Florida is an amazing location for boating enthusiasts. The coastal serenity has a gravitating effect on people. However, before diving into the boating lifestyle, it is important to have a clear understanding of the state’s boating laws to avoid conflict with the legal authorities.

Below, we have collected the most overlooked boating laws everyone needs to be aware of before going out on a boat.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Under Florida law, all boat owners need to carry safety equipment as a primary requirement. The safety equipment should meet the standards set by the US Coast Guard. Some of this safety equipment includes PFDs, fire extinguishers, and navigation lights.

PFDs refer to personal floatation devices or, in simpler terms, life jackets and throwable floating devices. For vessels between 16 and 26 feet, there must be a USCG-approved PFD Type I, II, or III available for all those onboard plus a throwable Type IV device. Type II and III inflatable life jackets are not meant to be used by children under the age of 16.

Moreover, any child on board under the age of 6 needs to wear (at all times) a life jacket of the types mentioned above. This rule applies to children on a vessel that is 26 feet or less in length. Overall, these PFDs must be in good condition and within easy access in case of an emergency.

There is a new law effective April 1, 2021 – operators must use kill lanyard.

Other Safety Equipment

All recreational vessels are required to have visual and sound signaling devices. Vessels under 16 feet should have flares and nighttime signals, while boats 16 feet long and over should carry visual signaling devices for the night and daytime. These devices include flags, flares, and strobe lights. For sound signaling devices, you can use air horns and whistles. Make sure to check the expiration on the air horns and flares.

Boats are also required to have one or several USCG-approved B-I or B-II type fire extinguishers depending on the boat size.  If the boat is less than 26 feet, then one B-I extinguisher is required. If the boat is 26’-40’ then there must be at least two B-I extinguishers or one B-II extinguisher on board. Lastly, if the boat is 40’-65’, three B-I extinguishers or a B-II and a B-I extinguisher need to be on board.

Alcohol and BUI

There are strict prohibitions regarding boating under the influence in the state of Florida. You cannot operate a boat if intoxicated. If the authorities suspect that you are under the influence, they have the right to run a sobriety test on you. To pass this test, you should have an alcohol level under 0.08%. If it is at that percentage or above the authorities will legally consider you under the influence.

Moreover, anyone operating a boat under the age of 21 should have a breath-alcohol level that is 0.02% or lower. Otherwise, they will also be considered under the influence.

Speed Zones

All boats and personal watercraft operators need to comply with the different speed zones indicated by the posted signs. Here are we explain the most common signs:

  • Idle Speed, No Wake Zone: Speed should be no greater than the one needed to maintain steerage and headway, and your vessel should produce a wake.
  • Slow Speed, Minimum Wake Zone: The vessel must be completely settled without the bow being elevated at any point and there should be a minimal wake.
  • 25MPH, 30MPH, and 35MPH Speed Zones: Vessels should not exceed the speed posted on the sign.
  • Vessels Excluded: Indicates that a vessel is not to enter this area. The sign has a diamond shape with a cross inside.

Other Regulations

There are many other regulations often overlooked by boaters. We recommend you visit Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and get familiar with all of them.

Ready to Join the Boating Lifestyle?

Now that you have an idea of the boating laws in Florida and know where to find them, you can start looking for the right boat. If you live in SWFL and are looking for boat dealers in Naples, Fl, or boat dealers in Fort Myers make sure you contact us!

Fish Tale Boats has locations in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Fort Myers. We have a selection of top manufacturers like Grady-White, Robalo, Chaparral, and Premier Pontoons. Browse our inventory today or give us a call at (239) 463-4448.