Reference Guide to State Boating Laws

The Reference Guide to State Boating Laws answers a number of questions related to recreational boating safety public law. Topics covered include boating education, operator age, water skiing, boat noise, numbering & titling, personal watercraft, boating under the influence, personal flotation devices and more.

The data in the guide was supplied by the states and collectively updated during 2007. Data can also be updated by boating law administrators (or designates) for the individual states.

The information is subject to change at any time and facts should be verified with the BLAs if there are any questions.

To access the data, click on the drop down menu below and select a topic area.

Boating Education Requirements
[Table 2.1]

State

Does your state require mandatory boating safety education for some segment of the population?

Who is required to complete a boating education course in your state?

Are only residents of your state required to complete a boating education course?

Other, please specify

Alabama

Yes 

In general, anyone 12 years old or older who operates a vessel on state waters.  

No 

 

Alaska

No 

No one 

Other, please specify 

See 11 

American Samoa

Yes 

PWC operators 18 and under 

 

 

Arizona

No 

Only volunteer boating safety education instructors for the agency. 

Other, please specify 

N/A 

Arkansas

Yes 

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1986 

No 

 

Australia

 

 

 

 

British Columbia

 

 

 

 

California

Yes 

State law allows courts to order any boat operator that is convicted of a moving violation. Violators must take and successfully complete course 

No 

 

Colorado

Yes 

A person 14 YOA or older, who is less than 16 YOA, may operate a motorboat only if he or she has completed an approved boating safety course. 

No 

 

Connecticut

Yes 

All residents or owners of real property or anyone wishing to boat morethan 60 days in a year 

Other, please specify 

also people boating greater than 60 days per year 

Delaware

Yes 

any person born on or after Jan 1st 1978 

No 

 

District of Columbia

Yes 

All persons 

No 

 

Florida

Yes 

Operators of vessels powered by motors of 10hp or more who are 21 years of age, or younger. In addition, anyone convicted of a criminal boating violation, a non-criminal boating safety infraction that resulted in a boating accident, or two non-criminal boating safety infractions with in a twelve-month period is required to enroll, attend and successfully complete a classroom boating safety course. 

No 

 

Georgia

Yes 

Age 12 to 15 to operate certain vessels on their own. 

No 

 

Guam

No 

 

 

 

Hawaii

Yes 

All operators of PWCs 

No 

 

Idaho

No 

People renting a PWC, boat operators convicted of OUI, repeat offenders of boating laws 

 

 

Illinois

Yes  

persons at least 12 years old and less than 18 years old, if they wish to operate a motorboat by themselves 

No  

 

Indiana

Yes 

All vessel operators are required to possess a valid drivers license with exception of 15 yr olds who have taken and passed a boater education course and possesses an Indiana Identification card. 

Yes 

 

Iowa

Yes 

12 through 17 year olds who operate a motorboat over 10 h.p. or a PWC. 

No 

 

Kansas

Yes 

anyone born on or after January 1, 1989 and under 21 years of age regardless of date of birth. 

No 

 

Kentucky

Yes 

Those between the ages of 12 and 17 

No 

 

Louisiana

Yes 

under the age of 16 

No 

 

Maine

Yes 

16 & 17 yr. olds who will operate a PWC. 

No 

 

Manitoba (Canada)

 

 

 

 

Maryland

Yes 

Anyone born on or after July 1, 1972 who is operating a motorized vessel on MD waters must have a valid certificate of boating safety education 

No 

 

Massachusetts

Yes 

Any person of at least 12 years of age and less than 16 yoa, operating a motorboat without adult supervision. PWC users 16 and 17 years of age. (PWC's cannot be operated by youth less than 16 yoa).  

