Small Boat Training

The system of boating oversight and operator training at MLML has a decades long track record of efficacy and safety. Our minimum standard of NASBLA approved CA Boating Safety course combined with skills verification and ancillary instruction serves as a national model for Scientific Boating Safety.

California Boater Card Program

Be advised that as of Jan 1, 2023 persons 50 years of age or younger are required to carry a CA Boater Card. Completing a NASBLA approved boater safety course is a requirement for MLML Basic certification. With that you still need to pay $10 and apply for a CA Boater Card.

What training do we offer?

Basic Boating Safety:

The Marine Operations department offers a 2-day small boat operation and emergency procedures training for MLML. This training is designed for entry-level boaters as well as currently certified operators wanting additional experience. This incorporates NASBLA approved Boating Safety curriculum plus on-water skills training for self-rescue and MOB recovery, marlinspike seamanship, visual distress signal demo and additional vessel handling time. No prior experience is necessary, but students without documentation of earlier training must complete a NASBLA approved Boating Safety course. California boater card must be presented in order to participate in the class. 

California Department of Boating and Waterways booklets are available at Marine Ops. Another free option is available online at:

Prerequisite: CA Boater Card

We can accommodate up to 12 students per class.

Completion of this training will allow boaters to operate the MLML whalers within the Elkhorn Slough and up to 1 nautical mile from the ML harbor entrance. 



This single day training is geared toward transporting MLML Whalers and is also required to tow dive inflatable trailers. Topics covered include mechanical familiarization, proper use of ancillary equipment for safe towing, and strategies for backing trailers to launch and recover boats. Participants must be State vehicle certified and familiar with Regulations for Trailering MLML boats. 

Prerequisite: MLML Basic Boater Certified, CA Boater Card

We can accommodate up to 3 students per class. 



Marine Operations offers a 2-day offshore training module to provide tools for effective planning, navigation, and emergency response in offshore scientific boating operations. Offshore is defined at MLML as more than one nautical mile from the ML Harbor entrance or from another safe harbor. Topics include weather forecasting, risk assessment, GPS navigation radar observation, VHF communications, fire suppression, rescue and survival training, and close quarters maneuvering. Instruction will be split between classroom, in-pool, and vessel operations. 

Prerequisite: MLML Basic Boater Certified, CA Boater Card

(CPR/O2, First Aid strongly recommended) 

We can accommodate up to 6 students per class. 

Completion of this training will allow boaters to operate the MLML whalers and the MLML RHIB.


Dive Inflatables: 

Training for inflatable operations conducted by the Dive Safety Officer. 

Who can be trained?

MLML Marine Operations supports research and education 

  1. First priority goes to MLML graduate students
  2. Staff and Faculty
  3. Members of associated institutions 

How often do trainings occur?

The basic boating safety course typically occurs once annually in the fall to train new graduate students. Trailering and offshore courses have historically been offered on an as needed basis.