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Rules & Regulations


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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 the water.
  • The vessel’s wake must not be excessive nor create a hazard to other vessels.


  • 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.


  • Each person operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear an approved non-inflatable Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device (PFD). Inflatable PFDs are prohibited for personal watercraft use.
  • The operator of a personal watercraft must attach the engine cutoff switch lanyard (if equipped by the manufacturer) to his/her person, clothing or PFD.
  • Personal watercraft may not be operated from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, even if navigation lights are used. Remember, both federal and state law requires the use of navigation lights from sunset to sunrise.
  • Maneuvering a personal watercraft by weaving through congested vessel traffic, jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably close or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed, or swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision is classified as reckless operation of a vessel (a first-degree misdemeanor).
  • A person must be at least 18 years of age to rent a personal watercraft in Florida.
  • It is unlawful for a person to knowingly allow a person under 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft (a second-degree misdemeanor).
  • Anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 is required to either have successfully completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved boating education course or have passed a course equivalency or temporary certificate examination and have in their possession a boating education ID card and a photo identification card before operating a vessel with a motor of 10 HP or more in Florida. Identification cards for persons completing the course or the equivalency exam are good for a lifetime. Temporary Certificate exams are made available to the public through contractors. The temporary certificate is valid for 12 months from the issue date.


  • 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 Oct. 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. 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.
  • Diver-down symbols displayed from the water must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches and can be in the form of a flag or a buoy. The buoys must be three or four sided and have a divers-down symbol displayed on each of the flat sides. A divers-down buoy may not be used or displayed on a vessel.
  • Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy 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 or buoys on open waters and at least 100 feet from flags or buoys on rivers, inlets or navigation channels. Vessels approaching divers-down flags or buoys 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 or buoy may not be displayed.


  • 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 underway. “Underway” 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.
  • 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 facility is prohibited from renting a vessel that does not have proper safety equipment, exceeds the recommended horsepower or load capacity, or is not seaworthy.
  • The facility must provide pre-rental or pre-ride instruction on the safe operation of the vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower or more.
  • This instruction must include, at a minimum, operational characteristics of the vessel, safe operation and right-of-way, operator responsibilities and local waterway characteristics.
  • The person delivering this information must have completed a NASBLA/state-approved boater safety course.
  • All renters required by law to have a boater education ID card must have the card or its equivalent before the facility may rent to them.
  • The livery must display boating safety information in a place visible to the renting public in accordance with FWC guidelines.
  • PWC liveries must provide on-the-water demonstration and a check ride to evaluate the proficiency of renters.
  • PWC liveries may not enter into rental agreement with anyone under the age of 18.
  • PWC liveries must display safety information on the proper operation of a PWC.
  • The information must include: propulsion, steering and stopping characteristics of jet pump vessels, the location and content of warning labels, how to re-board a PWC, the applicability of the Navigation Rules to PWC operation, problems with seeing and being seen by other boaters, reckless operation, and noise, nuisance and environmental concerns.
  • A law enforcement officer may stop any vessel for the purpose of checking for compliance with boating safety equipment requirements.
  • 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.