get your California boater Card
California’s Official Boating Course. Animated, narrated & perfect for all ages.
Get Your California Boater Card
In 3 Steps
1. Study Online
Study up with the Official California Boating Safety Course. Animated and narrated lessons put you in the captain’s seat. Anywhere, on any device and perfect for all ages.
2. Ace the test
It’s easy. Complete our California Division of Boating and Waterways Approved multiple-choice test with unlimited free retries. Basically, you’re guaranteed to pass and it’s good for life!
3. Get on the water
Once you pass the test, California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways will send you a temporary card immediately and a permanent card in 4-6 weeks!
Proud to be North America’s Boating Educator. Join the crew!
Do you need a license to drive a boat in California?
As of January 1, 2020, boaters 35 years of age and younger must carry a California Boater Card. By 2025 all boaters will be required to carry a California Boater Card. Don’t wait, get your’s today!
Animated, narrated & perfect for all ages.
make it easy
Our animated, narrated and interactive lessons guide your learning experience and help you pass.
Everything you need
The BOATsmart!® Course includes all the knowledge you need to pass the test and boat with confidence.
Study at your
BOATsmart!® automatically tracks your progress on any device. Take it anywhere, anytime.
Designed for all ages
& skill levels
Designed by boaters and subject matter experts just for you.
Made for boaters,
California Boating Knowledge Base
California Boater Card
Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT HAPPENS IF IT TAKES ME LONGER THAN 3-HOURS TO COMPLETE THE BOATSMART! COURSE? WILL I NEED TO START OVER?
The 3-hour timer is only a minimum requirement. You’re free to spend as much time as you need in the BOATsmart! Knowledge Base before taking the Final Test.
WHAT ARE THE SPEED LIMITS ON CALIFORNIA’S WATERWAYS FOR BOATERS?
Speed limits range in California’s waters. However, in all cases, the speed limit is 5 mph anytime the boat is within 100 feet of a bather or within 200 feet of a bathing beach, swimming float, diving platform or life line, passenger landing being used, or landing where boats are tied up. Always obey posted speed limit signs. It’s the law!Learn more about speed limits and restrictions by taking the BOATsmart! California Boating Safety Course!
ARE PERSONAL WATERCRAFT (PWC) OPERATORS REQUIRED TO HAVE A ‘KILL SWITCH’ IN CALIFORNIA?
California does not require the installation of a ‘kill switch’ on a PWC. However, if you own any boat or PWC that is equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard, the state of California does require you to use the lanyard by attaching the safety device to yourself, to your clothing, or life jacket, as appropriate for the type of boat you’re operating.
DO I NEED TO INSURE MY BOAT IN CALIFORNIA?
Boater’s are not required to have boat insurance in California. However, in some states boaters are required to carry boat insurance, so always check with boating law authorities in the state you plan to boat in. If you’re the ‘better safe than sorry’ type and plan on getting boat insurance, you’ll recieve a discount with most insurance companies for having a California Boater Card. Get certified with BOATsmart! today and save!
CAN I ACCESS THE BOATSMART! CALIFORNIA BOATING SAFETY TEST WITHOUT COMPLETING THE 3-HOUR ONLINE BOATSMART! COURSE?
No. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) requires California boaters to complete the full 3-hour online study guide in order to access the online version of the Boater Education Test. However, you don’t have to complete the entire Study Guide in one sitting. BOATsmart! will automatically track and save your progress. Once you’ve completed all modules and quizzes you’ll be able to access California’s Official Boater Card Test.
IS A CALIFORNIA BOATER CARD THE SAME THING AS A BOATING LICENSE?
The California Boater Card is not the same as a license because you do not have to renew it like a license. It is a lifetime card and does not expire.
IS MY TWO-STROKE ENGINE OR PERSONAL WATERCRAFT (PWC) ILLEGAL ON CALIFORNIA’S WATERS?
No, but some California waterways have implemented restrictions on two-stroke engines and PWCs. For a complete list of these waterways and their restrictions, visit the California Division of Boating and Waterways.
I LOST MY CALIFORNIA BOATER CARD – CAN I ORDER A REPLACEMENT?
Yes you can! Accidents happen, right? You can easily purchase a Replacement Card from the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways for $5.00 per card.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR THE CALIFORNIA BOATING SAFETY TEST?
Prepare for the official California Boating Safety Test with the BOATsmart Course which includes animated, narrated and brilliantly illustrated lessons, perfect for all ages. The 3-hour California Boating Safety Course is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways and includes all the knowledge you need in order to obtain your California Boater Card.
WHO IS REQUIRED TO WEAR LIFE JACKETS ON CALIFORNIA WATERS?
The only boaters REQUIRED to wear their life jackets in California are:
Any boaters 13 years of age or younger who are on a moving recreational vessel of any length.
PWC operators and passengers.
Passengers being towed (unless they are professional performers or they involved in an official regatta or tournament).
DO I NEED A DRIVER’S LICENSE TO OPERATE A MOTORIZED BOAT?
No. The state of California does not require boaters to have a driver’s license in order to operate a boat. However, as of January 1st, 2020 a California Boater Card will be required for anyone under the age of 35, with everyone requiring a California Boater Card by 2025. Why wait? Hit the waters with confidence.
WILL MY CALIFORNIA BOATER CArd BE VALID IN OTHER STATES?
Yes! The California Boater Card is accepted in 40 states, which extend reciprocity. This means the BOATsmart! Course meets the National Standards established by NASBLA. This law applies to operators of motorized boats, but not in all states to operators of personal watercraft (PWCs). Always check the boating laws in the state you plan to visit prior to operating a boat or PWC there.
WILL MY CALIFORNIA BOATER CARD EVER EXPIRE?
Nope! Your California Boater Card will be good for life. But don’t be a stranger – BOATsmart! offers free refresher lessons that will help you keep your boating knowledge up to date! California’s boating laws may change over time. Make sure you’re in the know.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL LIMIT FOR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION WHEN OPERATING A BOAT IN CALIFORNIA?
In California, you will be considered to be ‘under the influence’ of alcohol if your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level is 0.08% or higher. Understand that a BAC level of at least 0.05% but less than 0.08% can be used with other evidence to determine if a boat operator was under the influence of alcohol. Although it isn’t illegal to drink alcohol while boating, it’s important to recognize that the California State Parks DBW recently discovered that in 66% of all of California’s alcohol-related fatalities, the victims fell overboard and drowned. Drink responsibly and be safe out there, boaters!
WHAT ARE THE FINES AND PENALTIES IN CALIFORNIA FOR BOATERS CONVICTED OF OPERATING A BOAT WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL OR DRUGS?
In California, boaters convicted of operating under the influence (OUI) will face a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and face up to 6 months in jail. Never drink and drive. Learn more about the risks of boating with alcohol by taking the BOATsmart! Boater Safety Course.