As the recreational boating season kicks off this Memorial Day weekend, millions of Californians will be heading out on the water. And with thousands of miles of coast, hundreds of navigable rivers, lakes and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California has plenty of opportunities for fun. Once you have decided where to go, whether you are planning to sail in the bay, kayak along the river or take your boat out on a lake, California State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways wants to remind you to recreate responsibly.  

Here are some safe boating practices to help keep you and your loved ones safe: 

Get Educated

Take a safe boating course and get your California Boater Card. Even the most experienced boaters can learn from safe boating courses.  As of January 1, 2021, all operators of motorized vessels on California waterways who are 40 years of age and younger are required to carry the card. By 2025, all operators of motorized vessels will be required to carry it regardless of age. The lifetime card fee is $10. 

Wear a Life Jacket 

Everyone should wear a properly fitted US. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when in or near the water. You never know when an accident may happen, and a life jacket can help save you until search and rescue personnel arrive. In swift water, even the strongest swimmers may be easily overwhelmed. Don’t have a life jacket? Borrow one for free at one of over 100 local life jacket loaner stations throughout the state. 

Schedule a Vessel Safety Check 

Make sure you have the right safety equipment on board and schedule a vessel safety check with your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons or download a virtual vessel safety check and inspect your boat yourself. 

File a Float Plan 

Before each boating trip, file a float plan and share with a family member or friend the details of your trip in the event of an emergency.

Check the Weather  

Know the latest weather forecast prior to going out and check regularly for changing conditions. Also check wind, wave and tides forecasts and understand how each of these can affect your ability to control your vessel. 

Download Helpful Boating Applications on Your Phone

California State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways has a free mobile app — Boat CA App — that shows users boating facilities, life jacket loan stations, laws, boat registration and more. It is available on the App Store or Google play. 

For additional safety tips, please visit  

In addition to following the safe boating practices, the State of California urges Californians to continue taking common sense prevention steps so we can keep our forward progress in defeating COVID-19. Visit to view the latest COVID-19 guidelines.

State Parks and its Division of Boating and Waterways thanks outdoor enthusiasts for their partnership as we collectively enable responsible recreation that protects the health of visitors and the dedicated parks staff.


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