Life Jackets (also known as PFDs)
Do children have to wear life jackets on boats?
Yes, every child 12 years of age and under on board must be wearing a life jacket for all vessels 26 feet or less in length.
What’s the rule about life jackets on human-powered vessels – canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and rafts?
All kayaks, paddleboards, canoes and rafts, regardless of length, must carry a Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the intended wearer, the conditions and the boating activity. The life jacket must be within easy reach for each person on board. Every child 12 and under must be wearing their life jacket on a paddleboard, kayak, canoe or raft.
What about people being towed behind a boat?
Anyone being towed behind a vessel – on waterski, wakeboard, any inflatable or other device – must wear a life jacket.
How many life jackets do I have to carry on my boat?
Do I need a special license to operate a boat in California?
If you are a California resident, you may need to get a license called a California Boater Card. As of January 1, 2018, the mandatory boating safety education law goes into effect, and will be phased in by age. If you operate any type of motorized vessel on California waterways (including powered sailboats/paddlecraft), you will be required to pass an approved boating safety examination and carry a lifetime California Boater Card. The California Boater Card shows that its holder has successfully taken and passed a NASBLA/state-approved boater safety education examination. In 2018, the California Boater Card program will be phased-in by age for operators of motorized boats on state waterways.
Where can I apply for or get more information about the boater card?
Go to this website: http://www.californiaboatercard.com/
How is the boater card being phased in?
Each year a new age group will be added to those who are required to possess a valid card. By 2025, all persons who operate on California waters will be required to have one. Once issued, the card remains valid for a boat operator’s lifetime. California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 678.11(b) contains the following phase-in schedule based on operator age:
How much does it cost?
The lifetime card fee is $10. The lost card replacement fee is $5.
How is the card issued?
The card is issued by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW). DBW began issuing the California Boater Card on Dec. 1, 2017. Once DBW has received your application, proof of education and payment, you will receive a 90-day temporary boater card by email. You should receive your official boater card by mail within 60 days.
What are the exceptions to the new law?
According to California law the following persons are not required to have a boater card to operate a motorized vessel on California waterways:
Last updated: December 18, 2020