Annual ‘Spring Aboard’ campaign reminds boaters to get educated about life on the water

National week-long campaign kicks off March 17

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission Boating Program wants boaters to be prepared for the upcoming season by taking a safety education course.

During the National Spring Aboard campaign, March 17 through 23, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) along with state, federal and nonprofit partners are coordinating efforts that aim to get boaters educated in boating safety before boating season begins.

Why be certified in boating safety? For many boaters, it’s the law. In Washington state, boaters who operate a vessel with a 15-horsepower engine — or greater — must be certified and carry a Boater Education Card to prove they passed an accredited boating safety education course.

“When people take a boating safety course, they learn a wide variety of skills that can make them a better — and safer — boater,” said Rob Sendak, State Parks Boating Program Manager. “We strongly encourage all boaters to take a safety education course, even if they aren’t legally required to.”

How do boaters get certified? Generally, boaters have three options:

An instructor-led course

An online self-study

A home study and equivalency exam (recommended only for boaters who already have a lot of boating experience)

Each course gives a strong foundational knowledge of boating safety, emergency procedures and navigational rules. During the Spring Aboard week, many course providers offer discounts or other incentives for students who enroll in a course.

How do boaters obtain a Boater Education Card? After completing and passing a state-approved boating safety course or equivalency exam, students must apply for a Boater Education Card with their proof of certification. Many online course providers will complete this step and charge a third-party fee. If boaters apply directly with the Boating Program, the one-time fee for the card is $10. More information about courses and the boater education card can be found at

Some important things to know:

U.S. Coast Guard statistics indicate that, of the accidents where the level of operator education was known, 81 percent of boating deaths occurred on boats where the boat operator had never received boating education instruction.

Boat operators born before Jan. 1, 1955, are exempt from the Washington requirement but may choose to get a card if they plan to go boating in Canada or Oregon, which require proof of having completed a boating education course. The Washington State Boater Education Card is valid in those two areas.

As of Jan. 15, 2019, more than 342,000 Washingtonians have a Boater Education Card.

Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of completion of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels.

When required by law, the fine for not carrying a valid Boater Education Card in Washington state is $99.

About the Washington State Boating Program

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission administers the state’s Boating Program, which provides leadership in boating safety and environmental education and outreach. The goal of the program is to reduce accidents and fatalities, increase stewardship of Washington waterways, and keep recreational boating a safe, accessible and enjoyable pastime. For more information on the Boating Program, visit

– Washington State Boating Program