North Carolina Boating Laws and Regulations
Boater Education ID Card
In North Carolina the North Carolina Boater Education Card and it is required if you were born on or after Jan. 31, 1988 and are operating a motorized boat powered by an engine of 10 HP or greater, on the public waters of North Carolina. Most other states and most of Canada’s provinces and territories also require boaters to carry a Boater Education Card, more commonly known as a ‘Boating License’. Get the Card, even if you aren’t required to in North Carolina, and you’ll be good to go boating in most of North America.
Obtaining your North Carolina Boating License
You can obtain your North Carolina boating license by taking the online BOATsmart! Course – you’ll be on the water with confidence in just a few hours.
What are North Carolina’s life jacket requirements
The only boaters required to WEAR their life jackets in the state of North Carolina are:
- Children 13 years of age and under who are on any boat that is underway, unless they are in an enclosed cabin or below deck.
- PWC operators and passengers (inflatable life jackets are not permitted in North Carolina for PWC passengers).
- Passengers being towed by a boat or PWC (inflatable life jackets are not permitted in North Carolina towed sport participants).
North Carolina boating license requirements for Personal Watercrafts (PWCs)
In North Carolina the North Carolina Boater Education Card and it is required if you were born on or after Jan. 31, 1988 and are operating a motorized boat powered by an engine of 10 HP or greater, on the public waters of North Carolina.
PWC operators are required to be at least 14 years of age in the state of North Carolina. It is illegal for any boaters younger than 14 to operate a PWC, regardless of their boater certifications.
Boating and alcohol
In North Carolina it is illegal to operate any boat, including motorized boats, personal watercraft, water-skis, sailboats, sailboards or any other similar device, while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. In North Carolina, boaters are considered to be under the influence if they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher.
Any person convicted or operating a boat under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol will be subject to significant fines and/or imprisonment. Take the BOATsmart! North Carolina Course to learn more about the effects of alcohol on boaters and the laws for boating with alcohol in North Carolina.
North Carolina’s boat accident reporting requirements
The operator of a boat involved in a boating accident is required to:
- Stop their boat at the scene
- Render assistance to any person who has been injured or who is in danger so long as they can do so without risking their safety or their passenger’s safety
- Provide their name, address and boat information in writing to any person who was injured, and to the owner of any property that was damaged as a result of the accident
Operators involved in a boating accident which resulted in a death, or the disappearance of a person from a boat are required to notify the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) by the quickest means possible and provide:
- The date, time and exact location of the accident.
- The number and name of the boat.
- The name(s) of any one who died or disappeared as a result of the accident.
- The name(s) and address(es) of the boat owner and/or operator.
If the boat operator is not able to immediately notify the NCWRC of the incident, all passengers who were on board the boat will be required to notify the NCWRC, unless they are positive that a person has already given notice.
Who enforces North Carolina’s boating laws?
North Carolina’s boaters must always comply with both federal and state boating laws and must follow any direction given by law enforcement. Learn more about North Carolina’s boating laws by taking the BOATsmart! North Carolina Course. North Carolina’s boating law authorities you’ll see on the water are:
- The North Carolina Wildlife and Resources Commission and its officers
- The U.S. Coast Guard
- Department of Natural Resources officers
- Any other authorized law enforcement officer
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) contact information
For more information about safe boating in North Carolina, contact the Department at:
1701 Mail Service Center