Q. What are the Washington Boat license requirements for boat operators?

Since being signed into law in May 2005, Washington State has gradually phased in mandatory boating education for all boaters in the state.

Beginning in 2008, Washington state boating laws made boating education mandatory for all boaters under 20 years of age. When the final phase of the law comes into effect in 2016, all boaters over the age of 12 will be required to have a Boater Education Card, sometimes called a boat license.

Washington State Boating Regulations

You can get your Washington Boater Education Card by taking and passing an approved Washington State boater safety course like BOATERexam.com®.

Q. What kind of boats require the operator to have a Washington Boater Education Card?

All watercraft which have a motor larger than 15 horsepower require the operator to carry a valid Boater Education Card, including personal watercraft such as jet skis.

The law does not require operators of manual-powered watercraft, such as kayaks, canoes, rowboats and sail-only boats, to obtain a boater education card.

Q. Who doesn’t need a Washington Boater Education Card?

A Boater Education Card is not required:

  • If you were born before January 1st, 1955.
  • If your watercraft has a motor smaller than 15 horsepower.
  • If you hold a valid U.S. Coast Guard Marine Operator's License.
  • If you are not a resident of Washington state and holds a current out-of- state or out-of- country certificate or card that is equivalent to the rules adopted in Washington.
  • If you are not a resident of Washington state and do not operate a motor driven boat or vessel with an engine power of 15 horsepower or greater in state waters for more than 60 consecutive days.

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Q. What if I’m renting a boat?

Washington boating laws do not require you to have a State Boater Education Card if you are renting, chartering, or leasing a motor driven boat or vessel with an engine power of 15 horsepower or greater.

However, you must complete a Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission-approved motor vessel safety operating and equipment checklist each time you before operating the vehicle. For more information

Q. What are the age limits?

Children under the age of 12 may not operate a watercraft with a motor larger than 15 horsepower. Children aged 12 and over may operate a watercraft with a motor larger than 15 horsepower if they have their Washington Boater Education Card.

Operators of personal watercraft, like jet skis, must be at least 14 years of age and have a Washington State Boater Education Card.

In Washington, it is illegal to lease, hire or rent a personal watercraft to children under the age of 16.

What if I already have a boating license or proof of education from another state?

Washington State now joins at least 36 other states, as well as all Canadian provinces and territories, that require some form of mandatory education for operating a boat.

Boater education cards issued in other states are recognized in Washington. The Washington State Boater Education card is recognized in other states as well as in Canada.

Q. How are Washington State boating regulations enforced?

Depending on where you are boating, Washington State Boating regulations are enforced by Washington State Park Rangers, Department of Fish and Wildlife agents, or local police authorities. The United States Coast Guard patrol federally-controlled waters and enforce the laws there.

The fine for not carrying a Washington State Boater Education Card is $87.

Q. What are the Washington state license requirements for a boat versus the operator?

You must title and register your boat in Washington State within 60 days of moving to Washington with the boat or within 15 days of buying the boat, if you live in Washington and bought the boat in another state.

Out-of- state boaters who are visiting Washington may stay on state waters for up to 60 days without a permit, so long as as the vessel is registered in another state or has current U.S. Coast Guard documentation.

Canoes, kayaks, and other human-powered watercraft do not have to be registered Read more about how to register your boat on the Washington State Department of Licensing website.