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The great outdoors is a part of nature that most people like to enjoy and partake in. Whether you are an avid fisherman or you like to set sail on the vast waters before you, there are a number of activities that await you. Regardless of where you reside, one of the most popular recreational activities all across the nation is boating. Boating is often conducted on a sailboat, a powerboat or a large vessel. As exciting as this sport can be, it is important that you adhere to the regulations of your state. Each state wildlife department has its own set of rules, which recreational activity seekers must adhere to, starting with the age requirement to boat. Although most states do not require a boating license per se, you will nonetheless need to take the proper boating safety course and pass a certification exam. Only then will you be permitted to engage in this activity and/or rent a boat. Take note that the course you decide to take must be approved by your state wildlife/boating department in order for you to proceed. Currently, the only state that makes it mandatory to apply for a boating license is Alabama. Before you set foot on the crystal-clear blue waters, set aside some time to review the relevant boating license and boating registration application information that pertains to where you reside. If you are not sure where to begin, continue reading our sections below so that you can familiarize yourself with the basics.

Boating Age Requirement

Many states have standard rules in place when it comes to the age requirement you must meet before you are provided legal permission to operate a boat. The minimum age requirement varies from state to state, though you will often find that you must be between 14 and 18 years of age. In most cases, to rent a boat, you must be at least 18 years of age. In addition to this, you must be ready to take a boat safety education course before you can receive the proper credentials to operate a boat.

Boat Safety Education Course

One of the main requirements to get boating credentials in almost any state is taking an educational course. Oftentimes this course can be completed at a local center, online or at an in-home setting. Prior to taking this class, consider taking the time to study the various topics that will be covered. Some of the material you will be quizzed on includes boat safety rules and navigation procedures. Once you have completed the course, the next step will require you to take a certification exam to ensure you fully comprehend everything you have learned. Most states require you to get at least 80 percent of the questions right to pass. After you have fulfilled all of these necessary steps, a boater education card will then be sent to you in the mail. This form of identification must be on your person at all times. Keep in mind, however, that since Alabama does require its residents to get an actual boating license, residents will need to visit their local Driver License office afterward in order to have the proper endorsement added to their driving license.

Where to Register Your Boat

Once you have been officially authorized to operate a boat, you will then need to make sure that you have your water vessel properly registered in the state. Depending on where you live, the location will vary. In some instances, you may need to stop by your local Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Natural Resources, whereas other states may require you to fill out the proper paperwork at a county tax collector’s office. In the event that you have lost your boating education I.D. card, you will also be required to visit one of these offices to apply for a replacement. When registering your boat, make sure that you have the correct registration payment on hand for any applicable fees. Once you have been issued the proper decal, you will need to have it clearly displayed on your boat, no matter the time of day or night.

Boating Equipment Checklist

In order to ensure the safety of all passengers on your boat, it is important to mark off a few, essential items on your checklist. As you are getting ready to set sail, be mindful of the following:

  • Your registration decal must be properly displayed on your vessel.
  • You must have a life jacket for each passenger on your boat.
  • You must have a fire extinguisher and a horn on board.
  • You must have a flotation device that can be easily accessed and used.
  • You must have a first aid kit readily available.
  • You must have green, white and red lights.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. Depending on your state of residence, you will have to meet certain eligibility requirements. The main requirement that most states focus on is age. In order to obtain the necessary licensure for operating a boat in your state of residence, you will have to provide proof that you meet the age requirement, which is typically between 14 and 18 years of age.
Yes. One common thread throughout the United States is the requirement of enrolling in a boating safety class in order to obtain a state’s boating certification (often referred to as a license). These classes have a primary focus on safety procedures that always need to be taken into consideration when operating a boating vessel, and in order to complete these classes, you must successfully pass a final exam at the conclusion of the course.
No. In order to operate a vessel in your state of residence, you must also obtain the necessary boating registration documents. Just like motor vehicles, boats need to be registered with the appropriate state department in order to be operated legally on state waters. Typically, the registration process can be completed at the same office where you register motor vehicles in your state.
There are a number of items that should always be on your boat. They include the registration documents and other relevant state paperwork, safety equipment (such as life vests, first aid kits, etc.) and a supply of water/food for all of your fishing trips. Always set aside some time before a trip to prepare effectively.
Depending on your state of residence, you may only need one or the other. Certain states only require you to have a boating safety certificate to operate a vessel legally, and these certificates are often called “licenses” incorrectly, though they serve the same purpose. Other states, however, require you to obtain the official “boating license.”
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