Do I Need A License For My Boat?

Do I Need A License For My Boat?

When it comes to careers in the maritime industry, there are numerous options.

But boating is one career which provides the work life balance we all crave. It is a profession which can be taken anytime, anywhere regardless of age, gender or experience.

But this is something you can definitely not take up unless you have a license.

In the US each state has different rules and regulations for boating. But before we look into the specifications, it is important to know a few things.

  1. If you get a license through Classes offered by National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), your license will be valid for all other states in the US. NASBLA is the authority which sets the boating standards which need to be taught to anyone planning to start boating as a career.
  2. Once you get the license, it never expires.

So with a license, you are set to sail in waters of all 50 states of the US.

While similar boating standards are taught in all courses offered by NASBLA, however, the requirement of license varies with each state. This means that it is possible that you need a license in one state but that is not a mandatory requirement in the other state.

So before you start sailing in any state, make sure, you check the local requirements to avoid any inconvenience.

You can find out about the general requirements of each state on the American Boating website. Now let’s take a look at the license regulations in each state.

Alabama

Alabama

In Alabama, a boating license is mandatory. Also, you are required to take classes offered by the NASBLA.

Apart from the license and boating education requirement, there is also an age limit in the state. Anyone who is younger than 12 years old may not operate a boat.

Also, if you are between the age of 12 and 14, after you have completed the boating education, you will only be awarded a learner’s license. In that case, you can operate a boat with a licensed driver over the age of 21.

Alaska

As you sail across the breathtaking views of the waters in Alaska, you will be glad to know that there is no license requirement for boating in this state.

Though the government authorities encourage boater to take a boating course and license, this is not a mandatory requirement.

Also, there is no official age limit but if you are a minor and are planning to sail, make sure you take all necessary precautions before you head to the water.

Arizona

Arizona

Similar to Alaska, there is no state requirement for boating education, minimum age for boating or license for boater. But the government gives an incentive to licensed boater.

A boater with a license will save on the boat insurance. So while this serves to encourage people to get a license, it is not a mandatory requirement.

Arkansas

The state has a requirement for both boating education and license. However, there is no minimum age for the boaters. So anyone born on or after January 1st 1986, must take a boating course and a license before they can sail a boat.

To make safety a priority, the state also offers an online boating course. This caters to the needs of younger population who can take the course from the comfort of their homes.

California

The state requirement for boating education and license in California is quite different from the other states. It gives one chance to all boaters. But if a boater makes a mistake while boating, they need to take a boating course.

Also, though boating education is not mandatory for all, anyone boating in California needs a California Boater Card.

This requirement came out in 2018 and initially, anyone under the age of 20 was required to obtain this card. However, by 2025, all boaters regardless of age will need this card.

The card is very similar to a license and is awarded to those who pass the state approved boating safety examination. The fee is $10 and the card lasts for lifetime. 

Colorado

Colorado

The state does not require a boating license but has an age requirement.

Any person who is operating a mechanical boat in Colorado must be at least 16 years old.

Teenagers above the age of 14 and under 16 can operate a boat only if they complete a state approved safety course. However, after the age of 16, any one operating a boat does not need a license or boating education.

Connecticut

The state rules are different for tourists and professionals. The state requires both boating education and a license if you are planning to continue boating for more than 60 days a year.

This means that if you are a tourist in the state, you don’t need a license. But once you get a license in Connecticut, this will be valid in all other states.

Delaware

The safety standards in Delaware are slightly stricter. There is a minimum age requirement along with the requirement of boating education and a license.

All boaters are required to take a boating course approved by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. 

A boater must be at least 14 years old and until the age of 16, they must be accompanied with a licensed adult.

These restrictions are for anyone born after January 1st 1978.

Florida

The state requires all boaters to undertake a boating course approved by the NASBLA or they are required to clear an approved exam to operate a high power motor operated vessel (with a power of 10 horsepower or more).

This includes personal watercrafts as well.

There is no minimum age requirement but boating education and a license is mandatory for all born after January 1st 1988.

