The Legal Requirements of Boating
Your Vessel’s Certificate of Registration and Decal
Requirements for vessel registration vary from state to state. In Florida, you must have a Florida Certificate of Registration and validation decal to operate a vessel legally on public waters in Florida. The only exceptions are: non-motorized vessels less than 16 feet in length; non-motorized canoes, kayaks, racing shells, or rowing skulls of any length; and vessels used exclusively in private lakes and ponds.
The Certificate of Registration and validation decal are issued by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
* The registration and decal are obtained by submitting the proper application and fee to your county tax collector’s office. Additional information is available and application forms may be downloaded at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website.
* Fees for registration are based on a vessel’s length.
Florida Certificate of Registration
The Certificate of Registration must be on board and available for inspection by an enforcement officer whenever the vessel is operated.
The vessel’s registration number and validation decal must be displayed as follows.
* Number must be painted, applied as a decal, or otherwise affixed to both sides of the bow and maintained in a legible condition.
* Number must read from left to right on both sides of the bow.
* Number must be in at least three-inch-high bold BLOCK letters.
* Number’s color must contrast with its background and placed where it can be clearly observed.
* Letters must be separated from the numbers by a hyphen or space equal to letter width; for example: FL 3717 ZW or FL-3717-ZW.
* Decal must be affixed to the port (left) side of the vessel within six inches of the registration number. The decal may precede or follow the number.
If your vessel requires registration, it is illegal to operate it or give permission for others to operate it unless it is registered and numbered as described above.
Validation decal on bow of boat
PWC showing validation decal
PWC Validation Decal Placement
PWCs also are required to display the vessel registration number and validation decal.
Other Facts About Titling and Registering Your Vessel
* A Certificate of Title proves ownership. All vessels are required to have a Certificate of Title. The only exceptions are:
o A non-motorized vessel less than 16 feet in length
o A vessel used exclusively on private lakes and ponds
o Vessels documented with the U.S. Coast Guard
* A Certificate of Registration is valid for one year and will expire on the last day of the month that is prior to the owner’s birth month.
* The owner of a registered vessel must notify the county tax collector within 30 days if he or she changes address.
* The owner of a registered vessel must notify the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within 30 days if the vessel is sold, stolen, destroyed, abandoned, or lost.
* Vessels must be registered and numbered within 30 days of purchase.
* If your vessel has a current and valid registration or certificate of number from another U.S. state or territory, you may operate it in Florida for 90 days before you are required to register it in Florida.
* Larger recreational vessels, owned by U.S. citizens, may (at the option of the owner) be documented by the U.S. Coast Guard. Documented vessels operating on Florida waters must have a current vessel registration either from Florida or another state.
Hull Identification Number (HIN)
The Hull Identification Number (HIN) is a unique, 12-digit number assigned by the manufacturer to vessels built after 1972.
Hull Identification Numbers:
* Distinguish one vessel from another—the same as serial numbers distinguish one car from another.
* Are engraved in the fiberglass or on a metal plate permanently attached to the transom.
You should write down your HIN and put it in a place separate from your vessel in case warranty problems arise or your vessel is stolen.
Hull identification number
Take a boating course at http://www.boat-ed.com/florida
written content is “Used by permission, © 2011 Kalkomey Enterprises, Inc.