Boating Laws
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Boat Laws  - Florida



Florida Boating Laws are administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Additional rules and regulations may apply in various counties. Know the law.

Basic Florida Boating Laws

All vessels operated on the waters of the State of Florida are required to be registered with the following exceptions:

  • A vessel used exclusively on private lakes and ponds.

  • A vessel owned by the United States Government.

  • A vessel used exclusively as a ship’s lifeboat.

  • A non-motor-powered vessel less than 16 feet in length, and any nonmotor- powered canoe, kayak, racing shell, or rowing scull, regardless of length.

Vessels must be registered and numbered within thirty (30) days of purchase

Florida Boating Law License Requirements

  - Anyone 21 years of age and under who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more must pass an approved boating safety course and have in his/her possession photographic identification and a boating safety education identification card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
 - A person is exempt from this requirement if there is a person on board who is not affected by this law or is at least 18 years of age and holds a boater education I.D. card. This person must be attendant to and take responsibility for the safe operation of the vessel.

Florida Personal Watercraft Regulations

Each person operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear an approved non-inflatable Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device (PFD). Inflatable personal flotation devices are prohibited for personal watercraft use.

The operator of a personal watercraft must attach the engine cutoff switch lanyard (if equipped by the manufacturer) to his/her person, clothing, or PFD.

Personal watercraft may never be operated from ˝ hour after sunset to ˝ hour before sunrise, even if navigation lights are used. Remember, both federal and state law requires the use of navigation lights from sunset to sunrise.

Maneuvering a personal watercraft by weaving through congested vessel traffic, jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably close or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed, or swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision is classified as reckless operation of a vessel (a first-degree misdemeanor).

A person must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft in this state.

A person must be at least 18 years of age to rent a personal watercraft in this state.

It is unlawful for a person to knowingly allow a person under 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft (a second-degree misdemeanor).

Manatee Awareness

Manatees are protected by state and federal law.

It is illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal, including manatees. Anything that disrupts a manatee's normal behavior is a violation of law, punishable under federal law up to a $50,000 fine, one-year imprisonment, or both.

Boaters must observe all manatee protection zone requirements.

Boaters who accidentally strike a manatee are urged to report the strike to the FWC and may not be subject to prosecution provided they were operating in accordance with any applicable vessel speed restrictions at the time of the strike.

Sea Grass Awareness

Sea grasses are the principal food for endangered marine herbivores such as manatees and green sea turtles, act as natural filters to help purify the water, and provide a suitable environment for a wide variety of marine life.

Boaters should make all available attempts to avoid running through sea grass beds.

Navigation charts identify sea grass beds as light green or marked as "grs" on the chart.

Boaters should make all possible attempts to stay within channels when unfamiliar with a waterway. Avoid taking shortcuts through sea grass beds to avoid causing propeller scars.

It is a violation of Florida law to damage sea grass beds in some areas within state waters.

It is illegal for the owner or person in control of a motorboat to allow someone who does not meet the age or boating education requirements to operate the vessel.   

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