People often begin to think about how to get a boating license once they decide to purchase a boat. The requirements for boating licenses and the process for getting one differs from state to state. A boating license doesn’t really serve the same purpose as a driving license. Instead of verifying that the owner has the skills and knowledge to drive a boat, it proves that they have achieved an education in boating safety.

Until recently, California didn’t even require a boating license for any driver of any kind of boat. With the phasing in of a new law, more people want to know how to get a boating license than ever before. This article explains what a boating license is, and isn’t, along with the requirements for getting one in the state of California. It also covers some examples of how certification increases safety on the water.

What is a Boating License?

A boating license is formally called a “boater education certificate” which serves as proof that the owner has successfully completed a state-approved boating safety course. Even though all boat operators will soon require a license, it isn’t awarded because of the owner’s skills. Instead, it certifies their education about maintaining safe operation of a boat on the waterways.

Currently, boaters in California must carry a California Boater Card (CBC) whenever operating a recreational motorized vessel on CA waterways. Starting in 2018, all persons twenty years or younger must have the CBC license. The state plans to implement an eight-year phase to gradually include all persons of any age by the year 2025.

The primary reason for the mandatory boating license is to promote boating safety on California’s waterways and reduce the number of accidents and deaths that occur in the state each year. Statistics show that other states that require safety education courses experience fewer accidents and fatalities. Considering the number of vessels on California’s waterways at any given time, this could result in saving hundreds of lives each year.

Getting a boating license is much easier than getting a traditional driving license. All it takes is the successful completion of an online boating license course that you can take on your computer or smartphone when it is convenient for you. Once you obtain a boating license in California, it doesn’t expire and you never have to renew it.

How to Get a Boating License

Step 1: Select Your State

The laws related to the need to get a boaters license and regulations for the types of boats that require licensure differ from state to state. Getting a boat license in California requires you to take a NASBLA-approved and state-approved by DBW course. When you sign up for an online boaters safety course, make sure you start by selecting your state to get a state-approved course that California will accept.

Prior to January 1, 2018, a boating license wasn’t required by the state of California. Now that the 8-year phase is being implemented, modern courses should reflect the newest requirements for obtaining a CBC license in addition to existing laws and regulations. Quality matters when choosing a safety course to obtain your boating license and to make you a safer boat operator.

A number of people object to the exception given to boat renters who often have less boating experience than many people who will soon be required to take a boating safety course. Those people who are unfamiliar with the impact the waves or the wind have on the way the boat behaves, simply don’t know what to do when facing unexpected conditions. The knowledge they get from getting a boat license helps prepare them for all types of situations.

Step 2: Complete the Online Boaters Safety Course

Online courses take a minimum of three hours so you can complete one in just one day. Some home study courses that provide you with flexible study time may require up to eight hours to complete. Those taught in-class often take much longer. Taking an online course is the fastest option for getting a boating license.

Don’t put off getting your boat license until later or a more convenient time and risk not having it when you need it. If you are required to carry a CBC card and you fail to have it with you, there are penalties including fines. Signing up for a course costs about $30 and the cost of the CBC card is $10 so being legal on the waterways is a budget-friendly option for almost anyone.

Step 3: Get Your Boating License

Once you successfully complete your online course, your boating license will be mailed to you. The boater education card is valid for life and you never have to renew it. If you lose your card, you pay a small fee to get a replacement. Once you get your boater education card, carry it on the vessel where it can be available for inspection by an enforcement officer when needed.

Online Boaters Safety Course

The requirement for a boating license will eventually apply to all boat drivers for any type of boat while existing laws and regulations remain in effect. In order to sail certain boats, you must also register your boat with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This includes sail-powered vessels over eight feet in length and any motor-driven vessel. Boat operators must register commercial vessels that weigh 5 tons or more or which measure 30 feet or more in length with the U.S. Coast Guard.

If you aren’t sure how to get a boating license, an online boating license course offers a number of advantages. The courses include a variety of study information to help you prepare for the final exam including visual aids that make it easier to understand the material. If you don’t pass the first time, you can keep taking the boat license test until you do, without having to pay any additional fees.

Nothing is more convenient than taking the safety course you need on your own schedule. Some courses allow you to leave the course when you need to do something else and then pick back up where you left off when you’re ready. This option is especially good for anyone with a busy schedule who needs the option to study when they have the time available.

The online course uses videos and printed materials to teach boaters about boat safety across a number of areas. Areas covered include safe vessel operation, what to do during boating emergencies, common boating etiquette, and the legal requirements of boating. Your knowledge of boating safety is not only the path towards getting a boat license; it teaches you everything you need to know for safer boating.

Who Doesn’t Need a Boating License?

California is one of the last states to implement a boating licensure law and the process won’t be complete until the year 2025. Implementation of the law comes after the state having experienced more boating accidents during 2017 than any other state except Florida. Even though you aren’t yet included in the state’s requirements for a boating license, everyone can benefit from taking a safety program before navigating the waterways.

One exception to the new law is for boat renters. Business owners who rely on boat rentals from vacationers won’t be impacted by the new law. California recognizes visiting boaters’ boating education cards meeting NASBLA requirements and those with Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator Cards, a process known as reciprocity.

Why Everyone in California Should Know How to Get a Boating License

The Division of Boating and Waterways report statistics related to boating in the State of California each year. During 2016, there were 588 accidents, 266 injuries, and 50 fatalities reported and those numbers reportedly increased for 2017. The reason that many of these accidents occur is due to the inability of the boat’s driver to manage the boat effectively under all types of conditions.

The most common type of accident by far is collisions; flooding, grounding, sinking, and capsizing come next in order of frequency.  Another statistic of interest is the large percentage of accidents that occur during the weekend. While the laws and regulations for boating in California go a long way towards increasing safety, the need for the new boating license requirement is obvious.

Of course, another alternative to renting a boat and operating the boat on your own is to hire a San Diego yacht rental with an experienced captain and crew. Yacht rentals serve as a safe option for whale watching, engaging in water sports, and enjoying a fishing expedition off the coast of San Diego. A catamaran charter lets you focus on the best of everything the beautiful San Diego Bay has to offer and leave the driving to the experts.

Contact Adventuress Luxury Catamaran to schedule your custom sailing excursion today. We offer a variety of charter options including corporate events, whale watching, yacht weddings, and more. It’s the safe, fun way to see the best of San Diego with an experienced crew looking out for your safety every step of the way.