Written by attorney Sean Michael Cichowski

Texas Boating Law: Your Guide to New Boater Education Law

New Boating Safety Course Required by TPWD

For years, anyone could operate a recreational boat without taking any courses or receiving any certification. This recently changed. The Texas Legislature enacted a law whereby people meeting the age and boater education requirements must now receive a Boater Education Card in order to ** legally operate recreational vessels in Texas.** This new law applies to anyone operating the following vessels in Texas: 1) a powerboat powered by a motor of more than 15 horsepower, or 2) a personal watercraft, or 3) a windblown vessel over 14 feet in length. This carves out many of the smaller vessels such as kayaks and small sailboats, but could also cause some problems. As a kayak fisherman myself, I know many people have either bought a line of kayaks over 14 feet long that come with a sail option, or have rigged up homemade or aftermarket sails to their kayaks. Under this new law, anyone meeting the age restrictions using these kayaks under sail would be required to have their Boater Education Card. Anyone under 13 years old cannot operate one of these vessels without the supervision of a person who: 1) is 18 years old or older, 2) can lawfully operate the wartercraft, and 3) is on board while the vessel is underway. Anyone 13 years old or older who was born on or after September 1, 1993 cannot legally operate one of these vessels unsupervised without passing the boater education course and obtaining the Boater Education Card. So if you have a child, friend, or relative who was born on or after September 1, 1993 who is 13 or older, they must obtain a Boater Education Card in order to legally operate these types of recreational vessels. In order to obtain a Boater Education Card, you must complete a boating education and safety course offered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. You must register for the course, study online course material that is available for free at the TPWD website, and then pass an exam. After passing the exam, the State requires a $20.00 fee in order to print out a temporary certificate. Later, a permanent card will arrive in the mail. While the law only requires that people born on or after September 1, 1993 obtain their Boater Education Card, it is a good idea for anyone new to boating or watercraft to take the course. The materials are free online and cover all aspects of boating education and safety, including the parts of a boat, vessel capacity, getting the vessel into and out of the water safely, safe navigation, and government regulations. Even if you have been on the water for years, it never hurts to study up on proper boating safety.

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