Boating Laws – How To Stay In Compliance
According to many boat owners, the days they spend on the water are some of the best days of their lives. However, that enjoyment and peace of mind only comes once they’ve become familiar with their state’s boating laws and have sufficient boat insurance in place.
Boating laws and regulations vary from state to state, so we’ll cover the main areas you need to research to get you through the paperwork and out on the water as quickly as possible.
Registration: In most states, boats need to be registered and must display their registration number on each side bow, above the waterline. The number must be in a place where it can be easily read. This registration is usually handled at the Department of Motor Vehicles, although some states also have a Marine Board.
Legal Operating Age: Smaller boats are generally simple to operate so many states allow young children to operate watercraft with less than 6 horsepower motors with no supervision. Boats with larger motors often require adult supervision for child operators.
Regulations vary by state, but in most cases, teen operators are generally given larger horsepower limits once they’ve received a boating safety certificate from a state approved training course. Boating safety courses for adults may help to lower your boat insurance rates.
Full boat operational privileges are usually available to those 16 and older. Most states to don’t have boat operator license requirements for adults, however boat owners can save on their boat insurance coverage if they successfully complete an approved boating safety course. Check with your boat insurance company for details.
Required Equipment: Each state has its own list of equipment that must be kept on the boat at all times. However, there is one piece of safety equipment that needs to be on every boat – at least one life jacket or personal flotation device for each person on board. In most states, any flotation device must be Coast Guard approved. And, they must also be easy to access.
Personal Watercraft Regulations: The owners of personal watercraft, like those made by Jet Ski and WaveRunner, also have state regulations they must follow. For example, Michigan requires anyone born after December 31, 1978 who wants to operate a personal watercraft to take a boating safety course – either online or in a classroom setting. Watercraft insurance, while not required, is also highly recommended.
Find Your State’s Boating Laws
While boating laws vary from state to state, once you find the government agency in your state that handles boating, the rest of the process should be simple. Here are a few examples of possible state agencies: the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Parks and Wildlife or the Game and Fish Commission.
A simple way to start your search is to search online by typing in “your state + boating regulations”. Many states have their boating regulations published online or in a downloadable handbook.