When it comes to boating in New Jersey, there seems to be a bit of confusion on whether a boating safety “certificate” or a boating “license”, or both, will be required. As the owner of a boating school in New Jersey, I get a lot of questions on this subject. Read on to see what’s required and when.
New Jersey Boating Safety Certificate:
Anyone who operates a power vessel on New Jersey waters is required by law to have a New Jersey Boating Safety Certificate. A power vessel is anything with a motor, and I do mean anything - an 8 foot rowboat with a 25 pound thrust trolling motor, a six foot inflatable raft with a 2 horsepower outboard, a PWC (personal water craft) or “JetSki,” a sailboat with any type of engine, and of course a power boat. If you are not rowing, blowing, pedaling or paddling, chances are you need a New Jersey Boating Safety Certificate.
If you are operating your power vessel on tidal waters exclusively, you will only need a Boating Safety Certificate. Tidal waters are waters that rise and fall with the tide. The Atlantic Ocean, Raritan Bay, Barnegat Bay, and Delaware Bay are good examples of tidal waters. Most rivers, creeks, and inlets connected to these bodies of water are also tidal to some extent.
An easy way to tell if the body of water that you are boating on is tidal is to look at a Tide Chart for the area. Tide charts are easy to find. Just Google “tide chart” and the area that you want to boat in. If your area is listed, you will be operating on tidal waters. If you don’t have a computer, tide charts are still in some newspapers and you can also get them from the U.S. Coast Guard.
New Jersey Boating License:
A “New Jersey Boating License” is an official endorsement on your NJ Driver’s License. It allows an operator (with a valid New Jersey Boating Safety Certificate} to operate a power vessel on non-tidal waters in the state. Non-tidal waters do not rise and fall with the tides. Good examples in New Jersey are Lake Hopatcong, Greenwood Lake, Round Valley Reservoir, Spruce Run Reservoir, and hundreds of other inland rivers, creeks, lakes, and ponds. To obtain this endorsement, you must present your NJ Boating Safety Certificate to any NJ Division of Motor Vehicle Commission facility and pay a fee.
It’s really not that confusing. If you are boating on non-tidal waters, you will need both the license and the certificate. If you are boating on tidal waters, only the certificate is required.
How do you get your NJ Boating Safety Certificate?
In order to obtain a New Jersey Boating Safety Certificate, you will need to take an approved course. Course providers are approved by the New Jersey State Police, Marine Division and the Office of the Attorney General and are generally seasoned captains with a teaching background. Once you take a boating safety course and successfully pass the state-approved test, the course provider can provide you with your New Jersey Boating Safety Certificate. Courses are provided throughout New Jersey. Visit our NJ Boating Safety Classes Page to sign up for an in-classroom course with us! Online courses are also available, but students are required test out in person with an approved course provider.
New Jersey state law says that if you take a one-day course it must provide seven hours of instruction and allow one hour to test. Two-day courses must have six hours of instruction plus written homework and one hour to test. Either way, all written material, videos, and props must be approved by the state. Most approved courses have a student manual. The test is 60 questions and students must get at least 80% of the questions right to pass.
Who can get a certificate?
Anyone over the age of 13 can get a New Jersey Boating Safety Certificate provided they show a valid picture ID (minors must provide a copy of their birth certificate or a valid school picture ID). For 13- to 15-year-olds, they may only operate a 12 foot or longer boat with less than a 10-horsepower motor. Anyone (with a valid NJ Boating Safety Certificate) 16 years of age or older can operate most power vessels (including PWCs) on New Jersey waters.
What happens if I operate a power vessel without a certificate or license?
Chances are you will get pulled over one day and receive a ticket. I personally get pulled over at least once a year by the State Police (New York or New Jersey) and every once in awhile by the Coast Guard. They are usually doing safety checks for life jackets, documentation and overloading. Failure to display or actually have a certificate or license endorsement can fetch you a fine of up to $500.00 for the first offense.