California now requires anyone operating a boat to have a California Boater Card.
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 operator card developed and issued by the Division of Boating and Waterways. A boater safety test is also required.
The California Boater Card law is phased in by 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
WHEN CAN A PERSON OPERATE A BOAT WITHOUT A CALIFORNIA BOATER CARD?
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 who is in possession of a California Boater Card as required by California law. Boat operators ages 16 or 17 who are not in possession of a California Boater Card, my operate a vessel if supervised by an adult at least 18 years of age who is in possession of a California Boater Card. Violating these provisions constitutes an infraction.
In summary, EVERYONE operating a boat in California over 18-years old must have a California Boater Card by 2024. The state can fine you $100 for an initial conviction, $250 for a second conviction, and $500 for a third conviction.