a California Boater Card ASAP. Find out everything you need to know about the program to keep you compliant.

What is a California Boater Card?

To promote safety on its waterways, California launched a Boater Card Program in 2018 to reduce boating accidents, injuries and fatalities. The program requires that operators take and successfully pass an approved boater safety course – or risk hefty fines. It’s being phased in over a period of several years, with the dates for complying with the requirements 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

While the majority of operators are required to possess a valid card, several exemptions to the Boater Card Program exist for operators, including those who:

  • Operate rental vessels
  • Operate a vessel under the supervision of an adult who has a California Boater Card
  • Reside in another state or country where they meet the boating requirements and are only temporarily operating a vessel in California
  • Participate in an organized regatta, vessel race or water ski race
  • Possess a commercial fishing license or marine operator license
  • Complete a boating course approved by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training Post

Card Course Requirements

Before you can get a California Boater Card, you need to pass a boating safety course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), which is the standard used by California’s Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW). You can find a list of eligible classroom, home study or online class providers at California Boater Card Official Website. There is also a Spanish-language course offered by the US Power Squadrons for those who are interested.

Each of the courses run from three hours for an online class to up to eight hours for a classroom or home study class.

If you haven’t yet taken a course, you can still apply for your California Boater Card. After you submit your application, you’ll receive your Application ID, which you’ll need to provide when you register for a course. Once you successfully complete a class, DBW will be notified and issue you a 90-day temporary card by email with the official card arriving by mail within 60 days.

Applying for a Card

Whether you’ve already taken a course or not, when you’re ready to apply for a Boater Card, it’s easy:

  • Visit California Voter Card Website
  • Click on Start Application
  • Select New
  • Choose your proof of education, which may require uploading a certificate if you’ve already completed a class
  • Pay the one-time $10 fee by check or credit card – the card’s good for a lifetime!

You’ll receive your official card in two to three weeks unless paying by check, which can result in processing delays.