Florida Boating Safety





Brief view of Florida boating safety rules and equipment requirements needed to operate a boat on Florida’s inland lakes. If all of this sounds familiar to you, it’s because they pretty much parallel the same requirements your home state calls for. What may differ is if you have plans to fish or boat on the coast or the inner coastal waterways, you need to look at the U.S.C.G.’S regulations. There are some additional safety items required when fishing these waters. For more Florida boating information and greater details on what is required for the area you may be boating in, visit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The text below in italics is the exact language used by the F.F. and W.C.C. I’ve highlighted some of the more important points with bold text.

Minimum Required Safety Equipment

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Florida boating safety rules, requires you to have a USCG approved life jacket for each person on board (Type I, II or III) and 1 throwable (Type IV) cushion.

Class I Recreational Vessel: The USCG requires “Every person on board under the age of six (6) must wear an approved Type I, II, or III PFD while the vessel is underway. "Underway" is defined as anytime except when the vessel is anchored, moored, made fast to the shore, or aground.”

Type I PFD Type II PFD Type III PFD Type IV PFD

A Type V hybrid may be substituted for any Type I, II, or III PFD, but it must actually be worn when running with the outboard.

Type V PFD

Fire Extinguisher

Florida boating safety laws say your fire extinguisher must be USCG approved and in serviceable condition.

USCG states that a fire extinguisher is not required on all outboards. If you have a permanently installed fuel tank then the rule applies. Again this is probably something you already have but if not I would recommend one even if it is not required in your particular situation. I would rather err on the safe side.

Fire Extinguisher

“At least one B-I type approved hand-held portable fire extinguisher (not required on outboard motorboats less than 26 feet in length and not carrying passengers for hire, if the construction of the vessel will not permit entrapment of explosives or flammable gasses or vapors and if the fuel tank is not permanently installed.)” Of course I’m carrying passengers for hire so according to Florida boating safety rules I must have an extinguisher mounted in a handy easy to reach location under the dash. Whether I carry passengers for hire or not, I’ll always have an extinguisher on board.

Sound Producing Device (bell, horn, whistle etc.)

According to the Florida boating safety rules “Every vessel less than 12 meters (39.4 ft) in length must carry an efficient sound producing device. The sound producing device need not meet any particular specifications, as long as the vessel can produce signals required by the navigational rules.”

Safety Whistle Portable Airhorn

“At least one B-I type approved hand-held portable fire extinguisher (not required on outboard motorboats less than 26 feet in length and not carrying passengers for hire, if the construction of the vessel will not permit entrapment of explosives or flammable gasses or vapors and if the fuel tank is not permanently installed.)” Of course I’m carrying passengers for hire so I have an extinguisher mounted in a handy easy to reach location under the dash. Whether I carry passengers for hire or not, I’ll always have an extinguisher on board.

Sound Producing Device (bell, horn, whistle etc.)

According to the Florida boating safety rules “Every vessel less than 12 meters (39.4 ft) in length must carry an efficient sound producing device. The sound producing device need not meet any particular specifications, as long as the vessel can produce signals required by the navigational rules.”

Boat Paddle Portable Bilge Pump Boat Anchor Anchor Line

“We further suggest that you equip your vessel with an anchor and a sufficient amount of anchor line; a de-watering device, such as a bilge pump in the event of flooding; and an oar, paddle or other alternative means of propulsion in case your engine fails. If the above equipment requirements and suggestions are met, you may be eligible to display a FWC or Coast Guard Auxiliary safety decal. For more information, please contact your local FWC office.”




-State-Specific Boating Safety Requirements-

VESSEL REGISTRATION

All vessels operating with mechanical propulsion devices (such as gas or electric outboards) are required to be registered.

Registration numbers must be displayed on the forward half of the vessel on both sides above the waterline. The numbers must be bold block letters at least 3" high in a color contrasting to the hull.

The vessel registration decal is to be displayed within six (6) inches of, either before or after, the registration numbers on the port (left) side.

Documented vessels without a state registration in full force and effect must also obtain a Florida registration and display the validation decal on the port side of the vessel when using Florida waters.


BOATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Although it is not against Florida boating safety laws to have alcohol on board, the same laws apply when operating a boat under the influence as that of an automobile. As guides, we often have alcohol brought on board by our customers but as the boats operator we stick strictly to the soft drinks or water that we provide for our customers.

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 the age of 21 years 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.


LAW ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITY

Law enforcement officers of the 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.

A law enforcement officer may stop any vessel for the purpose of checking for compliance with boating safety equipment requirements.




This is meant to be an unofficial overview of the minimum requirements to operate a boat on Florida’s inland lakes. Even if you stay on the inland lakes there are additional requirements for boats with inboard engines. Also the safety requirements for canoes and kayaks differ from inboard and outboard powered boats. Go to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to review the safety requirements, regulations and laws pertaining to your specific craft. Once you’ve checked to see that you have all the necessary equipment to meet Florida boating safety rules and regulations, you can then relax knowing that you comply when the game warden comes by. The Fish and Game Wardens are good guys only checking to make sure your boat meets the minimum safety requirements, you have a current license and are not exceeding the creel limits. If you know your boat is legal, then you can concentrate on finding and catching big Florida bass and not looking over your shoulder for a game warden.





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