Card on towel

About the card

The California Boater Card will show that its holder has successfully taken and passed a NASBLA/state-approved boater safety education examination. The new requirement will begin on Jan. 1, 2018 for all persons 20 years of age and younger who operate a motorized vessel on state waterways. On that date, these boaters will be required to carry a boater card issued by DBW, unless they meet certain exemptions stated below.*

Each year after January 2018, a new age group will be added to those who are required to possess a valid card. By 2025, all persons who operate a motorized vessel 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 will be issued by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW). DBW plans to begin issuing the California Boater Cards prior to Jan. 1, 2018, implementation date. The Boater Card Technical Advisory Group anticipates that the cost of the card will be no more than $10. The lost card replacement fee will be no more than $5.

*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.