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Your Ultimate Boating FAQ Guide

Your Ultimate Boating FAQ Guide
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You did your research, you got the boat, and now you want to head out on the water – but are you ready? If you’re new to boating, just got a new boat, or haven’t been out on the water in some time, you might find yourself wondering things like what you need to drive a boat, and how you can stay safe while boating.

This guide to boating covers these and other frequently asked questions, from boating basics to important boating rules and safety guidelines.

How old do you need to be to drive a boat?

Boating is a family-friendly activity that everyone can enjoy, so you may be curious about teaching your child how to drive a boat. Because requirements for how old you need to be to operate a boat vary by state, be sure to check local regulations to determine if your child is old enough to safely and legally learn to drive a boat. Some regions permit children as young as twelve years old to drive a boat with adult supervision, but generally boaters need to be at least age seventeen before they can operate a motorized watercraft. States may also require young drivers to complete a boating safety course before they can operate a boat.

You can find more information on individual states’ websites or the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) website.

Do you need a license to drive a boat?

Many states require boaters to have a valid boating license before they operate a boat or personal watercraft. You can find your state’s mandatory education requirements online, typically on a boater education or recreation website, or at NASBLA. In many cases, you may also need to take a boating safety course.

What is a boating safety course, and do you need to take one?

A boating safety course is a great first step to learning how to operate a boat and follow boating etiquette. Staying safe on the water means knowing the basics before you head out, so whether you’re a seasoned boater or a beginner, taking a safety course will benefit you, your passengers, and those around you.

A NASBLA-approved boating education course will teach you things such as boating law, what safety equipment you need, how to stay safe, and common problems you may encounter. In many states, this knowledge is required if you want to obtain a boat license – and it may get you a discount on your boating insurance!

You can take a course online or in-person, but do some research before you register to ensure that the course you take has been approved by the state. The database of NASBLA-approved boating safety courses is a good starting point.

Do you need to register a boat?

Many things boating are regulated by the state, so you will need to check local regulations to see if you need to register your boat. In most cases, the answer to this question will be “yes”, but this also depends on the type of boat you have. For example, some states require that all motorized watercraft are registered with the state, regardless of size, but in other states, boats smaller than a certain size may not need to be registered.

To register your boat, you will need to look up your state’s requirements and complete a registration form, either online or in-person. You will be asked to provide proof of ownership, including a title or bill or sale, and pay a registration fee.

What identification do you need to bring boating?

Many forms of identification that you bring with you driving are needed for boating, such as your license. When you’re operating a boat, you should bring your boating safety course certification, and any other state-required identification.

What are boating safety guidelines?

A boating safety course will cover necessary safety guidelines for keeping you and your passengers safe from harm, and what you need to do in an emergency, but here are some quick tips to keep everyone safe on the water:

  • Have as many life jackets as there are people on board. For example, if you have 4 passengers, you will need five life jackets (one for each passenger, and one for you).
  • Slow down for waves. As the boat operator, you can see a wave coming and prepare yourself for impact, but your passengers may not be able to.
  • Have a boating first aid kid and safety equipment on board. An easily accessible first aid kit, stocked with items and medication, is a must-have for any and every boating trip.
  • Start with short trips. Build up to a larger trip by taking smaller, shorter ones to get used to the water, learn how to navigate it, and develop a pre-departure checklist of everything you need.

What is boating etiquette?

Boating etiquette is the rules of the road, or in this case, water. Knowing these rules keeps everyone safe and allows you to enjoy your time on the water. Here are some of the most important rules to know:

  • Always yield to the boat on your right (starboard) side for right of way.
  • Pass boats on the left side.
  • Follow boats in a single-file line.
  • Slow down or stop to reduce your wake.
  • Use a horn or whistle to signal your position in foggy conditions.

Remember to have fun!

Many of the rules and regulations for boating come back to one thing – safety – but while that’s a necessary and critical component to being on the water, the goal is to have fun. Once you’ve registered your boat, taken a boating safety course, and gotten your boating license, you will be ready to take your boat out, go fishing, or just explore.

If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to local boaters and contact your local authorities for help.

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