Ohio Boating Laws and Regulations

Ohio - Boating Safety Rules and Regulations
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Parks and Watercraft

Ohio Boat Registration requirements

Registrations are required for every recreational boat in Ohio, including powerboats, sailboats, canoes, kayaks, pedal boats, and inflatable boats.

What you need to get a boat registered depends on what type of boat it is. Generally you need proof of ownership, some detailed information on the boat, some detailed information on the owner, a drivers license, and the registration fee.

Boat registrations are valid for three years and expire on March 1.

Where can I register my boat?

Boat registration agents are located throughout the state. They include private businesses, title offices, and DNR offices. Agents listed by County

Until September 30, you can use a secure web site to renew your boat registrations if a PIN was issued to your boat. You need your "OH" boat number and PIN (both located on your renewal notice) and a valid Visa or Mastercard credit card to renew online. Online registration renewal!

What are the Boat Registration Fees in Ohio?

Boat registration fees are based on a boat's length and type. More about Ohio boat registration

How do I transfer ownership of a used boat in Ohio?

You will need to follow these steps:

  1. Obtain a bill of sale: The buyer and seller must complete a bill of sale to document the transfer of ownership. You can use a generic bill of sale form, or the Ohio Division of Parks and Watercraft provides a specific form for this purpose.

  2. Obtain a title: The seller must provide the buyer with the boat's title, which is a legal document that proves ownership. If the seller cannot locate the title, they can apply for a duplicate copy from the Ohio Division of Parks and Watercraft.

  3. Complete the title transfer: The buyer must complete the back of the boat's title, including the purchase price, date of sale, and their contact information. The seller must sign the title to transfer ownership.

  4. Register the boat: The buyer must register the boat with the Ohio Division of Parks and Watercraft within 30 days of the purchase. To register the boat, the buyer will need to complete a registration form, provide proof of ownership, and pay a registration fee.

  5. Obtain new registration: Once the boat is registered, the buyer will receive a new registration card and a set of registration decals. The buyer must affix the decals to the boat and carry the registration card on board whenever the boat is in use.

Ohio PFD requirements

Other than commercial vessels, no person shall operate or permit to be operated any watercraft:

  • 16 feet or greater in length without one Type I, II or III wearable PFD per person plus one Type IV throwable PFD;

  • Less than 16 feet in length and canoes or kayaks of any length without one Type I, II or III wearable PFD per person;

  • A Type V PFD may be carried in place of a Type I, II or III wearable PFD provided the approval label indicates that the device is approved for the activity or that it can be a substitute for the other types of PFDs. The Type V PFD must also be used in accordance with the requirements on the approval label and the requirements in its owner’s manual. 

No person shall operate or permit to be operated any commercial vessel: 

  • Less than 40 feet in length not carrying persons for hire without one Type I, II or III PFD per person;

  • 40 feet in length or longer not carrying persons for hire without one Type I PFD per person;

  • 26 feet in length or longer without at least one Type IV ring life buoy in addition to other applicable PFD requirements.

No person who lets vessels for hire, or the agent or employee thereof, shall rent, lease or otherwise permit the use of a vessel, unless the person provides the equipment required under sections of Chapter 1547 of the Ohio Revised Code and rules adopted under the Ohio Administrative Code.

What age are life jackets required in Ohio?

No one may operate or allow the operation of any vessel under 18 feet in length which is carrying a child less than 10 years old on board, unless that child is wearing an approved PFD. 

Ohio Age and Education Requirements

For Powerboats greater than 10 HP

  • According to Ohio laws, children under 12 years of age can operate any other type of powerboat greater than 10HP as long as they are under the direct visual and audible supervisor (18 or older) who is onboard AND as long as the child AND the supervising adult (if born on or after January 1, 1982) have education certificates.

  • According to Ohio laws, children 12 years of age and over may operate any other type of powerboat greater than 10HP as long as they have an education certificate. Adult supervision on board is not required.

For Personal Watercraft

  • According to Ohio laws, children under 12 years of age may not operate PWC, not even with an education certificate.

  • According to Ohio laws, children 12 to 15 years of age can operate PWC as long as they are under the direct supervision of an adult (18 or older) who is onboard AND as long as the child AND the supervising adult (if born on or after January 1, 1982) have education certificates.

  • According to Ohio laws, children 16 years of age or older can operate Personal Water Craft without a supervisor on board. As long as they have an education certificate.

