Do you need license for boating in Florida [Explained]

General Info

Do you need a license for boating in Florida? To be eligible to use a motorboat with an engine size greater than 10 horsepower, anyone born after Jan. 1st 1988 must complete an accredited safety course on boating. Once completed, you will receive a Boating Safety Education Identification Card. While you don’t need a license, you will need this safety card if you are born in the above specified time. 


Essentially, the safety card for boating in Florida acts as a license (even though it’s not technically an actual license) You will also need to have photo identification when operating a boat in Florida, this can usually be a passport or other government issued photo identification. 


The safety card ensures you have basic knowledge of operating a boat and are aware of all the safety precautions you must take when hitting the waters. 


Other criteria like being over the age of 14 and not being convicted of boating related incidents in the last 12 months is also required. 



How do you get a safety card for boating in Florida?

Florida Boat Licensing Requirements
Image courtesy of myfwc.com



Step 1: Take A Boater Safety Education Course


To get this card, you will need to complete a course approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservative Commission. (FWC)


There are various places to sit this course. We’ll divide up the course options into two (online and classroom) 


Here’s a list of online courses approved by the board of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservative Commission:


  1. BoatSmart  - TheCampfireCollective.com
  2. Us Power Squadrons - Americasboatingclub.org
  3. Boated Online - Boat-Ed.com 
  4. Boat Tests 101 - Boattests101.com
  5. American Safety Council - Floridaboatingcourse.com
  6. Aceboater - Aceboater.com
  7. Boater Exam - Boaterexam.com
  8. Boated online interactive course iLearntoboat.com
  9. Boat Us - Boatus.org



Here’s a list of classroom courses: 


  1. USPS (United States Power Squadrons) [statewide] - USPS.org or contact 888 - 336 - 2628 
  2. Best Boat Club [Broward County] - info@bestboatclub.com or contact 954 - 784 - 7868
  3. USCG Aux ( United States Coast Guard Auxiliary) [statewide] - wow.uscgaux.info/peclass.php?unit=070 or contact 800 - 336 - 2628



You’ll spend no more than $50 to do this course and Boatus.org has a free version that’s fully approved by the commission.


The courses mentioned above range from online to a classroom environment. You can look around all those options to find what best suits you but I suspect the majority will just take the free version.


The courses  themselves aren’t too difficult You’ll cover everything from boat safety, fire safety., boat maintenance and Florida boating laws. 


The average course is 6 - 8 hours long and generally your final exam will be anywhere from 70 - 100 randomly picked questions. 


Another benefit is that you can do this course at your own pace. If you choose a classroom setting, you'll typically get through it in one day. (8 hours)


For children aged between 12 - 18 years, there is an option to take a free Florida Outdoor Safety Course which covers boating and hunting. 


You must be within the ages mentioned and a Florida resident to avail of this option. This particular course usually takes 18 weeks to complete. 



Step 2: Send Your Information To The Commission 


Upon completion of the course, you’ll need to send a request for the boat safety education i.d. to the FWC with the following information:


  • Your Full Name 
  • Name Of Course
  • Your Full Address
  • Date The Course Was Completed




Don’t worry about submitting this too much as the majority of courses online will do this for you automatically once completed. 


Simply ask your course instructor what are the submission options once you have completed everything. As states, most courses will automatically do this for you. 


 When  your course instructor sends your information automatically, you’ll have the required boating safety i.d. between 2 - 3 weeks upon completion. 


Also, something worth mentioning (especially with online courses) is to make sure you print off a hard copy of proof you’ve taken the course…. Better safe than sorry. 


If your course instructor doesn’t automatically submit your information for you, then you’ll need to do it yourself. 


With the information mentioned above (name, address etc,) you’ll also need to send proof of course completion to:


Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 

Division Of Law Enforcement 

Boating Safety Unit

620 South Meridian Street

Tallahassee, FL. 32399- 1600


Or you can send them an email to bobbercard@myfwc.com with the required information. 





Step 3: Receive the boating safety card & start boating legally 


Once you’ve submitted all the required documents to the above address, you simply wait until your card has arrived and you are good to go.


As mentioned, this will usually take 2- 3 weeks. Once you have your card, make sure you also carry a government i.d. (e.g. Passport) with you while boating also as this is a further requirement. 



Florida Other License Requirements & Exemptions 


On top of needing a safety education card, there are some other requirements.  


  • No one under the age of 14 may operate a boat in Florida
  • There is no age limit on becoming certified so minors can sit the safety course
  • You may be exempt from the law of needing a boating safety id if you are onboard with someone over the age of 18 who already carries such an id. 



If you have been convicted of boating violation or have been involved in a boating accident in the last 12 months, you’re also required to complete a mandatory violator education course also.


For the majority of people reading this, (i.e. those not convicted of the above, you are fine and don’t need to concern yourself with this) 


However, for those that may be concerned about this, you can simply read here for more information on this. 




To summarize, here’s a quick video explaining the process of legally boating in Florida:


Now that the video summed it up nicely, here’s a checklist of the boating license requirements in Florida. 



Step 1

Apply & Do The Safety Course (See Above Options)

Approx. 8 hours

Step 2

Once passed, send information to the FWC (if applicable) 

Approx 10 mins to prepare everything and mail it/email it

Step 3

Wait for ID in the mail

Approx. 2 - 3 weeks 



That’s a simplified checklist to help guide you in the right direction. If you’re new to the world of boating, you might want to check out boating at night, fire safety while boating, how to plane out a boat  or just some general boating guides



Once you do, you’ll already be ahead of most doing the safety course and it should help you speed through it in no time. 




Conclusion


The licensing requirements for boating in Florida aren’t too complicated. You can be sorted and ready to go in as little as 4 weeks and in most cases sooner. Again, as mentioned above, you’ll need to complete a boat safety course. 


This doesn’t have to be complicated and the course is easy to follow along with.  Once everything is submitted and you receive your card in the mail, you are ready to legally boat in Florida. 


This will also be a useful certification  to have when seeking boating insurance and do not forget to provide this card when looking for boating insurance quotes as you may find it decreases your costs quite a lot. 


Most people forget to do this so you have nothing to lose by letting your insurance company know too. 


This safety i.d. will be valid for life so it’s worth it to just get it out of the way as soon as you can before hitting the water. 


And as for the younger generation, the free course mentioned above is a great option that will serve you well when boating in Florida. 


Hopefully, you found this article useful and the best of luck on getting your boating safety id and don’t forget when it’s done you can enjoy the Florida waters!