Just a head's up to the forumites from California. It's one of those things that's been on the horizon since 2014 and to which people really haven't paid much attention, but California will begin the phase in of its "watercraft operator's license" requirement starting with all persons 20 years or younger starting the first of next year, which is only eight months from now. The "phase-in" will start at age 20 and below and add five years to the age requirement each year, 25 year olds and younger must have the "license" as of 1-1-19, 30 year olds and younger starting 1-1-20 and so on up to age 60, when on 1-1-26, everybody's got to have one to operate a motorized watercraft. (There are some exceptions for commercial fishermen, people who have USCG commercial operators' licenses, boat liveries, and such.) There's no penalty for getting the card before you reach the age you absolutely must have it to operate anything that's got a motor on California waters. Once you get the card, it's good for life with no retesting or renewals required. FAQs: http://dbw.ca.gov/pages/28702/files/...s%201.5.17.pdf
The officially-named "Boater Education Card" is much like the "Hunter Safety Card" that you have to get before you can obtain a California hunting license. It's not a "photo ID" like a California drivers' license, but you are going to need one in order to operate any sort of motor powered watercraft in California once the phase-in reaches your age and, apparently, wear it visible on your person like a California hunting or fishing license, so game wardens, park rangers, Coast Guard or whoever can verify from a distance that you have the "license."
The license is obtained by taking a California approved vessel operators' safety course and passing a written examination, much like the DMV's drivers' license written exam. At present, unlike the drivers' test, there is only a requirement to pass the written exam. A number of for-profit outfits have already jumped into the market providing approved boater safety classes for a price. However, a workbook can be obtained free from the State and mail-in written tests can be taken "open book" at home. The free workbook and tests can be obtained here: http://www.dbw.ca.gov/?page_id=28734 Note that the "boating license" program will be administered by the Department of Boating and Waterways, not the DMV, although information on the program can be obtained through the DMV as well.
Most responsible boaters have taken a water safety class at some point in their boating careers. At present, the tests, like the DMV drivers' license written tests, aren't at all any more academically challenging for experienced boaters than the drivers' written tests are for experienced drivers. As with most bureaucratic things, it can be expected that over time the requirements may become more complex and perhaps fees be imposed, so it would seem getting the "boating license' sooner rather than later is probably a prudent thing.
This sort of thing really grates on my libertarian attitude towards authority, but it's been a long time coming and it's here now. Nothing to do about it but comply. Many thanks to the many drunken jackasses who go screaming around the lakes and reservoirs in go-fast boats and jet skis every summer killing themselves and others. It always seems that there's somebody who ruins any good thing for everybody!