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State Boating Laws, Rules, and Regulations

Knowing the rules where you boat is important to boating safety for everyone.

Pleasure boating

Whether you just bought a new boat or are boating in a new state, you need to know and follow your state boating laws, rules, and regulations. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about state boating laws.

Why is knowing my state boating laws important?
Learning your state and local boating laws and rules is important for boating safety — for you and your passengers as well as those in other boats. Boating laws may be different depending on where you boat, so you don't want to accidentally run afoul of boating requirements such as taking a boating safety course, life jacket wearing, equipment requirements, boating under the influence, boating in environmentally sensitive areas, and more.

Where can I take a boating safety course?
There are many public and private boating safety courses available that satisfy mandatory boating education requirements. One of the easiest is the free state specific boating safety courses offered by the BoatUS Foundation. The BoatUS Foundation offers the only free online boating safety course developed specifically for your state. The BoatUS Foundation Boating Safety Course is recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard and approved by NASBLA and your state boating license agency.

I took my state's boating safety course but I recently moved to a new state. Do I have to take the course again?
Each state or territory sets its own requirements when it comes to boating safety education. Your boating education certification is not a license, which can be suspended or revoked. It allows you to operate certain watercraft in the waters of the state it was issued by. But many states practice "reciprocity," meaning a valid certification in one state is accepted in another state (typically with length of time restrictions). Learn more about boating education reciprocity here.

Who do I ask about specific boating issues in my state?
Have a specific question about boating in your state? NASBLA offers a list of boating safety contacts by state. Visit the page, then click on the state to find the boating law administrator and others involved in boating safety education, law enforcement, numbering & titling, and other boating program areas.

What are the boating laws and rules for my state?
BoatUS has put together a list of links to state boating laws. Click on your state in the list below to access the information. (Clicking the state boating law links will take you to external websites not affiliated with BoatUS.)

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Award-winning BoatUS Magazine is the official publication of Boat Owners Association of The United States. The magazine provides boating skills, DIY maintenance, safety, news and more from top experts.