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Posted on: March 10, 2021

Annual ‘Spring Aboard’ campaign launches this month

State Parks Boating Program encourages boaters to get educated about safety 

OLYMPIA – March 10, 2021 – The Washington State Parks Boating Program encourages boaters and paddlers to prepare for the upcoming season by taking a safety education course.

Spring Aboard logoDeveloped by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), and produced under a grant administered by the U.S. Coast Guard, the annual Spring Aboard campaign, which runs from March 21 – 27, provides information on how to enroll in a boating safety education course.

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.

Last year, 24 recreational boating fatalities occurred in Washington state. Only one of these fatalities involved an operator who had formal boater safety education. Paddling accounted for 13 of the 24 fatalities. 

“With the rise in fatal accidents among paddlers, marine law enforcement from around the state strongly encourages all boaters to take a safety course,” said Matt Stowers, State Parks Marine Law Enforcement Coordinator. “When people take a boating safety course, they learn a variety of skills that can make them better boaters and help keep our waters safer.”

How do boaters get certified?
 During the COVID pandemic, boaters have these three options: 

  • Instructor-led virtual classroom course.
  • Online self-study.
  • Home study and equivalency exam (recommended 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. 

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, in 2019, of the accidents where the level of operator education was known, 70 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 Feb. 28, more than 404,712 Washingtonians have a Boater Education Card.
  • Forty-nine states and U.S. territories require proof of completing of a boating education course for operators of some powered vessels.
  • When required by law, the minimum fine for not carrying a valid Boater Education Card in Washington state is $99.

News media contacts:
Christina Fremont, State Parks Boating Program, (360) 902-8837
Toni Droscher, Communications Office, (360) 902-8604 or 


About the Washington State Boating Program
Washington State Parks 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 Washington State Parks

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. The Commission provides a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens and provides stewardship protection for a diverse array of natural, cultural and historic resources. State Parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation. 

News release number: 21-013

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