We've covered boating safety and rules previously, most recently here. After letting my oldest daughter take the wheel for her first boat driving lesson on a recent vacation, I felt compelled to fill in one more piece of the boating safety puzzle by reviewing the age restrictions on boat operators.
Subject to possible tighter local restrictions, in Washington state anyone 12 or older may operate a motorboat of 15 horsepower or greater if they have a Washington boater education card. Without the card, the person must be supervised by someone at least 16 years old who does have a card. For personal watercraft, the operator must be at least 14 years old.
In Oregon, a youth must likewise be at least 12 years old to get a boater education card, which is required to operate a boat. A 12-15 year old child can operate a boat of 10 HP or less without an adult on board, and for more powerful boats those youths can operate if accompanied by someone 16 or older (18 for personal watercraft) who has a boater education card.
While it may be fun, rewarding, or time-honored family tradition to teach responsible children even younger than 12 to navigate our waterways, we all l need to keep these rules in mind when on the water, for everyone's safety.