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Kid boaties: What parents should tell their kids

Kid boaties: What parents should tell their kids

The most often-asked question we get from parents is, “Are kids allowed to take a boat without a license?” The answer is yes, provided the boat has an engine with six (6) horsepower or less.

In Queensland, a licence is required to operate a recreation vessel if it is fitted with an engine over six (6) horsepower. Any vessel with an engine over four (4) horsepower requires registration. All vessels are required to carry safety equipment.

Parents should have a good understanding about the safe operation of the boat. Pre-departure safety checks are important to ensure a safe day on the water. Check the weather conditions, sufficient fuel for the trip, and make sure parents or carers know where the child intends to go.

Maritime Safety Queensland has an excellent website ( from which parents can obtain comprehensive safety information. They need to take the time to ensure that if allowing their kids to operate a boat, they must have a good understanding of the rules and regulations.

Here are basic boating rules to remind young people:

  • Slow down to six (6) knots within 30 meters from most things, including anchored/moored boats, boat ramps, jetties, pontoons, and people swimming in the water. The Gold Coast has many speed-restricted (six knots or less) areas. It is six (6) knots on all canals.
  • Do not create unnecessary wash that may cause a marine incident. You are responsible for the wave your boat creates.
  • Understand safety equipment rules and who needs to wear life jackets. Obey them because safety equipment does save lives. Children under 12 years old, in an open vessel under 4.8 meters in Queensland, must be wearing a properly fitted lifejacket when underway.
  • The International Collision Regulations require us to keep a good look out, travel at a safe speed to suit the conditions, and determine who gives way to whom. It is crucial that all boaties, even without licenses, should know these rules.
  • The Gold Coast has many shallow areas of water and navigational hazards are marked by buoys and beacons. Hitting an underwater obstruction at high speed will cause serious injury. Know what side to pass the buoys and beacons.
  • In the event of an emergency, it is important to know what to do and who to contact. Carry communication equipment and have a plan if something goes wrong.

In Queensland, a person needs to be 16 years of age to obtain a Recreation Marine Driver’s Licence (RMDL) and Personal Water Craft Licence (PWCL). For peace of mind, many parents send their children to a boating safety course even if they are not old enough to get licences, and it may be the best $150.00 ever spent on a child’s boating life.

Parents need to be aware that although a licence is not required to operate a vessel with an engine of six (6) horsepower or less, it does not mean that the safety laws do not apply. Parents need to be reminded that the maritime laws place safety obligations on the registered owner of the vessel.


By Russell Shipman, Australian Boating College (Gold Coast)