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Florida can be a water enthusiast’s paradise, with countless lakes, miles of coastline both on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, as well as the vast network of intracoastal waterways. So whether it’s freshwater or saltwater, Florida has plenty of opportunities for kayaking and boating.
But first you need to know the rules. We have put together some information on Florida kayak laws so you can paddle safely.
Alternatively, read our full guide to Florida kayaking destinations here.
Florida Kayak & Boat Registration Laws
Do You Have To Register A Kayak In Florida?
No. Kayaks without a motor do not need to be registered.
If your boat is less than 16 feet long and does not have a motor then it does not need to be registered in Florida. Similarly, you do not need to register a non-motorized kayak or canoe, regardless of how long it is. Trolling motors of any kind fall into the motorized category.
All motorized vessels in Florida must be titled and registered through your local county’s tax office. Your Certificate of Registration must then be carried on your vessel at all times. Your registration number should be clearly displayed towards the front of your vessel on both sides so that it’s visible above the waterline.
The numbers displayed on your vessel need to be at least 3 inches in height and the registration decal should be displayed within 6 inches of the number on the port (left) side of your vessel.
How To Register
You can register your vessel through one of the driver license and motor vehicle service centers in your local county. Most offices will require that you make an appointment in advance.
This must be done within 30 days of purchasing your boat and you need to have proof of ownership and date of purchase when you register. The boat will also need to be titled.
Before your vessel is registered, during the 30 day period, you must have your proof of ownership and purchase date on board your boat at all times while the boat is in use.
Cost Of Registration
At time of writing: The cost of titling your vessel starts at $5.25 for an electronic title. You can receive a paper title for $7.75 or pay $11 if you need your title in a hurry. You may also have to pay an additional $4 if your boat was previously registered in another state.
The cost of registration will vary depending on the length of your boat. For vessels under 12 feet it’s $12.50. From 12 up to 16 feet the cost is $16.25, and from 16 up to 26 feet it’ll cost $78.25, with the cost increasing as the boats get bigger.
There is also an optional county fee that some states charge, which also increases with the length of your vessel.
Florida PFD Boating Regulations (Life Jackets/Vests)
There must be a US Coast Guard approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device) on board every vessel for every person on board. The life vests must be Type I, II or III, be a suitable size for each person on board and must be in good condition. It is not mandatory to wear a PFD if you’re an adult. We recommend that you do wear one though!
However, if you have a Type V PFD this must be worn in order to comply with the regulations.
If your vessel is more than 16 feet in length you are also required to have a throwable Type IV PFD on board your boat and easily accessible.
All children under the age of 6 must wear a PFD at all times while on board any moving vessel that is under 26 feet in length. This can be a Type I, II or III US Coast Guard approved life vest.
What About Alcohol (BUI – Boating Under The Influence)?
It is against the law to operate any vessel in Florida while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Blood or breath alcohol level of above 0.08% is considered under the influence. If you are under the age of 21 the limit is 0.02%.
Penalties for boating under the influence in Florida can be severe, with a first offense carrying a fine of a minimum of $500 up to $1000 plus up to 6 months in jail. Fines for second offenses double and you could spend up to 9 months in jail with penalties increasing for third and subsequent offenses.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Officers can legally board your vessel to carry out a safety inspection or if they suspect that you are operating the vessel under the influence. This can also give them powers to investigate any other potential law infringements that they see.
Video: Boating, Drinking, And Guns: What Is The Law In Florida?
Other Kayak And Boating Laws In Florida
Do I Need Lights On My Kayak?
If you are paddling between sunset and sunrise or in low light conditions, such as fog then you need to have a white light on board your vessel so that it can be visible to other water users. It’s not necessary for the light to be on all the time, as long as you can switch it on in enough time to avoid a collision.
You can use a flashlight and this can be worn, mounted to your boat or stowed, as long as you’re able to reach it quickly when required.
If your boat is anchored, it is required that you display a white light that can be seen from all directions.
What About Maritime Distress Signals?
Maritime Distress Signals are generally only required by the US Coast Guard while you are in US coastal waters. This can include bays and inlets where the mouth of the water is more than 2 miles wide.
However, for kayaks and recreational vessels under 16 feet in length, visual distress signals are not required during the day.
If you’re on the water between sunset and sunrise you will have to carry three visual distress signals. These can be red flares as well as an electric distress light. The distress light must meet USCG requirement 46 CFR 161.013 and must automatically flash the SOS distress signal.
You should also have a whistle on board your kayak at all times during the day or night.
Minimum Age To Kayak And Boat
There is no minimum age to kayak in Florida.
However, if you were born in 1988 or after and you want to operate a boat with an engine greater than 10 Hp, then you will need to have completed an approved boating education course.
Completing the course will mean you receive an identification card which you will need to carry with you along with a photo ID card.
Now that you know the rules for kayaking and boating in Florida you should be able to enjoy the water safely and legally. Remember, if your kayak or canoe has a trolling motor attached then you’ll need to register it with your county tax office.
Always have a PFD on board for everyone on your vessel, keeping in mind that kids under 6 years old are required to wear theirs and it’s recommended that all adults wear theirs too.
Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments. Remember to share it to help others stay safe on Florida’s waters and don’t forget your sunscreen.