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Know Your Boating Laws
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Know Your Boating Laws

Back in the day, when my husband and I first purchased our boat, I asked our salesperson if we needed to take some kind of boating safety or certification class.


He looked me right in the eye and said, “Here in Idaho, we rely on common sense. There’s no boating class required to own or drive a boat.”


I smiled and nodded but in my head, I was thinking, “Uhhh. I know people in my neighborhood who have ZERO common sense and I’m hesitant to share the road with them. Let alone the water.”


I know we frown on government interference here but at some point other people’s actions start affecting all of us.


But he was right. Idaho is one of eight states that doesn’t require certification to drive a boat. Still if you’re going to boat here, please do it safely.


Phew. There was my public service announcement for the day.


Federal Boating Laws


While state laws vary, and sometimes drastically, there are federal laws outlined on the Coast Guard website ( Most of these law and regulations deal with ships on ocean waters but the site features lots of other good information for the recreational boater as well.


Life Jackets for Minors


The United States Coast Guard's Life Jacket Rule for Children went into effect December 23, 2002. In support of the ongoing efforts of the states and Coast Guard to improve boating safety, the Coast Guard requires all children under 13 years of age wear Coast Guard approved life jackets, while aboard moving recreational vessels, except when the children are below decks or in an enclosed cabin.

The rule affects only those States that have not established requirements, statutes or rules regarding children and life jackets. In case you’re wondering, the rule recognizes existing state regulation, even if it is less stringent. Penalties for a boat operator who fails to have all children under the age of 13 wear a life jacket can cost you up to $1,100 for each violation.


Know The State Law


The Coast Guard site also has a great section that allows you to read boating laws by state. Even if you know your state’s boating laws, it’s important to remember you’ll be held to different standards if you cross state lines. For example, even if your state doesn’t require a boating class to operate a vessel, Missouri requires everyone born after January 1, 1984 to take a class in order to boat on its waters. Ohio requires anyone born on or after January 1, 1982 who operates a powerboat greater than 10 horsepower. New Hampshire says EVERYONE, no matter age, is required to pass a boating safety class. So it’s a good idea to take the time to learn if you’re planning on boating out of state.


Get Certified


Luckily, most states allow you to become certified online through You can hope online, study and test right through the website. Good luck and happy safe boating. 



Article Written by KATIE BURKE





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