Georgia

Georgia

Georgia allows young boaters to explore the waters.

  • Children below the age of 12, may operate smaller boats which a motor of less than 30 horsepower. But they must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Children between the age of 12 and 15 can operate a boat but the length of the boat must not exceed 16 feet. However, they can operate a personal watercraft (PWC) long than 16 feet only of they are accompanied by an adult.
  • Above the age of 16, there is no license requirement but all boaters must have a state ID.  

Hawaii

The state provides a minimum age limit and also requires boating education and a license. To operate a vessel, PWC or any other mechanized boat, you need to be at least 15 years old.

Also, to operate a boat, you need to take a NASBLA approved boating safety course and must have a license.

Idaho

The rules regarding license and boating education are very similar to those in California but there is one exception.

So if you boating in Idaho, you will need to take boating education only if are you convicted of operating under influence or a repeatedly offending the safety laws.

But there is one standard requirement specific to PWC renters. All renters must provide a basic level of boat safety education to all the boat operators associated with the company.

Illinois

Similar to Georgia, Illinois also allows young boaters to explore the waters. The minimum age for boating in Illinois is 10.

  • Children of age above 10 and below 12 are allowed to operate a boat with a motor of 10 horsepower or more but they must be accompanied with a licensed adult over the age of 18.
  • Between the age 12 and 18, boaters may operate a boat only if they an adult supervisor or possess Illinois Boating Safety Certificate.
  • Beyond the age of 18, there is no state requirement of boating education or license.

Indiana

Indiana

In Indiana, the state requires all boaters to possess a valid driver’s license. The minimum age of boater is years.

Since they do not have a license, they can operate a boat only if they have taken and cleared the boating education course offered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDR).

Once they clear the course, all young boaters will receive an Indiana Identification Card issued by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Iowa

The minimum age for boaters in Iowa is 12 years. Teenagers between the ages 12 and 17 may operate motorboat with a power of 10 horsepower or more and PWC but they need boat safety education.

One the successful completion of the course, the state awards a certificate instead of a license.

But for adults over the age of 18, there is no state requirement for a boating license or safety education.

Kansas  

The state’s minimum age for boating is 12 years. However, the boating safety education is mandatory for all individuals below the age of 21.

So any person between the ages 12 and 21 who wish to operate a boat, must complete a boating education course approved by NASBLA.

Above the age of 21, there is no boating license or boating safety education requirement by the state.

Kentucky

Similar to the minimum age in Kansas, the minimum age for boating in Kentucky is 12 years.

For children between the ages 12 and 17, Kentucky Safe Boating Certificate Card is mandatory. Even if you are tourist in the state, you need to undertake a boating safety course approved by NASBLA.

Louisiana

Louisiana

To operate a boat in Louisiana, you need to attend a boating safety course only if you are under the age of 16.

So while there is no minimum age, all boaters born after January 1st 1984 must complete a boating safety course. The state does not require a boating license.

Maine

The state has a boating education requirement for children between the age 12 and 16. Children of this age may operate a boat only under the supervision of a licensed adult.

Teenagers between the age 16 and 18 may operate a PWC only if they have completed boating safety education course.

For adults over the age of 18, there is no state requirement for a boating license or boating safety education.

Maryland

In order to operate a vessel or PWC, the state requires all boaters born after July 1st 1972 to complete a boating safety education course. The minimum age for the boaters should be 16 years and above.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts

The boating regulations are very similar between Maine and Massachusetts. However, there is a difference in the minimum age.

In Massachusetts, anyone above the age of 12 can operate a boat. Children between the age 12 and 16 need adult supervision along with a boating safety course.

However, there is no state requirement for a boating license even after the age of 16.

Michigan

The legal age to operate a boat without a boating license and boating safety education in Michigan is 21 years. Though boaters as young as 12 may operate a boat, but they need basic safety education.

Minnesota

There are no state requirements for boating license. Children as young as 12 may operate a boat but they need to attend a boating safety course.

