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State operator license/education requirements


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I note that there are now around 10 states that require powerboat operators of any age to possess some kind of boating license or safety certificate:

https://www.boatsafe.com/regulations-state-boating-education/

These states include:

  • Alabama - https://law.justia.com/codes/alabama/2016/title-33/chapter-5/article-2/section-33-5-53/ requirement applies even to holders of a USCG master's credential (unless actually operating a vessel commercially, narrowly defined in statute) although the exam is, in that case, waived when applying for the state certificate.  No reciprocity.
  • Connecticut - except operators of boats registered out of state who do not own land in Connecticut
  • Delaware - except nonresidents
  • Florida - persons born before 1980 are grandfathered in.  There is reciprocity with other states.  USCG master's credential entitles the holder to a waiver of the exam but the certificate is still required.
  • Kansas - (even though the state is on the boatsafe.com list the [url=http://kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/statute/032_000_0000_chapter/032_011_0000_article/032_011_0039_section/032_011_0039_k/]statute[/url] indicates it does not apply to persons over the age of 21
  • Maryland - except nonresidents
  • Mississippi - Except persons born before June 30, 1980.  [url=https://law.justia.com/codes/mississippi/2019/title-59/chapter-21/safety-equipment-operation-of-vessels/section-59-21-85/]statute.[/url]  Doesn't apply to vessels that have been rented.  Does not apply to vessels not required to have state registration, statute is confusingly worded but vessels registered in other states or documented would appear to be exempt.
  • New Hampshire - [url=https://www.nhsp.dos.nh.gov/our-services/field-operations-bureau/marine-patrol/boating-education]Broad reciprocity[/url] including other states, USCG masters, Power Squadron
  • Ohio - with reciprocity
  • Oregon - I got bored with looking up and reading the statutes at this point
  • Pennsylvania-
  • Tennessee -
  • Texas -
  • Vermont -
  • West Virginia -

I am in Minnesota which does not have requirements except for youthful operators.

I offer these questions for discussion:

  1. Are you aware of any enforcement actions against cruisers from other states based on these rules?
  2. Do you make any effort to comply outside your home state?
  3. If your home state requires you to have some sort of certificate, do you comply?

I observe that, as written, these laws are burdensome on cruisers, particularly those that are broad enough to apply to, say, a dinghy operated by a guest.

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  • 2airishuman changed the title to State operator license/education requirements

This site suggests that it is more like 45 states, so most boaters should already have one.  Just like a drivers license.

In most cases, it's simply an on-line quiz (though I suspect that official sites are a better bet and certainly cheaper than the commercial link above.)

It's included in pretty much any sort of sailing course.  

Hardly burdensome.  

Enforced only if stopped by LEO for some other jackassery.  

 

Related: I have long been bemused by the requirement to keep a paper fishing license on my person at all times when spearfishing under water. :unsure:  But now our state has gone completely electronic - for fishing and hunting licenses and the required small boat permit (invasive species tag) you must download the app and carry your phone with you at all times:blink:

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37 minutes ago, toddster said:

This site suggests that it is more like 45 states, so most boaters should already have one.  Just like a drivers license.

 

Most states only require them for either youthful operators, PWCs, or both.

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Hawaii requires an certificate, I have not seen or heard of any enforcement.   Washing State requires a boaters card that you have to pay $10 for after completing a course and passing a test you can challenge the course also.   If you are an out of state boater and in Washington for 45 days you must get one, it did not say if this was consecutive or total.  For those in along the border Canada requires a certificate but will accept your most US states certificate..  

      The BoatUS.org courses (free) suffices for most states you still have to take and pass the test.  I am planning a trip to the PNW and will be there for multiple seasons so I have completed the course for Washington and am sending them their $10 for a card.  I have my home state and keep a copy on board with all other required paper work.   I also have copies of other people who sail with me in these files.    

   So yes I comply in both my home state and  while cruising, it is not that hard to comply.   

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From what I recall in my FL days, its not an issue unless you are renting/chartering a boat. I was provably late 20s before I had to take any sort of quiz to do so and it was just very basic rules of the road and nav rules type stuff.

