In the State of Washington, if you’re 12 years old or older and plan to operate a boat with a powered engine of 15-horse or more, you’re required to have a Boater Education Card on your person or readily available on the vessel.

How do you get one? The State has a pretty easy system giving you three options; (1) attend an instructor-led online course, (2) take a self-study course, or (3) home study and exam. You’ll learn everything you need to know about safe boating, boating laws, and even some valuable navigation information, like who has the right-of-way, how to pass and over-take a vessel, and the rules of pulling a wakeboarder or tuber.

I was surprised to learn (a number of years ago) that the course was required for nearly all boaters – even if you have years of boating experience (boaters born before Jan. 1, 1955 are exempt).

I chose the online home study course and exam. From start to finish, it took me about 3 hours – and I have years of experience operating large and small vessels in open ocean, the Puget Sound, navigating locks, and on rivers. I would plan on carving out at least 5 hours, just in case. There’s no way to hurry up the course, which is full of videos and multiple choice questions.

Once you pass, you’ll have to pay a one-time $10.00 fee to receive your card - and you’re done! You’ll never have to take the course again – unless you want too.

The fine for not having a Boater Education Card is $99.00. Last year in Washington State there were 24 boating fatalities and one of those was a registered Boater Education Card holder. Happy boating!

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