Marine Unit Frequently Asked Questions
How many miles of waterfront does the
Tampa Marine Unit patrol? The Marine Unit patrols 68 linear miles of waterfront.
Who must wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)?
All boats must carry one Type I, II, III or V USCG-approved PFD
for each person on board a vessel. In addition, all children under 6 years
of age must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, III or V PFD at all
times while underway on any boat 26 feet or less in length.
How old do I have to be to operate a boat?
There is no minimum age to operate a boat, except a personal watercraft (PWC).
Florida law states that until October 1, 2001, a person born after
September 30, 1980, and on or after October 1, 2001, a person 21 years of
age or younger may not operate a vessel powered by a motor of 10
horsepower or greater unless such person has in his or her possession,
aboard the vessel, photographic identification and a boater safety
How old do you have to be to operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC)?
In Florida, no person under 14 years of age may operate any PWC.
How old do you have to be to rent a PWC?
Liveries are prohibited from renting a PWC to any person under 18
years of age. Persons 14 years old or older may operate a rented PWC, as
long as someone 18 or older rented it. A person must be 18 years of age or
older to enter into a rental contract for a PWC.
When is the "Divers
Down Flag" Required?
Florida law requires that SCUBA divers or snorkelers display a Flag
whenever they are in the water. Boaters must make reasonable efforts to
stay 300 feet away from dive flags in open water and 100 feet in rivers
What additional requirements are there for water-skiing?
Boats pulling skiers or another aquaplaning device must have an
observer on board, attendant to the actions of the skier, in addition to
the boat's operator or a wide-angle rear-view mirror. Skiers must wear a
USCG- approved non-inflatable Type I, II, III, or V PFD.
The operator of a vessel towing a skier may not pull the skier close
enough to a fixed object or another vessel that there is risk of collision
and no one may ski or aquaplane between the hours of 1/2 hour past sunset
to a 1/2 hour before sunrise.
No one may ski or use another aquaplaning device while impaired by
alcohol or other drugs.
What safety equipment is required on my recreational boat?
State and federal law require that you have the following safety
equipment: Personal Flotation Devices, Fire Extinguisher, Visual Distress
Signal, Bell & Whistle (sound producing device), Backfire Flame
control, and proper ventilation.
It is a good idea to carry some or all of the listed
equipment depending on the nature of your vessel and trip: anchor and
appropriate line (your line should be 7-10 times the depth of the
water), tools and spare parts, emergency drinking water and food, first
aid kit, charts, and a dry change of clothing.
(Click here to view the specific
requirements for your class vessel)
What vessels have to be TITLED?
Each vessel that is operated on the waters of the state must be
titled, unless it is:
(a) A vessel used exclusively on private lakes and ponds.
(b) A vessel owned by the United States Government.
(c) A non-motor-powered vessel less than 16 feet in length. (Trolling
motors are considered motors under this rule.)
(d) A federally documented vessel.
(e) A vessel already covered by a registration number in full force and
effect which was awarded to it pursuant to a federally approved
numbering system of another state or by the United States Coast Guard in
a state without a federally approved numbering system, if the vessel is
not located in this state for a period in excess of 90 consecutive days.
(f) A vessel from a country other than the United States temporarily
using the waters of this state for a period that is not in excess of 90
(g) An amphibious vessel for which a vehicle title is issued by the
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
(h) A vessel used solely for demonstration, testing, or sales
promotional purposes by the manufacturer or dealer.
(i) A vessel owned and operated by the state or a political subdivision
What vessels have to be REGISTERED?
Registration is an annual tax on the operation of a vessel on the
waters of this state. Upon paying the registration fee, the vessel will
certificate of registration (your sea-going tax receipt) that
must be available for inspection onboard the vessel and a decal showing
the year for which the registration fee has been paid.
ALL VESSELS used on the waters of the state must be registered, either
commercial or recreational, except as follows: (a) A vessel used
exclusively on private lakes and ponds. (b) A vessel owned by the United
States Government. (c) A vessel used exclusively as a ship's lifeboat. (d)
A non-motor-powered vessel.
If you paid a registration fee to another state or territory (Guam,
Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, etc.), then you may temporarily operate your
vessel in Florida without paying a second time. Military personnel, on
active duty, need not register their vessel in Florida until their home
state registration expires. All other persons must pay the Florida
registration fee before operating in excess of 90 days.
Warning Flags at Marinas and Launching Ramps. What do they mean?
Most marinas and launching ramps
display warning flags, or lights to indicate severe weather. A bright
red pennant, or a red light over a white one, indicates winds up to 38
mph. On the radio it will be called a SMALL CRAFT WARNING,
meaning small vessels should not venture out. When two red pennants are
flown, or at night, a white light over red, it means gale force winds
(up to 54 mph) are expected. This means to the dive team that they
should stay at the station. A red square flag with a black square in the
center, or two red lights on top of each other means TROPICAL STORM
or a STORM WARNING is in effect, these are winds up to 74 mph.
Finally two red square flags, with a black center square, or at night a
red light, over white, over red means HURRICANE, winds over 74
mph. To the dive team this mean gather up the gear and wait for it to
blow over because you will probably have a big job ahead after the