 

From my "LEO" days, I don't recall ever asking a recreational boater to provide any sort of certification. That could very well be because there is no Federal requirement, and so the CG wasn't inclined to enforce? Its been a while since I did any rec boardings, so don't quote me. 

That said, after more SAR cases than I care to count, I certainly WISH there was a more stringent requirement to operate vessels of any type, so please, if you haven't, go take a course.

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4 hours ago, 2airishuman said:

Most states only require them for either youthful operators, PWCs, or both.al

All ages and anything 10hp or more here. 

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New Jersey has an interesting requirement where a license is required on inland waters and a semi-voluntary safety certificate for salt water. As I recall, there was an in person class component which I avoided by showing an MD boating license when I moved to NJ, from Michigan, oddly enough.

Michigan also has a requirement for operators born after '96 or something.

Generally, my experience is the police do not care as long you are not a resident of their state, have a legally registered boat that does not look like a POS and isn't being operated foolishly.

 

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4 hours ago, Driftwood47 said:

That said, after more SAR cases than I care to count, I certainly WISH there was a more stringent requirement to operate vessels of any type, so please, if you haven't, go take a course.

Whether these state mandates to go take a class and pass an exam actually do anything to improve safety is a separate question.

Spoiler, most well-controlled studies of the effect of driver's education on accident rates show that there isn't any safety benefit.  Perhaps boating is different.

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15 hours ago, 2airishuman said:

 

  1. Are you aware of any enforcement actions against cruisers from other states based on these rules?
  2. Do you make any effort to comply outside your home state?
  3. If your home state requires you to have some sort of certificate, do you comply?

I observe that, as written, these laws are burdensome on cruisers, particularly those that are broad enough to apply to, say, a dinghy operated by a guest.

As a traveling boater, I observe that the laws are neither stringent nor enforced, and the lack of awareness and training is frighteningly hazardous in these ever more crowded waters.

I have heard the arguments about safety courses making no difference. I have never seen the actual research, as nobody who makes that case ever seems to provide cites.

Be that as may, it’s odd that for driving on land, one is required to pass muster and have a license, yet in the water they hand you the keys sight unseen. Last time I checked, when one falls out of a land vehicle, one can still breathe and is not facing the additional hazard of drowning…

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17 hours ago, 2airishuman said:

I note that there are now around 10 states that require powerboat operators of any age to possess some kind of boating license or safety certificate:

https://www.boatsafe.com/regulations-state-boating-education/

These states include:

  •  
  • Maryland - except nonresidents
  •  

Not sure where you got that:

From Maryland DNR:

The law requires that any person born on, or after July 1, 1972, must have in their possession a certificate of boating safety education while operating a numbered or documented vessel on Maryland waters. 

 

The odds of this being checked or enforced are virtually nil while on a sailboat. The marine police pretty much ignore all sailboats unless they are on fire. 

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3 hours ago, kent_island_sailor said:

Not sure where you got that:

From Maryland DNR:

The law requires that any person born on, or after July 1, 1972, must have in their possession a certificate of boating safety education while operating a numbered or documented vessel on Maryland waters.

http://statutes.islaws.com/maryland/natural-resources/title-8/subtitle-7/8-712-2

 

§ 8-712.2. Boating safety education.
(a)  When required; certificate required.-  

(1) Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (3), (4), and (5) of this subsection, a person born on or after July 1, 1972 may not operate on the waters of the State a vessel for pleasure that is required to be numbered in accordance with this subtitle or a vessel for pleasure that is required to be numbered in accordance with the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 without first obtaining a certificate of boating safety education. 

[....]

(3) The following persons are exempt from the requirements of this section: 

(i) A person who is operating a vessel in connection with commercial purposes; 

(ii) A person who is a resident of another state and who is visiting the State for 60 days or less in a vessel that is numbered in another state if: 

1. The person is 16 years old or older; or 

2. The person has been issued a boating safety certificate in accordance with the provisions of subsection (c)(6) of this section; 

[...]

 

It is not uncommon for public safety agencies to leave out exceptions in statute that they don't like, when writing a "boating guide" or a web site explaining the laws and regulations.  The Minnesota one has a number of errors.

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19 hours ago, SUbsailor said:

 while cruising, it is not that hard to comply.   

