It’s officially boating season. But before you head out on the water with friends and family, it’s a good idea to review the state’s regulations.

Here is a summary of Florida’s more notable boating laws:

Vessel Registration

  • The majority of vessels must be registered through the local tax collector’s office. Non-motor-powered kayaks, canoes, and racing shells are excluded from this law.
  • The Certificate of Registration must be on board and available for inspection whenever the vessel is operated.
  • The registration decal must be renewed each year and displayed within six inches of the registration numbers on the left side.

Reckless and Careless Operation

  • Those who operate a vessel with disregard for the safety of others and/or property will be cited for reckless operation. Note that this is a first-degree misdemeanor.
  • Anyone operating a vessel must do so in a prudent, responsible manner. They are also required to account for other vessel traffic, posted restrictions, and other circumstances. Failure to do any of the aforementioned is considered careless operation.
  • Any violation of the Federal Navigation Rules is also a violation of state law.

Boating Under the Influence

  • There’s a misconception that it’s ok to throw back a few cold ones while operating a vessel. Think again. Florida residents suspected of boating under the influence of alcohol must submit to sobriety tests to determine blood-alcohol content.
  • In the state of Florida, a vessel operator is considered to be under the influence if their blood-alcohol level is at or above .08.
  • There are also legal repercussions for minors who choose to operate a vessel while under the influence. In fact, anyone under 21 who is found to have a breath-alcohol of .02 is in violation of state law.

Updated Boating Safety Education Requirements

  • Not just anyone can operate a vessel. If you were born on or after January 1, 1988, you must pass an approved boater safety course. Once you pass, you must have in possession photographic identification as well as a boating safety education identification card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
  • There are a few operators who are exempt from these requirements. Be sure to check out the FWC for more information.

Equipment and Lighting Requirements

  • Every vessel operator must carry, store, maintain, and use safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard, including flotation devices for each passenger.
  • The state requires all vessels to carry an efficient sound-producing device. This could be something as simple as a referee’s whistle.
  • Do you have your own recreational vessel? Then be sure to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise, as well as during periods of reduced visibility.


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Hopefully, an explanation of these boating regulations served as a nice refresher.

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