Getting a Massachusetts boating license is a state requirement for boat operators of a certain age. However, this license is more commonly referred to as a certificate. An MA boat safety certificate is necessary for residents between 12 and 17 years of age, depending on the type of watercraft that is going to be operated. In general, this certificate can only be obtained after applicants complete a basic boaters safety course that is approved by the state’s Boat and Recreation Vehicle Safety Bureau.

Boat operators in Massachusetts must understand how to get a boating license in addition to learning about the rules and regulations are for operating watercraft on state waterways. Having a good understanding of what the consequences are for boating without a certificate is also important. To learn more about the age requirements and the required procedures for this type of credential, continue reading the sections below.

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

In Massachusetts, getting a boat license is not necessary. On the other hand, a boater safety card/certificate is required for boat operators between 12 and 17 years of age.

No residents younger than 12 years of age may operate a motorboat unless accompanied on board and directly supervised by a responsible adult who is 18 years of age or older. Furthermore, personal watercraft (PWC) users must be at least 16 years of age.

Whether or not an MA boat safety certificate is required depends on the age of each applicant and the type of boat being operated. Thus, general requirements include:

  • Motorboats: Residents between 12 and 15 years of age must complete an approved boating course in order to obtain the certificate to be able to operate a motorboat without needing adult supervision. Motorists who are older than 15 years of age may operate a motorboat without obtaining a certificate.
  • Personal watercraft (PWC): Motorists who are 16 or 17 years of age must complete approved boating classes in order to obtain the certificate to be able to operate personal watercraft without needing adult supervision. However, if you are older than 17 years of age, you may operate personal watercraft without obtaining a certificate.

Massachusetts Boat License Requirements

The boating license age is one of the most important eligibility requirements to be aware of when applying for a safety certificate. Applicants must be between 12 and 15 years of age to get a certificate for a motorboat, or be 16 or 17 years of age to get a certificate for a personal watercraft. The other boat license requirements include passing the required course.

Getting a Boat License in Massachusetts

To get a boater education card in Massachusetts, you must complete an approved course. To do so, you need to find a program that is approved by the state’s Boat and Recreation Vehicle Safety Bureau and apply through the methods that they provide.

There are multiple approved boating classes in MA that you can enroll in as long as you are the appropriate age. Once the education course is complete, you will receive your boat card.

Massachusetts Boater Safety Courses

Boating school allows students between 12 and 17 years of age to gain valuable information about how to properly operate a motorboat and/or a personal watercraft. These classes cover important information such as the safety requirements that must be abided by and the equipment that is required on each vessel.

The format of a boaters safety course varies depending on the institution where you take it. On the other hand, the standard structure is approximately 10 to 12 hours of instruction divided into five or six separate classes. Only once the course has been completed successfully will a valid certificate be awarded.

Renewing and Replacing a Massachusetts Boating License

If you are wondering, “Do boating licenses expire?” you must know that the certificate you receive does not have an expiration date. Rather, it ceases to be necessary once you are either 16 years of age (if operating a motorboat) or 18 years of age (if you are operating a personal watercraft). If you lose your boat safety certificate, contact the institution that issued it in order to learn what the requirements are for getting a replacement.

Massachusetts Boat Registration Basics

Massachusetts state law requires a boat registration for any motor-powered vessel operated on public waterways. This includes canoes and sailboats with motors, jet skis or wet bikes and motorized fishing boats. However, you are not required to register non-motorized boats, and you do not need to apply for a registration if the U.S. Coast Guard has issued you a documented watercraft registration.

To get your boat registration stickers, you must provide certain documentation. This includes a bill of sale or manufacturer’s statement of origin, along with proof of paid sales tax, the hull ID/serial number, a completed application form and a payment method for the applicable fees.

Massachusetts Boating Rules and Regulations

There are multiple boating regulations that must be followed. Overall, operating a motorboat or personal watercraft can be extremely dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. Thus, Massachusetts boat requirements are set in place to help boat operators keep themselves, their passengers and everyone else safe while on a waterway.

General boating laws include information about where and when motorboats can be operated in addition to much more. The following is prohibited:

  • Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 is the current standard in Massachusetts.
  • Operating a motorboat within 150 feet of a public or private swimming area.
  • Operating at an excessive speed considering the current weather conditions, boat traffic and other hazards. Operating at a speed greater than 45 m.p.h. on inland waters is considered negligent and is prohibited.
  • Operating a motorboat during the nighttime while towing tubers, water-skiers, etc.
  • Operating a motorboat that does not have properly working lights.
  • Operating at greater than six mph when within 150 feet of a swimmer, water-skier, marina, boat launch, mooring area or when the operator’s vision is obscured in any way.
  • Operating in an overloaded condition by carrying more than capacity.
  • Operating with passengers on any area of the boat where there may be a chance of falling overboard.

Personal watercraft must abide by all of the above-mentioned Massachusetts boating laws and navigation rules, including speed restrictions. In addition, PWC motorists must also adhere to additional regulations. When operating a personal watercraft, you must:

  • Wear an approved life jacket at all times.
  • Always operate at a slow, no-wake speed of six mph or less when within 150 feet of a swimmer, water-skier, shoreline, boat launch, or when your vision is obscured in any way.
  • Attach the safety lanyard to yourself and the cutoff/kill switch.

Massachusetts Boating License Fees

Getting a boating license/certificate is available at no cost for residents who are 12 years of age or older, as long as the approved boating safety course does not charge a fee. For instance, the company called ‘Boat Massachusetts’ is a recognized institution that is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and provides classes for free. The certificate that is awarded after completion of the course is also provided at no cost.

Last updated on Thursday, March 7 2019.

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