Mississippi

A boating safety education course is required for anyone who was born on or after June 30th, 1980. There is no legal requirement of a boating license.

Missouri

People born on or after January 1st 1984 need to complete boating education but boating license is not required.

Montana

Montana

Children as young as 13 may operate a boat. But between the ages of 13 and 14 they either need a completion of boating safety course or must be accompanied with an adult.  

Nebraska

All individuals between the age of 14 and 18 must complete the boating safety course or must be accompanied with a certified adult.

There is no education or boating license requirement for adults over the age of 18.

Nevada

An individual born on or after January 1st1983 must complete the boating certification course approved by Nevada Department of Wildlife. No boating license is required.

New Hampshire

The age limit at which a boater can be awarded a boating safety certificate course is 16 years. No boating license is required. 

New Jersey

Regardless of the date of birth, all boat operators must complete boating safety education in order to get a boating license.

New Mexico

Individuals born on or after January 1st, 1989 are required to undertake complete boating course and successfully complete it in order to get a boating license.

New York

New York

The state allows children as young as 10 to operate a boat but has stringent boating education and license requirements.

Children as young as 10 may undertake a boating course and can be awarded a license. But by the time they turn 14, they need to be accompanied by an adult.

North Carolina                                      

PWC operators between the ages 14 and 16 must have a license if they want to operate without adult supervision. Beyond the age of 16, there is no state requirement for a boating license.

North Dakota

Individuals between the age of 12 and 15 can operate a boat with 10 horse power or more but must be accompanied by an adult only after they have completed a boating safety course.

Children under 12 are not allowed to operate a boat with 10 horse power or more.  

Ohio

The state requires anyone born on or after January 1st, 1982 to receive both boating education and a boating license.

Oklahoma

The minimum age limit for boating in Oklahoma is 12. Children between the ages 12 and 16 need a completion of boating safety course.

Oregon

Oregon

To operate a boat of more than 10 horsepower, individuals must be at least 12 years old and should have completed boating safety education.

Pennsylvania

All boaters born on or after January 1st, 1982 who operate a boat of more than 25 horsepower must receive boating safety education.

Also, all operators of PWC should have boating education along with a license to legally operate in the state.

Rhode Island

PWC operators need boating education and a boating license. But for motor boat operators, boating education is a requirement only if they are operating a boat of 10 or more horsepower.

South Carolina

The state does not requires a boating license but anyone who wish to operate a boat of 15 horsepower or more must have boating education.

South Dakota

There is no state requirement for a boating license.

Tennessee

All boat operators in Tennessee born on or after January 1st, 1989 need to undertake an exam for boating safety.

Texas

Texas

To legally operate a boat in Texas you need both boating education and a boating license only if you are born on or after September 1st, 1993.

Utah

There are restrictions for boaters below the age of 18 but after that no boating license or safety education is required.

Vermont

Again, the state allows the young to explore the waters. With minimum age requirement of 10 years, children between the ages 10 and 12 are required to successfully complete boating safety course.

Virginia

There is no boating license requirement. However there is a minimum age requirement of 14 years. All boaters between the age of 14 and 16 are required to take a boating safety course.

Washington

Boaters who operate boats with 15 horse power or more must have a minimum age of 12. For all boaters between the ages of 12 and 20, the state requires a mandatory boating safety education.

West Virginia

West Virginia

Boaters of age 12 and above are allowed to operate a vessel only if they have completed a boating safety course and are accompanied by an adult who is certified.  

Wisconsin

The state does not require a boating license but anyone who was born on or after January 1st 1989 or is 16 years of age requires the success completion of boating safety education.

Wyoming

There is no state requirement for a boating license or boating education.

The state also does not have a minimum age limit for boaters. However, boaters under the age of 18 cannot operate without an adult supervisor.

Conclusion

Boating safety is a concern for everyone on the boat.

So if you are planning to sail across states, we recommend you take a license and boating education regardless of the state requirements. Because boating is not just about your safety but it is for the safety of everyone on board.