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How do I get a Boating Safety Education Certificate?

Complete a commission-approved boating course and accompanying examination. Take an online course or find a classroom course in your area.

How old must you be to take a boating course?

There is no minimum age requirement to take a boating course. Most courses are designed for students 12 years of age and older and personal watercraft operators must be at least 12 years old.

I lost my boating safety certificate, how do I get a new one?

Use the Duplicate Safety Certificate Application Form to apply for a duplicate or replacement Commission Boating Safety Education Certificate OR to convert the certificate you earned from another approved organization (classroom course only - ex., USCG Auxiliary, US Power Squadrons) to a permanent one issued by the Commission. A nominal fee is charged.

Is a certificate issued by the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadrons or from another state valid for operating a PWC in PA?

The only approved certificates are ones issued to individuals by the Commission or another state or province. The Commission recognizes certificates issued by another state or province that have been approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). Look for the NASBLA logo on your Boating Safety Education Certificate or visit NASBLA’s websiteOpens In A New Window to see if the course you completed is NASBLA approved.

Non-residents may operate a PWC in Pennsylvania if they have a certificate issued by another state or province, or by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons, or other organizations approved by the Commission’s Executive Director. Pennsylvania residents who have been issued a certificate for successfully completing a Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons course may be issued a Commission Boating Safety Education Certificate by contacting the Commission office in Harrisburg (1-888-723-4741).

Are there any boating waters that limit the horsepower of boats?

Yes, many lakes in Pennsylvania have special boating regulations which limit the horsepower of boats. All Fish and Boat Commission and Game Commission lakes are restricted to electric motors only. Several larger state park lakes allow motors up to 20 horsepower. State parks managed by the PA Department of Conservation and Resources (DCNR) may have additional regulations specific to individual parks.

What is a personal watercraft (PWC)?

A personal watercraft is a boat less than 16 feet in length that uses an internal combustion motor powering a water jet pump as its primary source of propulsion. It is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling. Personal watercraft are better known to the public by brand names that include Jet Ski®, Sea Doo®, Wave Runner®, etc.

What is the education requirement for personal watercraft?

All operators of personal watercraft must have a Boating Safety Education Certificate in their possession to operate a personal watercraft.

How do I get a PA Boating Handbook?

The handbook is conveniently online.

My new boat has an onboard toilet. Can I dump it into Pennsylvania waters?

It is illegal to dump untreated sewage or gray-water from boats in any water of the Commonwealth. If your boat's toilet is fitted with a Coast Guard approved marine sanitation device, you may discharge the treated waste in some waters. The ONLY waters where treated wastewater may be discharged are: the Allegheny, Monongahela, Ohio, Delaware and Susquehanna rivers; and the Allegheny Reservoir, Youghiogheny Lake and Lake Erie.

Our preference is that you discard your waste at one of the Clean Vessel Pumpout Locations located throughout PA.

May my child operate a boat?

A person 11 years of age or younger may NOT operate a personal watercraft or a boat propelled by a motor greater than 25 horsepower. A person 12 through 15 years of age may NOT operate a personal watercraft if there are any passengers onboard 15 years of age or younger. 

Where can I rent a boat?

We maintain a list of liveries (places where you can rent a boat) located throughout Pennsylvania.

Many of the State Park (DCNR) and Corps of Engineers operated lakes have a boat rental concession.

Where can I find a charter boat or fishing guide?

Find the lost of Commission registered commercial charter boats and fishing guides.

Do you have a list of marinas in Pennsylvania?

Yes, here is a list of Pennsylvania marinas.

Many of our Boat Registration Issuing Agents also operate marinas or are boat dealers.

When should I report a boating accident?

The operator of a boat must report a boating accident when one or more of the following conditions exist:

    1. A person dies. (Immediate notification required; written report must be submitted within 48 hours.)
    2. A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid. (Written report must be submitted within 48 hours.)
    3. Damage to the vessel(s) and other property totals $2,000 or more or there is a complete loss of any vessel. (Written report must be submitted within 10 days.)
    4. A person disappears from the boat under circumstances that indicate death or injury is likely. (Immediate notification required; written report must be submitted within 48 hours.)

The Boating Accident Report form must be completely and legibly filled out by the operator or owner (if the operator is unable).

Can I tube from PFBC launch and access areas?

Pennsylvania has no general law prohibiting launching of inner tubes or tubing on the Pennsylvania rivers. There is no special fee to tube on Pennsylvania waters. It is unlawful to launch or retrieve swimming aids, such as inner tubes and similar devices, from access areas managed for fishing and boating by the Commission.

Whether it is legal to launch or retrieve inner tubes at particular access areas depends on the regulations for those sites. 

If I add a motor to my unpowered boat, what is required?

You will need to register your boat as a motorboat. 

People who do not use a motor may register their boat as a non-powered boat. Registration fees for motorboats are based on the length of the boat being registered. All registrations are issued on a 2-year cycle. 

To upgrade any non-powered registration, you will need to complete a New Boat Registration Form (Sections B, C & K). Indicate at the top of the form "REGISTRATION UPGRADE." In Section D (Boat Data) the owner must indicate the new propulsion and fuel codes. You will owe the difference between the non-powered fee you already paid and the motorized fee. The Commission will then issue you a new registration card and decals.