It would be reasonable if California also honored courses approved by other states, and perhaps they will when the CVOC requirements phase in, and they have already said the requirements won't apply to short-term visitors as well as various licensed professional mariners.
There are some differences between the CVOC and regular land-based drivers' licenses, such as the fee being nominally for the education/test (and some states offer their classes/tests and boater ed cards for free), and the requirement is only imposed once and the card is good for life. So, maybe, instead of a duck, it's a goose or a turkey
or such. Also, the states are not all saying that they have a right to control everyone who goes on the water -- there are various exceptions of people and vessel types that the boater ed laws don't apply to, whereas the states claim a right to license everyone who drives on a highway.
Most states that implement boater ed have refrained from using it as a revenue source, and instead have minimized the cost, since they want to encourage people to take the class, so as to actually improve safety
. Statistics seem to show that people who have taken a class do have many fewer accidents, even if the class is a very basic, minimal on-line or classroom course. Of course, it could be that the sort of people who take classes
are generally more prudent than some of those who don't.
If California follows the lead of other US states and the commercial
providers in basing content on National Assn. of State Boating Law Administrators standards, then they'll likely have a classroom or on-line course with maybe about 8 sections, and a predominantly multiple-choice exam with questions such as,
"Where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat?
__ Safe in a locked compartment
__ On deck
exposed to the elements
__ Where they are readily accessible
__ In a zippered bag with the life jackets"
"Why are low head
dams dangerous to small boats and paddlecraft?
__ Backwash can pin you and your boat indefinitely
__ The dam may not have any water on the other side
__ They are always well marked giving you false confidence
__ The roar of the water can confuse boat operators"
Don't expect questions specific to sailing (but the rules of the road subsection will mention sailboats), and do expect some specific to jet skis and water skiing... since those are some of the sorts of boaters that are best at crashing, killing, and mangling. And, the focus won't be on blue water or big boats.
Aside ... One little pet peeve of the courses for me is that they don't explain what it takes for be a "vessel engaged in fishing" qualified as a stand-on vessel (old language: privileged or right-of-way) vessel ... many will get the mistaken impression that casting a line from their My Little Larry the Cable Guy rod and reel gives them the same rights as a purse seiner or longliner.