Refresh Your Knowledge Of Boating Safety


Summer is in full swing. With so much water access, it’s important to make sure you’re using best practices and following safety guidelines when enjoying the water.

Here are some reminders of boating safety from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:

Boating Safety Education Requirement

In Maryland, the law states that anyone born on or after July 1, 1972, must possess a certificate of boating safety education in order to operate any motorized vessel. This certificate is non-renewable and must be carried by the student at all times while operating a vessel. Officers may or may not ask to see the certificate during a vessel check and, if not provided, you can be charged with a minimum of $25 for the first offense and up to $500 for each offense thereafter.

Boating safety courses are offered all across the state. Prices, times and locations may vary. Please contact the provider by calling the number provided. Any further questions can be answered by contacting the Natural Resources Police safety education section at 410-643-8502.

As of October 1, 2010, anyone under the age of 16, operating a motorized vessel 11 feet in length or greater without a valid boating safety certificate, must be under the supervision of an individual 18 years of age or older who possesses a valid boating safety certificate or an individual born before July 1, 1972. If an individual under the age of 16 is operating a motorized vessel less than 11 feet in length, a person of any age possessing a valid certificate of boating safety can provide supervision.

Three Ways to Get a Maryland Safe Boating Certificate


The Maryland Basic Boating Course is taught by trained instructors and must be a minimum of eight hours in length. Instructors may use visual aids, movies, projected images, and other methods to provide information to class members.


The Maryland Basic Boating Course is available online. However, there is no opportunity to ask questions since there is no instructor. Study at home, on your own schedule, and at your own pace. When you pass the online exam from one of the providers listed below, you will be instructed as to how you will receive your valid boating safety certificate.

Three online course options:

  • - by Boat Ed (1-800-830-2268)
  • - by Boater Exam (1-866-764-2628)
  • - By Boat US Foundation (1-800-245-2628)

Maryland Boating Equivalency Exam

The safety education section suggests that boaters attend a Maryland basic boating class (remember, the law specifies that anyone born on or after July 1, 1972, must have a Certificate of Boating Safety Education in order to operate a mechanically propelled vessel on Maryland waters). However, due to certain circumstances, some people are unable to attend all sessions of the eight-hour course. In order to facilitate the availability of the course, the Maryland Natural Resources Police safety education section has created the Maryland Basic Boating Equivalency Examination. Boaters who are unable to attend the class, and are in need of a Certificate of Boating Safety Education, may obtain a copy of the Boat Maryland textbook, the textbook used in all boating safety classes, at one of the locations listed below. After studying the material contained in the textbook, contact one of the test sites marked with an asterisk, to schedule a date and time to take the exam. The exam consists of 65 multiple-choice questions designed to measure comprehension in regard to information contained in the textbook. A score of 80% is required to pass the examination. Failure to pass the examination after two attempts will require a student to attend a classroom course in order obtain the Certificate of Boating Safety Education.

Bow Riding is Illegal


  • A typical three-blade propeller running at 3,200 rpm can inflict up to 160 cuts in one second.
  • A typical propeller can travel from head to toe in less than one tenth of a second.
  • Most propeller strikes are preventable.


  1. Never allow passengers to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom, seat backs, or other spots where they might fall overboard.
  2. Wear your engine cut-off switch lanyard and your life jacket at all times. If the lanyard is removed from the switch, the engine will not shut off.
  3. Assign a passenger to keep watch around the propeller area of your boat when people are in the water.
  4. Consider purchasing propeller safety devices for your boat.

Life Jackets for Kids

Effective April 1, 2010, Maryland law states that all children under the age of 13 must wear a United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation device while underway on a recreational vessel under 21 feet in length on Maryland waters. Recreational vessel includes motorboats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks, rowboats and any other device capable of being used for transportation on the water, when the vessel is being used for other than commercial purposes. The life jacket must be the proper size for the child and must be in good and serviceable condition.

This requirement does not apply when:

  • A vessel is moored or anchored.
  • A child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin.

Also a child under the age of 4 must wear a PFD which features additional safety precautions, as appropriate for an infant, toddler, or young child, so as to:

  • Hold the child securely within the PFD, including a strap that is secured between the child's legs to fasten together the front and back of the PFD
  • Maintain the buoyancy of the child, including an inflatable headrest and high collar
  • Ensure the ready accessibility of the child from the vessel, including a web handle

This does not apply to a vessel that is moored or anchored or a child who is below deck or in an enclosed cabin.

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