In Delaware, a boating license must be requested by all drivers born after a certain date. Boat operators in this category must complete a state-approved boaters safety course in order to have legal permission to drive most types of recreational water vessels and personal watercraft (PWC). In order to be eligible to complete this education requirement, all Delaware drivers must meet the state’s age requirements. Approved courses on boating are offered both online and in-person at locations across the state.

How to get a boating certificate in Delaware is very simple. Interested students must sign up for an approved course and attend the entire program before completing the course exam, which will qualify them to drive a boat in Delaware. Most types of water vessels are required to be registered by the DFW before they can be legally operated. Students must pay the appropriate enrollment fee to be able to participate in the course. Read on to learn more important information about operating boats in Delaware.

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

A boating course must be completed by any driver born on or after January 1, 1978 to operate a motorized boat or PWC on Delaware waterways. Technically speaking, no drivers need to apply for a license from the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to operate recreational boats. Instead, drivers in the abovementioned group must complete a state-approved education program to legally drive a boat in Delaware.

Delaware Boat License Requirements

The boating license age in order to be able to operate a PWC in Delaware without supervision is 16 years of age. Requirements for drivers of PWC are different than those for the operation of other types of water vessels, which require all drivers born in 1978 or thereafter to complete an education program. Drivers who are 14 or 15 years of age can drive a PWC under the supervision of an adult if they have taken the necessary course.

Getting a Boat License in Delaware

Drivers can apply for an online boating license or complete an in-person course organized by the DFW. Enrolling in a boater safety course online or in the classroom does not affect which topics are covered or what the student must know to pass the final course exam.

Boat operators can easily find the right course for them by going through the DFW’s Boating Safety Course Schedule to see who is currently offering approved courses. An updated version of this list can be found on the DNR web portal.

How long does it take to get a boating license in Delaware? In most cases, courses are offered in single-day format if only covering basic topics when taught in-person. Courses carried out online can be completed at the desired pace of the student but can also usually be completed within a day.

In order to receive credit for taking the course, students may be asked to show their ID when participating in person. State-approved courses are open to boaters of all levels and can be beneficial even to experienced operators of water vessels.

Delaware Boater Safety Courses

The only way to get a boat certification in Delaware is by enrolling in a state-approved education program. Boat safety certificate courses are structured to teach students about the basics of operating a variety of types of water vessels and of following state laws governing the waterways.

Once a student finished the course, he or she should be familiar with how to distinguish between different types of navigational aids, understand water depths and know about the standard speed limits in various zones. Students will also learn about the weather and how to know when it is safe to go out on the water.

Before receiving his or her boater education card, all boat operators must learn about the state laws dictating the correct operation of water vessels and usage of DE natural resources. Drivers will learn about the required equipment every motored vessel must carry, what to do if an enforcement officer stops your vessel and your rights as a boat owner and operator.

Course topics and exam questions are overseen by the DE Office of Boating Safety and Education in collaboration with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, the United States Power Squadrons and the Delaware Safety Council.

Renewing and Replacing a Delaware Boating License

Once a driver receives his or her boat card, he or she is required to keep it with him or her at all times when operating a water vessel. If a driver has somehow lost or damaged his or her boater safety card, he or she is required to order a duplicate before driving a boat again.

Boat operators can call the Office of Boating Safety and Education at 302-739 -9915 to request a replacement card or submit a request by email. Replacement requests should include the driver’s name, date of birth, current address and a current telephone number.

Do boating licenses expire in Delaware? Operators of water vessels do not need to worry about their permit expiring or needing to be renewed. Because the DNR technically requires certificates of completion and not licenses, these permits never expire and never need to be renewed.

Delaware Boat Registration Basics

Boat registration is required for all motorized water vessels with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) before they can be legally operated by the owner in Delaware. All water vessels should have an up-to-date boat title issued by the DNREC if based in the state of Delaware as well. Nonresident boat owners who use their water vessel in Delaware waters for more than 60 consecutive days are also required to title and register their boat.

Upon successful registration, boat registration stickers will be provided to the owner to be affixed to the water vessel. These stickers are important for demonstrating you are currently meeting state requirements. DE boat operators can choose to submit a registration application by mail or in-person at a Boat Registration Agent. All requests must include the necessary application fee to be processed. Requests for registration renewal can be made online.

Delaware Boating Rules and Regulations

Delaware boating rules were created to keep boaters and others enjoying the state’s waterways safe while also protecting the state’s natural habitat. Many boating regulations regard the safety and emergency response equipment that most types of motorized boats are required to carry at all times.

Boating laws are enforced in much the same way as other transportation laws and can result in the same sort of penalties or charges for wrongdoing. Some examples of boat requirements that all water vessel owners in Delaware must adhere to include:

  • All water vessels must have at least one wearable, Type I, II or III life jacket (PFD) U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved life jacket on board for every person on the boat at all times.
  • All water vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have at least one throwable Type IV 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 motorboats under 26 feet in length must have one functional B-1 type hand-portable fire extinguisher on board, boats 26 to 40 feet in length must have two fire extinguishers, boats 40 to 65 feet must have three fire extinguishers, etc.
  • Passengers on all water vessels who are 12 years of age or younger must wear a Type I, II or III USCG-approved life jacket when the boat is in motion unless below deck.
  • All boat passengers of any age aboard any type of personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a USCG-approved life jacket at all times.
  • All boat passengers of any age being towed behind a vessel must wear a Type I, II or III life jacket at all times.
  • Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited in Delaware. Any driver found to be operating water vessel while impaired could face criminal charges.

Delaware Boating License Fees

The cost for a state-approved online boaters safety course depends on where the driver registers, but generally runs between $20 and $30. In-person classes range in price so interested drivers should contact the provider before signing up to confirm the course cost.

Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.