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Scientific Boating Training

Marine Operations runs the Scientific Boating Program and administers training to prospective vessel operators. Any student, faculty or researcher needing to become a qualified vessel operator may undergo training. The following is a brief description of the requirements for vessel operation. For the complete Cal Poly Scientific Boating Safety Manual, visit the forms page.


  • Vessel Operator candidates must submit a Cal Poly Scientific Boater Application, found on the forms page, to the Boating Safety Officer (BSO).
  • Complete a Boating Safety Course
  • California State Boating Safety Course or
  • USCG Auxiliary Course
  • Vessel Operator candidates must have at least 10 hours as a crew member on a Cal Poly vessel or comparable experience.

Qualification Levels

  • Basic: May operate small boats in San Luis Bay Obispo and Morro Bay Harbor. Prospective operators must attend a demonstration session with the BSO or designee covering topics such as, but not limited to: equipment, safety gear, communication, rules of the road, vessel launching and recovery, and vessel operation. Prospective operators must be able to demonstrate to the BSO or designee familiarity with check-out procedures, equipment, vessel operation and local knowledge.
  • Nearshore: May operate small boats offshore, but within two nautical miles of a harbor entrance. Prospective operators must demonstrate to the BSO or designee a level of competence in operating the boats considered adequate for working outside the harbor, including the added dangers of working offshore and knowledge of local conditions such as wind, swell and fog. A minimum of 40 hours boating experience is required.
  • Offshore: May operate small boats greater than two nautical miles from harbor entrances. Prospective operators must demonstrate to the BSO or designee their capability and experience to operate in the area proposed. A minimum of 50 hours boating experience is required. This qualification is on a case-by-case basis and requires specific approval from the BSO or designee.
  • Prospective operators with evidence of their ability to safely operate small boats such as a United States Coast Guard license, Department of the Interior Motorboat Operator Training Course ( MOTC) or other certificate may have all or sections of this process waived by the BSO.

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