Boating Safety Classes and Courses

  • About
    Division of
    Boating and Waterways
    US Coast
    Guard Auxiliary
    US Power

    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 viewclasses, 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.

    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.)

    This course is accepted for court-ordered requirements. Click here to view other approved court-required boating courses.


    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 Sara Schlussler. Scantrons are not available via fax or e-mail.

    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.

    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.

    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. To find a class in your area, click here.