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New Jersey Kayak Laws And Regulations

Mark Armstrong
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If you’re looking to go kayaking or boating in New Jersey it can be a good idea to know the rules before you set off. As with all states, there are regulations in place to help keep you and other water users safe.

We have put some information together to help explain some of the New Jersey kayak laws that you might need to know before you hit the water.

New Jersey Kayak & Boat Registration Laws

Without A Motor

A kayak or canoe without a motor, regardless of length, does not need to be registered in New Jersey. Non-motorized vessels under 12 feet and non-motorized inflatables do not need to be registered.

Non-motorized vessels and sailboats over 12 feet are required to be registered, unless they will be used only on private lakes or ponds.


All motorized vessels regardless of length must be registered with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. If your vessel is over 12 feet in length it will also need to be titled and all titled boats will then need to be registered.

Cost Of Registration

The cost of registering your boat in New Jersey will depend on the boat’s length. For vessels up to 16 feet, the registration fee is $12. For boats that are between 16 and 26 feet, the cost is $28.

The titling fee is $60.

How To Register

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You must register your boat within 10 working days of your purchase or you could face a $25 fine. To register your vessel you will need to complete a Universal Title Application as well as an Application for Boat Registration. You will also need to submit the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin if your boat is not titled, or the proof of ownership from the seller with a notarized receipt.

The application, along with the relevant fees, can be submitted at your local Motor Vehicle Commission Agency.

You will then receive your Certificate of Number which must be carried at all times on board your vessel while in operation. You will also receive validation decals. Your registration number must be fixed to your boat on both sides of your bow so that it can be clearly read. The numbers must be at least 3 inches high and in a contrasting color.

Your validation decals must also be fixed to your vessel on both sides, 3 inches after the last letter of your registration number.

New Jersey PFD Boating Regulations (Life Jackets/Vests)

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A US Coast Guard approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device), of either Type I, II, III or V, is required for each person on board a vessel in New Jersey. This applies to all vessels, regardless of length. The PFD must be of a suitable size for the wearer, easily accessible and be in good condition.

For vessels that are 16 feet or longer you will also need to have on board a US Coast Guard approved Type IV throwable PFD.


All children 12 years and younger must wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD while on any vessel, unless the child is in a fully enclosed cabin.

It’s against the law to operate a vessel if there is a child under 13 years of age on board who is not wearing an appropriate life jacket. The operator of the boat can be fined $250.

What About Alcohol Laws (BUI – Boating Under The Influence)?

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New Jersey law states that anyone with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or above is under the influence of alcohol. It is illegal in New Jersey to boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


If you’re found to be boating under the influence with a blood alcohol level of between 0.08% and 0.10% you could face a fine of up to $400, lose your boating privileges for one year plus lose your driver’s license for three months.

If your blood alcohol level is over 0.10% you could be fined up to $500, as well as lose your boating privileges for a year. Plus, you could lose your driver’s license for up to a year.

For subsequent convictions you could lose your driver’s license for up to 10 years and you could be jailed.

Other Kayak & Boating Laws in New Jersey

New Jersey Boater License

In order to operate a motorized vessel on non-tidal waters in New Jersey you are required to have a boat license and a New Jersey Boat Safety Certificate. For tidal waters you are required to have a New Jersey Boating Safety Course Certificate.

You do not need the license or certificate to operate a non-motorized vessel on New Jersey waters. However, you will need both of these if you choose to add a motor to your kayak or canoe.

Video: New Jersey Boating Safety Course

You can apply for your boat license at a Motor Vehicle Agency once you’ve passed an approved boating safety course and received the certificate. The cost for the license is $18 and you have to take your ID and your Boat Safety Certificate with you to your local agency.

Do I Need Lights On My Kayak?

If you will be kayaking at night, between the hours of sunset and sunrise then you will need lights on your kayak. For kayaks, this can be a white lantern or flashlight. This should also be used in times of restricted visibility.

Motorized vessels up to 39.5 feet are required to have red and green sidelights and an all-around white stern light or masthead light.

Minimum Age To Kayak And Boat

There is no minimum age requirement to operate a kayak, canoe or other non-motorized boat in New Jersey.

The minimum age to operate a motorized vessel is 13. However, if you’re between 13 and 16 you can only operate a vessel with an electric motor or one that is 12 feet or longer, provided it has a motor less than 10 hp. You must also have passed an approved boater safety course and have your New Jersey Boat Safety Certificate with you on board.

What About Maritime Distress Signals?

Visual Distress Signals (VDS) are required on all vessels that are operating between sunset and sunrise on coastal waters. For kayaks, motorized vessels less than 16 feet and sailboats less than 26 feet, only night signals are required.

For larger vessels you will need to carry both night and day signals in order to meet US Coast Guard requirements.

Night signals can include three handheld red flares or an electric distress light.

Additionally, all vessels are required to have a sufficient sound producing device on board when operating on both New Jersey and federally controlled waters. For kayaks and small vessels up to 39.4 feet in length, a whistle or bell can be recommended but it’s not required by law in New Jersey.

Boating Law Enforcement

In New Jersey the boating laws are enforced by the New Jersey State Police. On federally controlled waters, including the coastline, the laws are enforced by the US Coast Guard.

It is against the law to fail to follow the directions or instructions of a law enforcement officer. You must also allow law enforcement officers to board your vessel when required in order for them to check that you are following state or federal laws.

Wrapping Up

New Jersey can be a great place for kayaking and boating, with lots of rivers, lakes and access to the coastal waters of the Atlantic. But it can be important to know the laws and safety requirements before you head out so that you can avoid any legal challenges.

Remember that you must have a suitable PFD on board for each person on your craft and if you have any children under 13 with you, they must wear it at all times.

If you need to title and register your vessel, remember to attach your numbers and decals to both sides of your vessel and always carry your Certificate of Number with you when you’re on board.

Also, don’t forget to check out our article on the best places to kayak in NJ.

Any thoughts? Leave us a comment. And if you think this could help out your buddies, share it with them.

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