Boat Safety Courses for Teen Boaters

15-year-old Matt Mainzer credits his boat safety courses for knowing what to do when his boat started to sink. photo courtesy of BoatUS

Teens on boats need proper boat safety education and training – especially when operating a boat on their own

Kids that grow up on the water learn at a very early age the importance of basic boat safety rules for kids. But the level of necessary boat safety knowledge increases much more when kids are old enough to begin operating a small boat on their own. Teens are given a lot of responsibility when they take the helm, and they should be properly trained to handle any situation on the water.

BoatUS Foundation recently shared a story about  15-year Matt Mainzer who decided to take a couple of friends out boating one Sunday afternoon in late March. He found himself and his friends floating in life jackets hanging on to the overturned hull of his 17-foot flats boat awaiting rescue. As water started to fill the boat through a rapidly widening crack in the hull the teen realized it was starting to sink so the teens grabbed their lifejackets and jumped overboard.

According to Matt, his boating safety education helped him survive the day. He took the no-cost online boating safety course provided by the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and said, “I wouldn’t have known what I needed to know if I hadn’t taken the boating safety course.”

There was a lot of quick thinking that the teen did based on his boat safety training that helped the outcome be so good… he used a cell phone in a waterproof case to alert a friend of the situation and initiate rescue… he had life jackets easily accessible… he told his friends to hang onto the boat’s hull… and he kept everyone calm while waiting for rescue.

Boating Safety Education Laws

In most U.S. states you don’t need a boater’s license to operate a boat, but you do need a boater education safety card.

In most U.S. states taking a boat safety course is not just good to do – its mandatory boater safety education law in place in order to drive a boat. Requirements for boat safety courses vary by state in the U.S. (because different states may have different regulations) so you need to take a course designed specifically for your state requirements for boating or PWC (personal watercraft).

Laws are often centered around the age of the teen and size of the boat – with 16 years old being the threshold for whether or not they can operate a boat alone.

To look up boating laws by state, check out U.S. Power Squadron’s America’s Boat Course Laws by State. They have an easy map selection tool to see if your state requires boating safety courses.

Passing a boat safety course will not only ensure your teen safer on the water (and compliant with local laws), but in many cases it will also likely lower your boat insurance rate.

Finding Boat Safety Courses

There are several good sources for finding boat safety courses worth checking out:

When choosing a boater safety course for your teen, make sure that the course is approved by the National Association of Safe Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard (or Transport Canada approved in Canada).

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Diane Seltzer

View posts by Diane Seltzer
Diane is the founder of as well as the boating lifestyle site Active in the boating industry, Diane has also led the marketing for multiple recreational boating businesses and startups and is the author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.
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