Boating Safety Tips


  • Take a safe boating course and get your California Boater Card. 
    • Even the most experienced boaters can learn from boating safety courses. 
    • As of Jan. 1, 2021, all operators of motorized vessels on California waterways who are 40 years of age and younger are required to carry a lifetime boater card. By 2025, all operators of motorized vessels will be required to carry one regardless of age.
  • Conduct a Vessel Check:
    • Make sure you have the right safety equipment on board your boat such as life jackets, flares, navigation lights, a horn or whistle, and a first aid kit. 
    • Click here to download the virtual safety check form or to schedule a vessel safety check.
  • File a Float Plan: Email/text a float plan to a loved one or friend with details of your trip in the event of an emergency.
  • Check the weather. Know the latest weather forecast prior to going out and check regularly for changing conditions.
  • Wear a Life Jacket:
    • Everyone should wear a properly fitted US. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when in or near the water. You never know when an accident may happen, and a life jacket can help save you until search and rescue help can arrive.
    • In swift water, even the strongest swimmers may be easily overwhelmed. By the time a person is struggling in the water, a rescue is extremely unlikely and places the rescuer at risk. 
    • DBW works with water safety partners throughout the state to offer programs to help ensure boaters have access to life jackets. For example, life jackets can be borrowed for free at one of over 100 local life jacket loaner stations throughout the state.
  • Avoid Alcohol:
    • Do not drink and boat. Alcohol continues to be the leading known contributing factor in recreational boating deaths in the United States.
    • It is against the law in California to operate a boat or water ski with a blood concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more. Officers may arrest boaters with a BAC less than 0.08% if conditions are deemed unsafe.
    • BUI convictions can result in up to six months in jail and/or fines of up to $1,000. Two convictions within seven years could add a jail term of up to one year. Boaters caught operating under the influence may also have their voyage terminated and their vessel impounded.
  • Actively Supervise Children:
    • Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention. Do not assume that someone is watching them.
    • Appoint a designated “water watcher,” taking turns with other adults.
    • Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: they need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.
  • Stow it, don’t throw it
    • Keep your trash on-board. Never throw garbage into waterways. Take advantage of shore-side facilities to recycle plastic, glass, metal and paper.
    • Used fishing line can be deposited at fishing-line recycling stations.
  • Download helpful boating applications on your phone. The Boat CA App is a free mobile app that shows you boating facilities, life jacket loan stations, laws, boat registration and more.

For more water safety information, including boating laws and a boating facility locator on over 1,450 marinas and waterbody managers, please visit