Florida Boating Laws & Regulations: 7 Must-Know Boating Laws in FL

Seven Florida Boating Laws You May Not Know That Every Boat Owner Should

Boating is a way of life here in Florida, and many people dream of the day when they can finally purchase their first personal watercraft (PWC). However, you may or may not actually check out the Florida boating laws beforehand. And, of course, failure to follow these laws on the water can result in a fine, citation, and (worst case scenario) the suspension or loss of your license. 

If you already have a boating or captain’s license, you should be aware of the Florida boating regulations, but just in case, we’re here to refresh your memory. Since these laws exist to keep everyone safe on the water, you should have a firm grasp of them. Here are seven Florida boating laws you may not know that every boater should be aware of to stay safe.

Registration is Required

When you purchase any motor-powered vessel that is more than 16 feet in length, it has to be registered within 30 days at your county tax collector's office. This is similar to most states' rules for personal vehicles used on highways. You have to keep your vehicle registration on board and accessible at all times so that if an enforcement officer's vessel stops you for any reason, you can present it to them.

Your vessel's registration number must be painted on both sides of the vessel and above the waterline. If your boat fits the registration guidelines, you must obtain a boat title within 30 days. The good news is that titling fees are highly affordable in Florida.

No Operators Under 14

No one is allowed to operate a motorized vessel in Florida's waterways unless they are over the age of 14, with no exceptions. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles isn't going to give you a ticket if you have a child younger than that in your lap starting to learn the fundamentals of boating (since the vessel is really under your control). But to operate a vessel on their own, with no one else's hands on the wheel, they must be at least 14. This is a rule designed to foster responsible and skilled boating. Anyone who wants to rent a motorized vessel in Florida must also be over 18.

PFD Required While Vessels Are Underway

Florida boat laws also require a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) to be worn by everyone on board while a vessel is underway. Everyone on board must wear a PFD Type me, II, or III if your boat is between 16 and 26 feet long. Anyone under 16 is not allowed to wear an inflatable PFD.

You must also always have a Coast Guard Type IV throwable device on board. This can be a ring buoy, a buoyant cushion, or a horseshoe-shaped buoy. This can be thrown overboard to someone if they fall off the vessel in heavy chop or other conditions. This is an added layer of safety required when you are on the water in Florida.

PFD Required for All Passengers Under Six at All Times

While a PFD is required for everyone on board while the vessel is underway, that applies even more for passengers under the age of six in Florida. Even when the boat is docked, all passengers under six should always wear a PFD. This applies to any boat that is 26 feet or less in length, whether it is motorized or not. Children under six often don't know how to swim. Even if they know how to swim, they may be unaware of what to do in an emergency. The best course of action under Florida law is to require a PFD on every child under six at all times.

Boater Education ID Card Required

Everyone who wants to operate a private vessel in Florida waters is required to obtain a Boater Education ID Card. If you were born after January 1, 1988, you must take a course to get this ID card before you can legally operate any vessel with an engine with more than ten horsepower. The course only takes a few hours to complete. Even a minor under the age of 14 can still obtain their Boater Education ID Card. They can only operate a boat legally once they are 14 or older. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators issues all Boating Safety ID Cards, including in Florida.

Boating Accidents MUST Be Reported

Having an accident on the water is no different from an accident on the roadways, as far as boating laws in Florida are concerned. Any accident that involves death, disappearance, the requirement for immediate first aid, or more than $2,000 in damages is required to be reported to Florida law enforcement immediately. There are three possible law enforcement bodies that you must report a Florida boating accident to:

  • Sheriff of the county where the accident happened
  • Chief of police of the municipality where the accident happened
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

No one is legally allowed to leave the scene of an accident on the water until all possible aid has been offered and the authorities are contacted.

One Readily Accessible PFD for Everyone on Board

In addition to the PFD requirements listed above, every vessel must have at least one life jacket for every person on board, whether they are wearing it during an accident or not. All PFDs should be easily accessible so that if something happens, everyone can get their PFD on at a moment's notice. Just as a reminder, everyone under the age of six must always wear a life jacket, whether the vessel is docked or underway.

Stay Safe (and Stylish) on the Water With Gemlux

Gemlux is dedicated to the Florida boating lifestyle. If you need any gear, equipment, boating accessories, or other hardware designed for comfort and style, you can order them directly from our website or contact us for more information.