The Ultimate Guide to Ohio Boating Law

The Ultimate Guide to Ohio Boating Law

Summer’s here and that means boating season. Keep yourself safe and legal on the water this summer with the Ultimate Guide to Ohio Boating Law by Sawan & Sawan.

#1: Titling and Registration

All watercraft must be registered with the State of Ohio in which to legally operate on the waterways of the State. A boat title is similar to an auto title. Both provide proof of ownership. Like an auto title, boat titles are obtained from a title office.

In order to register a boat in the State of Ohio, you will need the following:

  • Hull Identification Number O.R.C. 1547.65
    • The HIN (Hull Identification Number) is the serial number for your boat. It is a unique identification number with 12 digits that is permanently attached to the upper right side of the boat. Pontoon boats will have a visible HIN along the aft crossbeam.
    • Exercise caution when purchasing a boat due to the prevalence of stolen boat sales. One way to avoid this is to make sure you match the HIN to the title.
  • The following watercraft are exempt from titling
    • Vessels documented by the U.S. Coast Guard
    • Canoes and Kayaks
    • Watercraft less than 14 feet in length without a permanently affixed means of propulsion
    • A Ship’s Lifeboat
    • Motor’s less than 10 HP

#2: Safety Requirements

The State of Ohio requirements for safety equipment are based on a number of factors, including the type of boat, type of propulsion, length of boat, your boating activity, and the age of the boater (when it comes to required life jacket wear). Local rules or ordinances may exist that are more strict or require additional safety equipment. It is the boater’s responsibility to be aware of these local requirements.

Personal Flotation Devices (Life Jackets)

In general, other than commercial vessels, no person shall operate a watercraft without one Type I, II or II personal flotation device per person. Some exemptions may apply. Racing shells, rowing sculls, sailboards, and those individual vessels that have been issued a written exemption by the chief of the division of watercraft and would otherwise be exempt by the federal personal flotation device carriage requirements are exempted from the personal flotation device carriage requirement.


Pursuant to O.R.C. 1547.26, all Ohio Watercraft must have an anchor and line of sufficient length and weight to anchor the watercraft in a secure manner.

Fire Extinguishers

Any motorized watercraft (powercraft) must have a fire extinguisher on board that meets appropriate requirements. To meet the requirements, it must meet or exceed U.S. Coast Guard standards, be capable of extinguishing a gasoline fire and be readily accessible.

To see more, please visit

#3: Navigation Rules

Like the rules of the road, there are nautical rules that govern the traffic rules of the waterway. These rules are legally binding for boat operators. Among these rules are the following:

  • Look Out
    • According to O.A.C. 1501:47-2-05, every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing. This requires someone to make a full appraisal of the situation and any potential risks of collision.
  • Safe Speed
    • Every vessel is required to maintain a safe speed for the conditions, which can vary greatly based on a variety of factors. The factors to consider in determining a safe speed are as follows:
      • Visibility
      • Traffic density
      • Maneuverability including stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions
      • At night the presence of background light
      • Wind, sea, current, and proximity of hazards
      • Draft in relation to depth of water
      • Additional factors for vessels with radar

To view a full set of navigation rules, please visit

#4: Boating Education Requirement

If you’re born on or after January 1st, 1982, than you must receive a certification of successful completion of one of the following in order to operate a watercraft:

  • A boating course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA);
  • A proficiency examination approved by the Ohio Division of Watercraft

A person required to have the certificate as indicated above and who is stopped by a law enforcement officer while operating a powercraft more than 10 horsepower, shall present to the law enforcement officer the certificate or proof of holding the certificate within 72 hours of being stopped.

Except as provided, no person under 16 years of age shall operate a personal watercraft (PWC). Individuals 12 to 15 years of age may operate a PWC if a supervising person 18 years of age or older is also onboard. In the case of a supervising person born on or after January 1, 1982, the supervising person must hold a certificate meeting the requirements of ORC 1547.05 and in the case of rented powercraft, must meet the requirements of ORC 1547.052.

To see more, visit à

#5: Operating a Watercraft under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

According to O.R.C 1547.111, No person shall operate or be in physical control of any vessel underway, or manipulate any water skis or similar device if the person is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

It is an offense to operate a vessel while having a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 or more. A BAC less than 0.08 is admissable in court along with other evidence of impairment to prove operating under the influence. For persons under 21 years of age, it is an offense to operate a vessel while having a BAC of 0.02  or more. Further, it is an offense for persons under the age of 21 to purchase, possess, consume, or be under the influence of alcohol.

Perhaps surprisingly to some people, the simple act of operating a watercraft gives law enforcement the right to investigate the operation of said watercraft without any specific probable cause. Any person who operates a vessel, water skis or similar device shall be deemed to have given consent to a chemical test or tests of their blood, breath, or urine to determine alcohol or drug content if arrested. If a person under arrest refuses to submit to a chemical test the person is prohibited from operating a vessel or water skis or from registering a vessel for a one-year period. If the person is the owner of the vessel the registration certificate and tags will be impounded for a one-year period.


Fill out the form below to recieve a free and confidential intial consultation.

Sawan & Sawan is an Ohio car accident law firm with Ohio car accident attorneys licensed to practice law in the State of Ohio. If you were injured in a car accident in Ohio and would like to speak further about your specific legal matter, call Sawan & Sawan today at 419-900-0955 to schedule a free consultation. The car accident attorneys at Sawan & Sawan serve the following cities in Franklin County, Ohio: Bexley, Ohio; Canal Winchester, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Dublin, Ohio; Gahanna, Ohio; Grandview Heights, Ohio; Grove City, Ohio; Groveport, Ohio; Hilliard, Ohio; New Albany, Ohio; Pickerington, Ohio; Reynoldsburg, Ohio; Upper Arlington, Ohio; Westerville, Ohio; Whitehall, Ohio; Worthington, Ohio. The car accident lawyers at Sawan & Sawan serve the following cities in Lucas County, Ohio: Maumee, Ohio; Oregon, Ohio; Sylvania, Ohio; Toledo, Ohio; Waterville, Ohio.