I would think that while cruising along the ICW or Great Loop it would be burdensome to comply with the regulations in the many states to be visited, particularly places like Alabama where there is a requirement to take a proctored exam in person, in state, and there is no reciprocity of any kind.

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13 hours ago, 2airishuman said:

Whether these state mandates to go take a class and pass an exam actually do anything to improve safety is a separate question.

Spoiler, most well-controlled studies of the effect of driver's education on accident rates show that there isn't any safety benefit.  Perhaps boating is different.

I would wager that boating is vastly different. Humans are used to land physics. You would be surprised the amount of folks out there that own boats and still don't fully grasp the concept of not having breaks and that slowing the movement of water across your rudder reduces maneuverability. 

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IIRC, 10 or so years ago the exam I took, and the study booklet I read, in Washington State did not mention anything about sailboats having right of way over motor boats.  WTF!   I've had at least one ridiculous incident with a $100K+, 35 footer exhibiting this lack of awareness as well as many other idiotic and sometimes scary encounters.  I went through the whole exam and certificate registration process until, at the last, they surprised me with the $10 ask.  Being born before the exemption date of 1955 I declined to give them my credit card number, especially since the above most basic tenets of boating was not covered.  Useless card!  I deleted the application.  Born before 1955 I assume that I am legally unlicensed.   Been a sail and motor boater all my life, I'm not concerned about how I operate a vessel and my head is on a swivel at all times to avoid the idiots......with licenses.

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4 hours ago, 2airishuman said:

I would think that while cruising along the ICW or Great Loop it would be burdensome to comply with the regulations in the many states to be visited, particularly places like Alabama where there is a requirement to take a proctored exam in person, in state, and there is no reciprocity of any kind.

Alabama does not require that!

Non-residents 12 years old and older, may operate on Alabama waters up to 45 days per calendar year without having to obtain a vessel operator's license. If operating a vessel for more than 45 days per calendar year, the non-resident must get an Alabama Non-Resident Vessel Operator's License. Non-residents who have obtained a vessel certification or license from their home state may use that in lieu of the Alabama Non-Resident Vessel Operator's License.

This really is a non-issue. The only time this has ever been a hassle is when my parents sent me and my brother ashore to get something from the store while sailing in New England and a Connecticut water cop showed up and was quite irate about me not having a Connecticut boating license, which I I was too young to get anyway, being about 11. I told him since our dinghy had MARYLAND registration we followed MARYLAND rules and had no idea what he was on about. I think he eventually decided arresting bratty elementary school kids was not worth the trouble and left :rolleyes:

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4 minutes ago, kent_island_sailor said:

Alabama does not require that!

Non-residents 12 years old and older, may operate on Alabama waters up to 45 days per calendar year without having to obtain a vessel operator's license. If operating a vessel for more than 45 days per calendar year, the non-resident must get an Alabama Non-Resident Vessel Operator's License. Non-residents who have obtained a vessel certification or license from their home state may use that in lieu of the Alabama Non-Resident Vessel Operator's License.

Interesting, that may well be how they enforce it, but it's not what's in the statute.

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2airishuman I have to agree with Kent Island Sailor a quick google of Alabama Boating  found this Boating Education and Operator Certification/License | Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (alea.gov)  It also appears that there are approved course that you can take and you will not have to take the test in the office.  

      Most of the state  rules I have looked at give you XX number of days in the state before you need to obtain that states certificate/license just like an auto license.   

   

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Texas rule is only for people born after like 1993. Just requires completion of the BoatUS or similar course. Also you have to be over 13 if powerboat with over 15HP or sailboat over 14' loa. Very strange to me since i was out on the water with a 40hp outboard when I was as young as 11. I guess we can blame these new rules on idiots with PWCs.

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On 10/12/2021 at 12:32 PM, Leeroy Jenkins said:

Our PCOC is made to be taken on the spot at a rental outfit. 

In other words - impossible to fail. 

Better than Ontario, there renters are totally exempt and it is up to operators to judge competency.

And in Ontario EVERY water LEO will check to see if you have your boaters card on your person, used to be an easy $200 fine for them and no doubt that has increased.

I've been asked to produce a boaters card countless times.  In a canoe.  Only once on a sailboat.

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