Mandatory Boater Education

Many recreational boaters in Washington are required by law to complete a boating safety course and carry a Washington State Boater Education Card.

Whether you cruise, sail, kayak, fish, or do yoga on a stand up paddleboard, you need to know the laws and basics of boating safety.

2017 Washington state boating card example

Not taking a boating safety education course means you’re missing out on crucial information that could prevent injuries or property damage. If you’re new to boating, it's vital to get educated. If you've been boating your whole life, it's vital to make sure your knowledge up-to-date. A state-approved course can teach you how to operate the boat, boat etiquette, emergency procedures, laws and the rules of the waterway. As an added bonus, many insurers will give you a discount on your boat insurance rates if you can provide proof of having completed a boating safety course.

The Washington State Boater Education Card is valid for your lifetime and meets requirements for recreational boating in Canada and many other states.  

  1. Who needs it
  2. How to get it
  3. How to replace it

You are required to have a Boater Education Card if you fit the following criteria:

  • You operate a vessel with a 15-horsepower (or greater) motor.
  • You were born after Jan. 1, 1955.
  • You are 12 years of age or older.

You are exempt if you fit the following criteria:

  • You were born before Jan. 1, 1955.
  • You are an operator of a commercial fishing boat and able to show a valid commercial license.
  • You are able to show a valid U.S. Coast Guard Marine Operator License.
  • You are renting a boat, have completed a watercraft safety checklist provided by the vendor and been issued a temporary card which you must carry with you.
  • You operate a government vessel exempt from state registration.
  • You are practicing or engaging in a permitted racing event, as long as permitting documentation is available upon inspection at the event site.

You have a 60-day exemption period if you fit the following criteria:

  • You are visiting from another state or country and boating for less than 60 days. After 60 days you must have a Washington state Boater Education Card.
  • You hold a valid boater education card from another state. You will need to contact us to confirm if it's valid.
  • You have recently purchased your boat and can show the bill of sale with the date of purchase. After 60 days you must have a Washington state Boater Education Card.
Man driving a powerboat with a woman sitting close next to him and three kids sitting in the back.