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Boating Safety Classes and Courses

Boating Safety and Education for All Boaters

No matter where you are in California, a water adventure awaits you – each one as big and unique as the state itself.  It can be majestic as paddling a kayak around San Francisco Bay within view of the Golden Gate Bridge or as heart-thumping as riding the raging flows of the Lower Kern.  You can canoe the quiet might of the lower American River in fall, or fish the mountain splendor of Lake Almanor.  With the endless possibility of water adventures in California, it is increasingly important for recreational boaters to understand how to boat safely.




There are many ways in which individuals can educate, prepare and equip themselves to be safe boaters.  Some courses and classes can be taken online, some sent conveniently to your home, and many in person through various organizations and agencies.

Courses are approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and have received approval from the California Division of Boating and Waterways.  These courses meet the requirements for court-ordered courses.  Those convicted of an alcohol or drug offense or moving violations while boating must pass one of these approved courses and show their earned certificate to the court as proof of meeting their obligation. An added perk in taking a course: many marine insurance providers will honor a NASBLA approved course to reduce their clients' premiums!

Classes provide classroom and on-the-water boating safety education in kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, power-boating, sailing, personal watercraft operation and other aquatic activities. Some centers specialize in programs for the disabled. To view classes, please visit the Aquatic Centers tab for more detailed information.

To understand the many options available to you, please click on the subsequent tabs for the Division of Boating and Waterways, Aquatic Centers, US Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadrons to learn more about the various courses and classes available to you.



Aquatic Center Courses Throughout the State

Aquatic centers are operated by universities, colleges, local public agencies, and non-profit organizations, provide classroom and on-the-water boating safety education in kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, powerboating, sailing, personal watercraft operation and other aquatic activities. Some centers specialize in programs for the disabled.

Minimal cost. Please contact individual aquatic centers for details.

How to take the course
Contact individual aquatic centers for details.


California Boating Home Study Course

The Division of Boating and Waterway's course includes an optional exam with two answer sheets. The exam consists of 60 questions. This correspondence course allows boaters to study at home at their own pace and covers state and federal boating laws, rules of the road, boat handling, required equipment, navigational aids, accident reporting and special topics.

Once completed, the answer sheet can be forwarded to the division for grading. Those who successfully complete the course are awarded certificates of completion. (Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.)

How to take the course
Order a copy or download a PDF version. To complete the test using the .pdf file, contact the division to obtain a scantron form that must be completed and mailed to the division for processing. The Boating Safety Course and scantron may be obtained by e-mailing a request to Melissa Miranda ( Scantrons are not available via fax or e-mail.

Online Personal Watercraft Course

Wave Runners, Jet Skis, Sea Doos, Tigersharks---personal watercraft or PWCs, go by many names, and they all mean fun. They are found at most waterways these days. In 2015, there were nearly 100,000 PWCs registered in California! Personal watercraft are fast, powerful, and fairly easy to operate, but they are also involved in many boating accidents and injuries. With their ever-increasing popularity it is important for all PWC users to know how to operate them safely and with courtesy at all times.

California boating accident statistics paint a picture of PWC use and misuse. For example, PWC account for 13% of registered vessels, but 17% of all reported boating accidents in 2015 involved PWCs. Of those PWC accidents, the majority (59%) involved a collision with another vessel or fixed object. There are three main causes of PWC accidents: inexperience, operating at excessive speed, and inattention on the part of the operator.

Finally, there are two statistics that show a real need for public education on the proper, safe and fun use of PWC; over half of PWC accidents (57%) involved people who had borrowed a vessel and another 37% had rented their equipment. These accidents might not have occurred if the operators had taken the time to read the owner's manual and safety literature that most dealers provide after a sale, or taken a safe boating course.

To take the free DBW Personal Watercraft Safety Course online, click here.

US Coast Guard Auxiliary Courses

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a variety of public educational classes including Boating Skills and Seamanship for powerboats and Sailing and Seamanship for sailors. Both classes generally last 13 weeks and cover legal requirements, rules of the road, aids to navigation marlinspike seamanship, charts and compasses and boat handling. Some auxiliary flotillas also offer classes in basic coastal navigation, boating safely, advanced coastal piloting, advanced coastal navigation, personal watercraft, sailing fundamentals, boat and kids, and water and kids.

Minimal cost. Please contact the United States Coast Guard for details.

How to take the course
For Northern California, call: 1-510-437-3590
For Southern California, call: 1-310-521-6172
or visit the US Coast Guard Auxiliary's website.

US Power Squadrons America's Boating Course

The US Power Squadrons offers a course titled America's Boating Course. Topics in the course include: Introduction to Boating; Boating Law; Boating Safety Equipment; Safe Boating; Navigation; Boating Problems; Trailering, Storing and Protecting Your Boat; and Hunting and Fishing, Water-skiing and River Boating.

The course can be taken in various ways: Internet, 244-page course manual (available in CD) or in a classroom setting. When you sign up, you will receive a complete package that includes a course manual, boating course CD and a PIN number giving you access to the Internet course. The course manual, CD and online course contain identical material, except for state-specific boating laws, which can only be accessed online.

Minimal cost. Please contact the US Power Squadrons for details.

How to take the course
Visit the US Power Squadrons website