From the Keys to St. John’s River, there seem to be limitless boating opportunities in the State of Florida. Because the state offers an abundant number of places to get out on the water, Florida is an ideal place for boat owners. Before you embark, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to the state’s boating laws for different kinds of vessels.
The state requires that all vessels are registered and titled with the nearest Tax Collector’s Office within 30 days of purchase. Non-motorized vessels that are under 16 feet in length are the only exception. If you decide to make modifications to a non-motorized vessel, it will fall under the requirements for registration.
You are to always keep your registration certificate on the vessel. Registration numbers need to be 3 inches tall, in a color distinguishable from the hull, and above water. You need to position them on the front half of your boat on both the port and starboard sides. Registration decals sit a half foot from the port side registration numbers and need a renewal on an annual basis.
Florida does not have a boating license. To operate a vessel with 10 horsepower or more, people born on or after January 1, 1988, must complete a boating education class that is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. There is no minimum age to take the test so there is no minimum age to drive a boat in Florida as long as the driver has the correct credentials.
While operating this kind of vessel, those who have completed their class should have their boating education ID card and some type of photo identification on board. Out-of-state visitors who can prove they’ve completed a course comparable to Florida’s standards do not require a Florida Boating Education ID. An operator being supervised by someone 18 years old or older who has their Florida Boating Education ID does not need an ID of their own.
It is the owner’s responsibility to have the proper safety equipment required by the United States Coast Guard on board. There should be one USCG-approved personal flotation device (PFD) per person on the vessel and type IV PFD is required on vessels 16 feet and longer to be thrown out immediately in the case of a fall overboard. Children under the age of 6 must be wearing their PFD any time the boat is not anchored, moored, or onshore.
Some sort of sound-producing device must on board at all times, but sirens are prohibited. Boats are required to be equipped with a muffle unless they are competing in a regatta or official boat race.
Boats that are towing someone on skis or any other aquaplane device must have another observer other than the operator or be equipped with a wide-angle rearview mirror. Vessels cannot begin towing someone on skis or an aquaplane device until 30 minutes before sunrise and must stop 30 minutes after sunset.
Airboats must be equipped with a flag that is visible in all directions and 10 feet above the lowest point on the boat. The flag should be at least 10 inches by 12 inches in size and color international orange. The engine must have a manufactured device that can muffle the sound of the engine exhaust. Flexpipe is not seen as an adequate muffler for an airboat.
Boat insurance, while not mandatory for the State of Florida, is highly encouraged for motorized vessels or vessels that cost more than $1000. A boating insurance policy would be there to cover damages to the vessel, liability coverage, medical payments, or towing costs.