Know Your Surroundings
Always pay attention to the conditions around your vessel, both above and below the water.
Paddlers and other boats. Check for boat traffic in all directions, maintain a safe speed, and yield to non-motorized vessels.
Swimmers. Keep an eye out for people swimming or wading, especially when boating near beaches and sandbars.
Wildlife. Look for manatees and the flat circles they create in the water. Obey speed zones to protect wildlife from boat collisions.
Weather and tides. Watch for storms and get to shore at the first sign of lightning. Be mindful of changing tides to avoid running aground.
Dive flags. When you see a red and white flag indicating divers below, slow down and keep a safe distance.
Seagrass. Stay in deeper water and steer clear of seagrass beds to avoid harmful prop scarring.
Minimum Required Safety Equipment for Recreational Boaters in Florida*
The owner and/or operator of a vessel is responsible to carry, store, maintain and use the safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Ensure you have all items, know where they are, and that they are easily accessible.
- Personal floation devices (PFDs) One USCG approved PFD for each person on board and one throwable device. On boats less than 26 feet, children under six must wear approved and properly fitting PFD when underway.
- Fire extinguisher(s) Must be USCG approved and in serviceable condition.
- Visual distress signals Required anytime the distance between shorelines is more than two miles.
- Sound producing device Device must be capable of producing a constant blast of at least six seconds and be audible for at least one-half mile. All vessels 39.4 feet in length or greater must also carry a bell that is capable of producing a clear, bell-like tone.
*Different class vessels (based on overall length) may have additional safety equipment requirements. In addition, passenger-carrying and other commercial vessels have slightly different requirements. For more information, please contact the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission office or United States Coast Guard.
Boater Education Law Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 must have a Boating Safety Education ID Card to legally operate a boat in Florida. Certain exemptions may apply. Contact FWC Division of Law Enforcement at (850) 488-5600 or [email protected] for more info.