Annual ‘Spring Aboard’ campaign reminds boaters to get educated

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

During the national Spring Aboard campaign, March 18 through 24, 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 — and certified — 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 you are out on the water, you are responsible for knowing the laws and keeping yourself and others safe,” said Wade Alonzo, State Parks Boating Program Manager. “Boating trends and statistics tell us that educated boaters are less likely to get in an accident. When people take a course, they learn a variety of skills that make them better boaters. We want our waterways to be safe and fun for all recreational boaters.”

Alonzo added, “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; or (for boaters who already have significant boating experience) a home study and equivalency exam. 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 Washington State Parks Boating Program, the one-time fee for the card is $10. More information about courses and the boater education card can be found at

Photo by Morf Morford
Photo by Morf Morford

Some important things to know:

U.S. Coast Guard statistics indicate that of the accidents where the level of operator education was known, 80 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, both of 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, 2018, more than 314,000 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

About National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA): NASBLA is a national nonprofit organization that works to develop public policy for recreational boating safety. NASBLA represents the recreational boating authorities of all 50 states and the U.S. territories. The association offers a variety of resources, including training, model acts, education standards and publications. Through a national network of thousands of professional educators, law enforcement officers and volunteers, NASBLA affects the lives of more than 73.5 million American boaters. For more information, visit

– Washington State Parks