In Alaska, a boating license is not required by operators of recreational water vessels being used anywhere in the state. While enrolling in a boaters safety course is highly recommended by the Alaska Office of Boating Safety, it is not required to legally operate a boat. Approved education programs cover a wide range of important boating topics that can be helpful for even experienced operators.

Boaters do not have to pass any type of boater exam to be eligible to drive a boat in Alaska. In order to be able to drive a water vessel in Alaska, boaters simply have to meet the state’s age requirement. Most types of recreational water vessels must be registered with the AK Division of Motor Vehicles to be used in the state. Keep reading to learn more about available education programs and other applicable boater details.

Do you need a license to drive a boat in Alaska?

Unlike in most states, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not require any form of license to be able to legally boat recreationally anywhere in the state. Similarly, the DNR does not require boaters to enroll in an approved education program or pass a state exam. All boaters are encouraged to take a comprehensive course for boaters all the same.

Alaska Boat License Requirements

The minimum age for operators of water vessels in Alaska is 14 years of age. The requirements for any boater under 14 years of age include being supervised by an adult to drive any type of water vessel.

All minors and adults over 14 years of age can operate most types of recreational water vessels in Alaska without prior permission. No residency requirements apply.

Getting a Boat License in Alaska

How to get a boating license in Alaska, possibly for use in other states or simply to learn more about boating, comes down to enrolling in an approved education program. The DNR has approved several classes taught both in the classroom and online. Interested boat operators can review the DNR’s list of classroom-based programs currently offering courses and acceptable online programs to find the one that is best for them.

Once the boater has found a suitable boater safety course online or in-person, he or she will usually be asked to provide his or her identification information to sign up. Upon completion of the course, the boater should keep the certificate of completion with him or her when operating a water vessel anywhere outside of Alaska for verification purposes.

Alaska Boater Safety Courses

There are several types of boating classes that boaters of water vessels can sign up for if living in Alaska. Perhaps the Boating Safety Program’s premier boating course is the Alaska Water Wise course, also approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and therefore accepted across the country.

The United States Power Squadrons (USPS) also provides a free in-person course on public boating that is offered at locations across Alaska, free of charge. These courses teach hands-on boating skills to help boaters of all experience levels learn more about the water.

Multiple online boaters safety course programs have also been approved by the Office of Boating Safety. These courses generally last between four and eight hours, but can be completed at the chosen pace of the student. Online courses offer the same type of NASBLA-approved certification as in-person programs.

Once completed, students of any boating course should be familiar with how to safely operate a variety of types of water vessels and what to do in the case of an emergency. AK laws and regulations governing the waterways are also reviewed.

Renewing and Replacing an Alaska Boating License

Because no certification is obligatory in Alaska, boat operators do not need to worry about renewing or replacing licenses or certificates. Boaters who have taken an approved education program and received a card as proof of their completion can request a replacement if the card is lost or damaged by contacting the original provider of the course.

Alaska Boat Registration Basics

Boat registration with the AK Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is required from the owners of most types of powered water vessels based in Alaska. The DMV does not require boat title applications, however, instead using another form of water vessel identification. When a boater acquires a new boat or moves to Alaska, he or she is required to request a new water vessel registration. Registration applications are accepted in-person at local DMV offices around the state.

Upon successful registration, boat registration stickers will be provided to the vessel owner to be clearly affixed to the hull of the boat. These decals demonstrate that the water vessel is correctly registered and are necessary to avoid penalties and fines. Registration documents and decals are valid for three years from the month of purchase.

Alaska Boating Rules and Regulations

Boating rules in Alaska were created with the safety of both the citizens and the protection of the state’s natural resources in mind. As a result, AK boating regulations govern how boat operators are allowed to use their vessels in various types of areas, how they must interact with other boaters and navigational challenges, what to do in an emergency and more.

Being familiar with AK boating laws is essential for safe boating and for avoiding trouble with the law. Some examples of commonly applied boating requirements that all operators of water vessels in Alaska should be aware of include:

  • All water vessels must have at least one wearable, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved life jacket on board for every person on the boat at all times.
  • Passengers on all water vessels who are under 13 years of age must wear an USCG-approved life jacket securely fastened at all times when on an open boat or being towed.
  • All water vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have at least one throwable USCG-approved personal flotation device.
  • All life jackets must fit appropriately according to the age, weight and activity of expected occupants and be in proper, usable condition.
  • All water vessels with a motor, living space, enclosed storage, etc. must have at least one Type B-1 fire extinguisher on board.
  • All motorized watercraft and sailboats must display the necessary navigation lights at an appropriate strength from sunset to sunrise and during restricted visibility.
  • Driving while intoxicated on drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited in Alaska. Boaters found operating a boat while impaired will face criminal charges.

Alaska Boating License Fees

The price of boating education depends on which course the boater has signed up for. Most in-person programs offered by the state are free, though some can cost up to $50. Online education programs generally carry an enrollment fee of $20 to $30, but free options can usually be found.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.