Florida Boating Regulations

Florida Boating Regulations

Florida Boating Regulations are abundant. Several authorities govern maritime matters depending on where the event happens. Local, state, federal, and even international laws may apply along the various different waterways and depending on how far offshore the vessel is located.

Florida water boundaries:

  • Atlantic – Florida state waters extend from shore to 3 nautical miles.
  • Gulf – Florida state waters extend from short to 9 nautical miles.
  • Federal waters extend from the state water boundary to approximately 200 nautical miles or where another country’s waters begin. 

Before you decide to operate your boat, get familiar with all rules and regulations pertaining to the waters you will be traveling. Failure to follow any of these laws may result in criminal or civil liability. For a detailed list of boating regulations go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee. They offer a comprehensive list of boating regulations.

When Boating Accidents Occur

Florida law requires operators of a vessel involved in a boating accident to report it to law enforcement immediately if there was a severe injury, the disappearance of a person, or property damage exceeding $2,000.

Additionally, it is against the law for an operator to leave the scene of a boating accident without rendering aid to any injured person or reporting it to the proper authorities.

Vessel Registration

Another important Florida Boating regulation involves registration. All vessels, except non-motor-powered ones under 16-feet in length, are required to be registered within 30 days of purchase. Registration numbers must be displayed on both sides of the forward half of the vessel above the waterline in block letters at least 3” high. Registration must be renewed annually.

NOTE:Federally documented vessels need not display numbers in this manner, but must still register if their home port is in Florida.

Reckless and Careless Operation

A large percentage of boating accidents are caused by reckless or careless operation. Reckless operation is defined as operating a boat with “willful disregard for the safety of persons or property.” 

Careless operation involves the failure to operate a vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner. A person may be cited for careless operation if they endanger people or property outside of the boat by failing to observe other vessel traffic, ignoring posted restrictions, and not looking for diver-down flags.

Boating Safety Requirements

Individuals born on or after January 1, 1988, must pass an approved boater safety course in order to operate a vessel powered by ten horsepower or more. While operating, the person must have their ID and a boating safety education identification card.

Other Boating Regulations and Requirements

Maritime law is extensive, covering nearly every aspect of vessel operation. In addition to covering private and commercial vessels, maritime law regulates personal watercraft rentals and operations. Additional regulations regarding lighting and equipment requirements, divers-down flags, and boating under the influence can be found through the FWC.