Here are some (not the entire list) of the boating regulations that you may find most important when renting a boat. Our company policy is that boating licenses are required for clients between the ages of 21 and 26. Clients aged 27 or older need only present a valid drivers license, but previous experience with boating safety is required. You wouldn’t rent a car without knowing the rules of the road or how to drive, and it is the same for renting a boat. **Please review the “Updated” Boating Safety Education Requirements below.
- The operator of a vessel involved in a boating accident where there is personal injury beyond immediate first-aid, death, disappearance of any person under circumstances which indicate death or injury, or if there is damage to the vessel(s) and/or personal property of at least $2,000, must, by the quickest means possible, give notice to one of the following: the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the sheriff of the county in which the accident occurred, or the police chief of the municipality in which the accident occurred, if applicable.
- It is unlawful for any person operating a vessel involved in a boating accident to leave the scene without giving all possible aid to the involved persons and without reporting the accident to the proper authorities.
Reckless and Careless Operation
- Anyone who operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property will be cited for reckless operation (a first-degree misdemeanor).
- All operators are responsible for operating their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for other vessel traffic, posted restrictions, the presence of a divers-down flag, and other circumstances so as not to endanger people or property.
Failure to do so is considered careless operation (a non-criminal infraction).
- A violation of the Federal Navigation Rules is also a violation of Florida law.
Vessel Speed Restrictions
- Any vessel operating in a speed zone posted as “Idle Speed – No Wake” must operate at the minimum speed that allows the vessel to maintain headway and steerageway.
- Any vessel operating in a speed zone posted as “Slow Down – Minimum Wake” must operate fully off plane and completely settled in water.
- The vessel’s wake must not be excessive nor create a hazard to other vessels.
Boating Under the Influence
- It is a violation of Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. A vessel operator suspected of boating under the influence must submit to sobriety tests and a physical or chemical test to determine blood- or breath-alcohol content.
- In Florida, a vessel operator is presumed to be under the influence if their blood- or breath-alcohol level is at or above .08.
- Any person under 21 years of age who is found to have a breath-alcohol level of .02 or higher and operates or is in actual physical control of a vessel is in violation of Florida law.
Mooring to Markers or Buoys
- Except in the event of an emergency, it is unlawful to moor or fasten to any lawfully placed navigation aid or regulatory maker.
“Updated” Boating Safety Education Requirements
- Anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more must pass an approved boater 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.
- The following operators are exempt:
- A person licensed by the U. S. Coast Guard as a master of a vessel.
- A person operating on a private lake or pond.
- An operator who is accompanied onboard by a person who is least 18 years old and possesses the required Boating Safety Education Identification Card, provided that person is attendant to and responsible for the safe operation of the vessel.
- An operator who is accompanied onboard by a person who is exempt from the educational requirements, provided that person is attendant to and responsible for the safe operation of the vessel.
- A non-resident who has in his or her possession proof that he or she has completed a NASBLA-approved boater safety course or equivalency examination from another state.
- A person who is operating a vessel within 90 days after the purchase of that vessel, provided they have available for inspection aboard that vessel, a bill of sale meeting all the requirements as established in Chapter 328.46(1), Florida Statutes.
- A person operating a vessel within 90 days after completing an approved boating safety course, as required in Chapter 327.395(1), and has a photographic I.D. and a boater education course completion certificate showing proof of having completed the required boating safety education course. The course completion certificate must provide the student’s first and last name, date of birth, and the date the course was successfully completed. (Effective October 1, 2011.)
- The size of divers-down flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags carried on floats must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. Also, divers-down flags on vessels must be displayed above the vessel’s highest point so that the flag’s visibility is not obstructed in any direction.
- Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters (all waterways other than rivers, inlets, or navigation channels) and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.
- Vessel operators must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from divers-down flags on open waters and at least 100 feet from flags on rivers, inlets or navigation channels. Vessels approaching divers-down flags closer than 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and navigation channels must slow to idle speed.
- When divers are out of the water, a dive flag may not be displayed.
Interference with Navigation
- Except in the event of an emergency, it is unlawful for any person to anchor or operate a vessel in a manner that will unreasonably interfere with the navigation of other vessels.
- The owner and/or operator of a vessel is responsible to carry, store, maintain and use the safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
- All vessels are required to have onboard a wearable USCG-approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each person. The PFDs must be of the appropriate size for the intended wearer, be in serviceable condition, and within easy access. The State of Florida urges all people onboard a boat to wear a life jacket.
- Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must also have at least one USCG-approved throwable Type IV PFD that is immediately available in case of a fall overboard.
- A child under the age of 6 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III personal flotation device while onboard a vessel under 26 feet in length while the vessel is under way. “Under way” is defined as anytime except when the vessel is anchored, moored, made fast to the shore or aground.
- Vessels with built-in fuel tanks or enclosed compartments where gasoline fumes can accumulate are required to carry at least one fire extinguisher (depending upon vessel length) which is approved for marine use.
- All vessels are required to carry an efficient sound-producing device, such as a referee’s whistle.
- Vessels less than 16 feet in length are required to carry at least 3 visual distress signals approved for nighttime use when on coastal waters from sunset to sunrise. Vessels 16 feet or longer must carry at least 3 daytime and three nighttime visual distress signals (or 3 combination daytime/nighttime signals) at all times when on coastal waters.
- The use of sirens or flashing, occulting or revolving lights is prohibited except where expressly allowed by law.
- Recreational vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of reduced visibility (fog, rain, haze, etc.). The U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules specify lighting requirements for every description of watercraft. The information provided in the following link is for vessels less than 65.5 feet/20 meters in length
Maximum Loading and Horsepower
- No person may operate a monohull boat of less than 20 feet in length while exceeding the maximum weight, persons, or horsepower capacity as displayed on the manufacturer’s capacity plate.
Law Enforcement Authority
- Law enforcement officers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, sheriff’s deputies of the various counties, and any other authorized enforcement officer, shall have the authority to order the removal of vessels deemed to be an interference or hazard to public safety, enforce all boating safety laws, or cause any inspection to be made of all vessels in accordance to state law.
- A law enforcement officer may stop any vessel for the purpose of checking for compliance with boating safety equipment requirements.
- 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 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.