No  

 

Michigan

Yes 

Those less than 12 years of age: May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (hp) legally without restrictions. May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp but no more than 35 hp legally only if they are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years of age. May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp legally under any conditions. Those 12 to 15 years of age: May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 hp legally without restrictions. May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp legally only if they: Have passed a boating safety course approved by the Department of Natural Resources and have on board their boating safety certificate or ... Are accompanied on board by a person at least 16 years of age 

 

 

Minnesota

Yes 

Ages 12-17 to operate a motorboat over 25 HP 

Other, please specify 

Any boat operator 12-17 y/o resident or non res  

Mississippi

Yes 

Persons born after June 30, 1980 

No 

 

Missouri

Yes 

Any person born after January 1, 1984 

No 

 

Montana

yes 

Youth 13 and 14 years of age must either complete a boating education course or be accompanied by an adult in order to operate a motorboat or PWC with a motor greater than 10 horsepower. 

No 

 

Nebraska

Yes 

all motorboat operators 14 to 18 

No 

 

Nevada

yes 

Persons born on or after Jan. 1 1983 who operate motorboats of more than 15 hp on interstate waters. 

Other, please specify 

People from states with a requirement must meet it 

New Hampshire

Yes 

Everyone 16 years of age or older operating a vessel over 25 horsepower.  

No 

 

New Jersey

Yes 

All PWC operators, all other power vessel operators born in 1959 and later June 1, 2008, all other power vessel operators boarn in 1949 and later. June 1, 2009, all power vessel operators, regardless of DOB  

No 

 

New Mexico

Yes 

Those born on or after Jan 1, 1989. 

No 

 

New York

Yes 

operators of pwc over the age of 14 children between the age of 10 and 18 that want to operate a mechanically proppled boat, other than a pwc, alone 

No 

 

North Carolina

Yes 

PWC operators between 14 and 16 years of age if they want to operate on their own.  

No 

 

North Dakota

Yes 

No person of twelve through fifteen years of age may operate a motorboat (includes personal watercraft, i.e. jetskis, etc.) propelled by over a ten horsepower motor unless the operator is accompanied by a person eighteen years of age or older or the operator has taken and passed a boating course approved by the Department. 

No 

 

Northern Mariana Islands

No 

All 

No 

 

Ohio

Yes 

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1982 who operates a powerboat greater than 10 horsepower.  

No 

 

Oklahoma

Yes 

All persons from 12 to less than 16 years of age.  

No  

 

Ontario (Canada)

 

 

 

 

Oregon

Yes 

boaters 12 and older operating a motorboat greater than 10 horsepower 

Yes 

 

Pennsylvania

Yes 

Operators born after January 1, 1982 to operate motorboats greater than 25 horsepower and all operators of PWC. 

No 

 

Puerto Rico

Yes 

All borned after July 1rst, 1972 

Yes 

 

Quebec (Canada)

 

 

 

 

Rhode Island

Yes 

All PWC Operators and anyone born after 1-1-86 operating a vessel powered by an engine of 10 or more horsepower 

Other, please specify 

We require PWC renters to take a course 

South Carolina

Yes 

Persons younger than 16 years of age that operate a boat powered by 15 horsepower greater engine by themselves. 

 

 

South Dakota

No 

NA 

Other, please specify 

NA 

Tennessee

Yes 

TN Resident born after 1/1/89 must pass a proctored exam 

No 

Any person (resident or non-resident) who was born after Jan. 1, 1989 must show proof they have completed an approved NASBLA course.  

Texas

Yes  

Operators between ages 13-17 years  

No  

 

Utah

Yes 

Personal Watercraft operators 12 through 17 years old 

No 

 

Vermont

Yes 

Any person born after January 1, 1974. 

No 

 

Virgin Islands

 

 

 

 

Virginia

Yes 

Currently only ages 14 and 15 for personal watercraft. Beginning July 1, 2009 compliance with boating safety education will be phased in according to age category. 

Yes 

 

Washington

Yes 

Operators of motorboats with 15 horsepower or greater, must be 12 years of age or older. Is being phased in beginning January 2008 starting with 12 to 20 year olds and increasing age each year until fully implemented in 2014. 

Other, please specify 

non residents may operate for 60 days 

West Virginia

Yes 

Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1986 

Other, please specify 

Out of state boater are exempt for 30 days. 

Wisconsin

Yes 

Anyone born on or after 1-1-89 and who is at least 16 years 

No 

 

Wyoming

No 

 

No