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Marine Unit Frequently Asked Questions

Life Preserver Vest

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 identification card.

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.

Diver FlagWhen 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 and channels.

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?Safety Equipment
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 days.
(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 thereof.

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 receive a Registrationcertificate 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?

Warning FlagsMost 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 storm.