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Navigating Washington Waters: Understanding Boater Education Requirements

By Injury at Sea

The vast waterways of Washington beckon adventure seekers, offering peaceful relaxation and thrilling experiences. But before setting sail, understanding the state’s regulations is crucial for ensuring a safe and legal journey. One essential rule concerns boater education, outlined in RCW 79A.60.640. Let’s navigate this regulation and empower you to explore Washington State’s waters safely and with confidence!

Who Needs a Boater Education Card?

Generally, anyone operating a motor-driven boat or vessel with 15 horsepower or more in Washington requires a boater education card. This applies to individuals above 12 years old, except for personal watercraft operators who must follow different age requirements.


The rule includes several exemptions, so don’t automatically assume you need a card. You are exempt if:

  • You hold a valid commercial fishing license and operate a vessel for fishing.
  • You possess a valid US Coast Guard marine operator license while operating an authorized vessel.
  • You operate a vessel exempt from registration for law enforcement or official government work.
  • You rent, charter, or lease a boat and complete a commission-approved checklist before each operation (except for personal watercraft).
  • You’re a non-resident operating a boat for less than 60 consecutive days.
  • You hold an equivalent boater education certificate from another state or country.
  • You have purchased the boat within the last 60 days and have a bill of sale as proof.
  • You are involved in a permitted racing event with proper documentation.
  • You were born before January 1, 1955.

Carrying Your Card

If you require a boater education card, ensure you carry it when operating a vessel and present it to law enforcement upon request. Alternative licenses, like commercial fishing or Coast Guard licenses, can also be presented depending on the exemption you fall under.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Missing a required boater education card is an infraction, but the penalty can be waived if you obtain the card within 60 days and provide proof to the court.

Beyond the Card

While a boater education card equips you with essential knowledge, responsible boating goes beyond legal compliance. Familiarize yourself with additional regulations, weather conditions, and safe boating practices to ensure a truly enjoyable and worry-free adventure.

Injury at Sea: Your Advocates for Safe Waters in Washington State

At Injury at Sea, we champion maritime safety and advocate for injured boaters. If you encounter an accident or sustain an injury while navigating Washington’s waters, our experienced legal team stands by your side. We understand the complexities of maritime law and are dedicated to securing fair compensation for those impacted by boating incidents.

If you have any questions, call one of our qualified maritime injury attorneys at 1-800-732-7258 or email us at to schedule your free consultation with an experienced maritime injury lawyer.


The information contained in this update is provided for informational purposes only. Please contact your attorney to obtain advice on any particular legal matter.

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