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Boating Regulations

This section contains information on Florida Boating Regulations that are in addition to the Federal Requirements covered in the Basic Boating Course. If you have not reviewed the course material, please do so now. All Federal Requirements in the basic boating course apply to Florida; this section lists Florida Boating Requirements that are above and beyond Federal Requirements.

The Nautical Know How Boating Safety ID card is recognized in the State of Florida as proof of successful completion of a Boating Safety Course. If you are covered by Florida's mandatory boater education law, you will also receive an ID card from the state of Florida.

Age Restrictions:

Persons less than 14 years of age shall not operate a Personal Watercraft.
No person born after September 30, 1980, may operate a vessel powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or greater unless he or she has in their possession a photographic identification and a boater safety identification card issued for successful completion of a NASBLA approved boating safety course. This law will be progressively phased in each year to include a larger segment of the boating population until October 1, 2001 when all persons 21 years of age or younger will be subject to this law.

Personal Flotation Devices:

Every child under 6 years of age must wear a USCG approved PFD on a vessel less than 26' while the vessel is underway.

PWC operators and passengers must wear an approved Type I, II, III or V PFD.

Required PFDs must be readily accessible.

Speed Limits and Reckless Operation:

No vessel shall be operated within Florida in a reckless or negligent manner. Examples of reckless or careless operation include:

  • Excessive speed in regulated or congested areas
  • Operating in a manner that may cause an accident
  • Operating in a swimming area with bathers present
  • Towing water skiers where obstructions exist or a fall might cause them to be injured
  • Bow riding or riding on the gunwale or transom where no seating is provided
  • Operation of a personal watercraft which endangers life or property

Navigation Rules:

The State of Florida adopts and enforces all Federally mandated boating safety laws.

Every vessel operating in the State of Florida shall carry and use safety equipment in accordance with U. S. Coast Guard requirements as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations. Additionally, every vessel shall display the lights and shapes required by the navigation rules.

Diving and Snorkeling:

All divers shall display a free-flying, 12 by 12 inch minimum, white diagonal stripe on a red background divers-down flag in the area in which the diving occurs. Divers shall attempt to stay within 100 feet of the divers-down flag on rivers, inlets and navigation channels.

Boaters should stay at least 100 feet away from a diver-down flag.

Divers shall not, except in case of emergency, display the divers-down flag in an area which would constitute a navigational hazard.

Personal Watercraft:

Persons less than 14 years of age shall not operate a Personal Watercraft.

Each person on a Personal Watercraft (PWC) must wear a Coast Guard approved PFD. Additionally, the operator must wear a lanyard type cut off switch provided by the manufacturer which will shut off the PWC should the operator fall off.

The operator of a Personal Watercraft should operate in a reasonable and prudent manner. This includes being aware of other boats in the operating area, awareness of environmental concerns and respecting the rights of shoreline property owners. The PWC operator should not follow other boats closely and should not jump the wake of other boats.

Water Skiing:

No person shall tow a person on water skis, aquaplane or similar device without an observer aboard or wide-angle rear view mirror.

In addition each person engaged in water skiing or aquaplaning must wear a U. S. Coast Guard approved PFD.

Water skiing is not permitted between the hours of one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.

Manatee Awareness:

Every boater within the State of Florida should be forever mindful of the endangered manatee. One should operate in a prudent manner in and around known manatee habitats and should be cognizant of and obey designated manatee zone areas.

Accident Reporting:

Any accident involving death, disappearance or personal injury, or damage greater than $500 must be reported. A "boating accident" includes, but is not limited to, capsizing, collision, foundering, flooding, fire, explosion and the disappearance of a vessel other than by theft. Accidents should be reported immediately. Report accidents to the nearest office of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission or the Florida Marine Patrol.

Boating While Intoxicated:

Is a criminal offense punishable by fines up to $2,500, imprisonment of up to one year, non-paid public service, and mandatory substance abuse counseling. The law provides for mandatory sentencing. If a drunken operator kills or causes serious bodily injury to another person, the penalty is five years in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

By operating on Florida waterways, you are deemed to have given consent to be tested for alcohol if arrested for operating under the influence. Refusal to submit to a test may be used against you in court.


All vessels operated on the waters of Florida must be registered and/or numbered in Florida, except as follows:

  • Vessels used exclusively on private lakes or ponds
  • Vessels owned by the Federal Government
  • Vessels used exclusively as life boats
  • Non-motor powered vessels
  • Vessels with a current number from another state or country temporarily using Florida waters. (Less than 90 consecutive days.)
  • <>Vessels newly purchased in Florida (less than 30 days).

All registrations must be renewed each year as of June 1. Apply for your title and registration with the state tax collectors.

In addition, all vessels, except documented vessels and non-motor-powered vessels less than 16 feet, must be titled in Florida.

You will need to know your Hull I.D. number to title and register your boat. If you have a homemade boat, contact the Florida Marine Patrol for a HIN.

Upon registration, you will be issued a certificate of number and a validation decal. The certificate must be on board whenever the boat is used. The boat's number must be properly displayed as follows on both port and starboard side.

The validation decal must be displayed within six inches of the number on the port side either before or after the numbers.

Florida and federal boating laws are presented in a summarized form. The laws in their entirety can be found by consulting Florida State Law. These laws are subject to change. It is the responsibility of the operator to be aware of the most current laws when using a boat.

Certain bodies of water in Florida may have local restrictions as to type and size of watercraft or motor horsepower, restricted use areas, boat speed, and times for use. Check with the local authorities for these additional restrictions.
FLORIDA (fresh water)
Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission
620 S. Meridian Street
Tallahassee FL 32399-1600
FLORIDA (salt water)
Marine Patrol
MS 630
3900 Commonwealth Blvd.
Tallahassee FL 32399
850-488-5600, Ext. 128

Florida Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission

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