Boating Safety Certification

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  • You were born after January 1, 1986
  • You will be operating a personal watercraft (jet ski), regardless of age and regardless of residency

Non-residents operating a vessel (other than a personal watercraft-see above), you must meet the requirements of your home state to operate in Rhode Island waters. For questions, contact DEM/Environmental Police at 401-222-3070.


There are two methods for certification:

  1. Attend Classroom Course (1-Step Process)

    You can take a classroom course offered by our state-approved course providers. All courses must be a minimum of 8 hours and state and NASBLA approved. The RI Boating Safety Challenge Exam is administered at the end of class.

  2. Study On Your Own (2-Step Process)

    Step 1: Study

    You can take an online study course (links below). There are two approved online state-approved courses. You can also request written study materials by contacting or 401-222-3070 with your name and home mailing address.

    To receive certification via our online study course, you must complete the state-approved course by Boat-Ed. Once you have completed the course, you must pass a proctored exam. Information on this exam is provided below.

    Step 2: Pass In-Person Boating Safety Challenge Exam

Boating Safety Challenge Exam

There is no fee for this exam and no age limit, however, this test deals with material that may be complex for younger children. We highly recommend taking the full boating safety course to ensure you and your family understand the material required to operate and navigate vessels on the water safely.

Please bring photo identification. A parent must be present for a child under the driving age without identification. Answer sheets will be provided for you at the exam site.

Tests will not be graded on site. You can expect to receive your results via mail in within 10 business days.


Register for Exam


Frequently Asked Questions

You must score seventy percent (70%) or higher to get a certificate.

Fill out the boating card replacement request form. If DEM is unable to locate a record, you will need to contact the original course provider for proof of completion. If one cannot be located, you will need to retake the exam.

No, if your boat is not equipped with a motor greater than 10hp you do not need a boating safety certificate to operate.

If you live in another state and operate your vessel on Rhode Island waters for more than ninety days in a calendar year, you will need the boating certificate. If you operate in Rhode Island waters less than 90 days, you only need to meet the requirements of your state to operate in Rhode Island, except all operators of personal watercraft (jet skis) need a RI boating safety certificate.

Any person who holds a valid commercial vessel operator’s license issued by the United States Cost Guard, a state, or a province does not need a boating safety certificate. A copy of the license should be kept on your person.

Yes, your child needs a boating certificate to operate the vessel alone. A child may operate a vessel without a boating safety certificate if they are supervised by a person 18 years of age or older who has met the education requirements. 

If you have a current master, mate, or pilot license issued through the U.S. Coast Guard, you do not need the Rhode Island boating safety certificate to operate your boat. You must keep the valid license with you at all times.

You need to have a Rhode Island boating safety certificate. A valid Coast Guard license or out-of-state boating license does not qualify you to operate a personal watercraft in Rhode Island Waters.


No, the boating safety certificate is only required to operate a Rhode Island registered boat.

Paddleboards and surfboards inside the surf zone are not considered vessels by the USCG and do not need to adhere to vessel PFD requirements. However, once surfers and paddleboarders are out of the surf zone, they must wear a PFD while underway.

Boating Resources

A boating accident report must be filled out by the owner/operator of any vessel that meets the following criteria:

  • Loss of life or disappearance from a vessel.
  • Injury to any person that requires medical treatment beyond ordinary first aid.
  • Property damage in excess of $2,000.
  • Complete loss of a vessel.

Reportable accidents must be submitted within five (5) days after the incident on forms provided by the department. Accidents must be reported to the State Authorities where the accident occurred. If more than one vessel is involved, the owner/operator of all vessels must fill out and file a boating accident report.

Submit A Boating Accident Report
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Wear It | Gear Up for Adventure

Wearing a life jacket while paddling in Rhode Island is no longer optional

Wear It Lifejacket Icon

The “mandatory personal flotation device (PDF) wear for all paddle craft” rule is one of five new safety regulations written to save lives. Violations could result in the imposition of a $100 ticket. The PFD regulation states that all operators and passengers of canoes, kayaks, sailboards, kiteboards, paddleboards, and any other paddle craft must always wear a United States Coast Guard (USCG)-approved PFD while underway regardless of age.

Another new regulation that could prevent injuries and save lives is a restriction prohibiting anyone from riding on the bow of a powerboat unless it’s equipped with bow seats designed to accommodate passengers or from hanging their feet and legs over the top of the gunwale anywhere on the boat while underway. Another new rule requires boaters to slow down and move over when emergency vessels — such as Coast Guard, firefighting, harbormaster, and DEM boats – are within 300 feet of the boater and have their emergency lights activated. A fourth regulation requires all fire extinguishers on boats to abide by their age expiration date. Typically, the date of manufacture is printed on the bottom of the fire extinguisher. The last new reg relates to engine cut-off switch compliance. Specifically, the captain of a recreational boat that’s 26 feet long or less that’s equipped with an engine cut-off switch must use the switch if the boat is “on plane or above displacement speed.” Displacement speed is the speed at which the wavelength of a vessel’s bow wave is equal to the waterline length of a vessel. As boat speed increases, the wavelength of the bow wave also increases.

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