The Comprehensive Guide: California Boater

The Comprehensive Guide California Boater

On January 1, 2018, California’s new boating education law went into effect, requiring all California boaters to carry the California Boater Card while operating a recreational motorized vessel. The law is being phased-in by age for operators of motorized boats on California waterways. This new legislation makes boater education mandatory in the state of California.

What is the new California boating law?

The latest change to California boating laws stemmed from Senate Bill 941, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 18, 2014. Senate Bill 941 effectively mandates boater safety education for anyone who intends to operate a motor-powered vessel on California waterways. On January 1, 2018, the legislation took effect for boaters under 20 years old and new law requirements will gradually expand to apply to all boaters by 2025.

Why did the law change?

In 2015, California reported 369 accidents and 48 deaths from boating accidents. A vast majority of the accidents involved boaters who hadn’t completed a boater safety education course. U. S. Coast Guard accident data concluded states with some form of boating safety education had fewer accidents and fatalities than states without any boater education. This fact prompted the development of a safer solution.

Senate Bill 941 was created with the intent of promoting boat safety on California waterways. Boaters would be required to complete boater safety training and pass a written test before they can be issued the California Boater Card. The state of California believed increasing the number of boaters taking approved safety courses would benefit all recreational boaters and drastically reduce accidents on the water. Educated boaters are safer boaters.

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How is the law implemented?

The California Boater Card requirement will be implemented in eight phases. At the beginning of each year another segment of the population will be required to complete the education process. This phase-in process will continue through 2025 when anyone operating a vessel, regardless of age, will successfully complete the education process. Phase 1 began on January 1, 2018, and covered boat operators 20 years old and younger. Phase 2 began on January 1, 2019 and covers operators 25 years and younger. The following rollout schedule is provided by and encompasses the remaining phases:

Are there any exceptions to this law?

  • A person who is a resident of another state or a foreign country who is operating a vessel and meets either of the following requirements:
    • The person is temporarily using the waters of this state for a period not to exceed 60 days, and meets the applicable requirements, if any, of his or her state of residency.
    • The person is temporarily using the waters of this state for a period not to exceed 90 days, and meets the applicable requirements, if any, of his or her country of residency.
  • A person operating a vessel while under the direct supervision of a person 18 years of age or older who is in possession of a vessel operator card issued pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 678 or who is not required to possess a vessel operator card pursuant to paragraph (6).
  • A person operating a vessel in an organized regatta or vessel race, or water ski race.
  • A person operating a rental vessel.
  • A person who is in possession of a current commercial fishing license.
  • A person who is in possession of a valid CA boat license, for the waters upon which the licensee is operating, issued by the United States 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.

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