Boating Accidents in Ohio

If you are involved in a collision or accident, as the vessel operator you must:

  • Stop the vessel at the scene.

  • Render assistance to anyone injured or in danger, provided you can do so without endangering your own vessel, crew and passengers.

    • Anyone who renders assistance at the scene of an accident involving a vessel is not liable in a civil action for damages or injury from any act or omission in rendering assistance, except for willful or wanton misconduct.

  • Give the operator's name and address and the boat owner's name and address and registration number to any person injured, or to the operator, owner, or attendant of any vessel damaged, or to a law enforcement officer.

  • Report the incident, if necessary.

Mooring Safely and Legally in Ohio

What mooring equipment is required in Ohio?

You must carry an anchor and line of sufficient weight and length to anchor your vessel securely. You must not operate or permit to be operated any watercraft in violation of this section.

The following vessels are exempt:

  • Vessels less than 14 feet in length.

  • Canoe and kayaks.

  • Sailboats less than 21 feet in length.

Mooring and Interference with Buoys Prohibited

You must not:

  • Moor or anchor your vessel in any water-ski or speed zone.

  • Tie, moor or anchor your vessel to any navigation aid including any buoy, light or marker, except when in distress.

  • Swim near, climb or hang on to, dive off of, disconnect from its anchor, tie a watercraft to, deface, damage, sink, or otherwise interfere with any buoy or other aid to navigation.

It is an offence to violate any part of this section.

Ohio Boat Muffler Requirements

To operate your powerboat in Ohio, you must equip it with a muffler in good working order, which is in constant operation and installed correctly to prevent excessive or unusual noise.

It is forbidden for anyone to operate or allow to be operated any powercraft in a way that will exceed the following noise levels:

  • 90 decibels on the "A" scale in a stationary sound level test prescribed by SAE J2005. (Measured from one meter with engine at low idle speed when at dock or tied to another boat.)

  • 75 decibels on the "A" scale measured as specified by SAE J1970. (Measured from shoreline with boat in any level of operation.)

Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs Prohibited in Ohio

Boaters who operate in Ohio are subject to its laws regarding the use of drugs or alcohol.

It is forbidden to operate or be in physical control of any vessel underway, or manipulate any water skis or similar device, if you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (including prescription drugs).

It is illegal to operate a boat while having a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 or more. You will be deemed incapable of operating a watercraft in a safe manner if you are under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or other drugs or any combination thereof. If you operate a boat while having a BAC of less than 0.08, you may still be prosecuted if there is other evidence of impairment to prove you were operating under the influence.

If you are under 21 years of age, it is an offense to operate a vessel while having a BAC of 0.02 or more. It is an offense for persons under the age of 21 to purchase, possess, consume, or be under the influence of alcohol.

Riding a PWC in Ohio

No person shall operate or permit operation of a personal watercraft unless each person aboard is wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Operators on personal watercraft equipped with a lanyard type engine cutoff switch must attach the lanyard to their clothing, PFD, themselves or as appropriate for the specific devices.

No person shall operate a personal watercraft between sunset and sunrise. 

No person who owns or has charge over a personal watercraft shall permit operation in violation of laws.

Water Skiing Regulations in Ohio

Types of PFD needed for waterskiing

Anyone riding or attempting to ride on water skis, surfboards, inflatable devices or similar devices towed by a vessel must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III PFD or a Type V PFD specifically designed for water skiing, in good and serviceable condition, and of appropriate size.  Vessels must not tow anyone who fails to comply with this law.

Observer when towing

Anyone operating a vessel towing a person on water skis, surfboard, other similar devices, or a barefoot skier, must be accompanied in the vessel by an observer ten years of age or older who must watch the person being towed at all times. 

Designated ski zone and more...

Unsafe or negligent operation of a boat in Ohio

You must not operate any vessel, water skis or any comparable devices:

  • Carelessly or heedlessly

  • Without due caution

  • In disregard of the rights or safety of any person, vessel, or property

  • At a rate of speed or in a manner so as to endanger any person, vessel, or property

According to Ohio law, unsafe operation includes:

  • Becoming airborne while crossing the wake of another vessel within 100 feet or an unsafe distance

  • Operating at a speed or proximity to a vessel or person being towed so as to require either vessel to swerve to avoid collision

  • Operating less than 200 feet behind a water-skier

  • Weaving through congested traffic

If you endanger persons or property, it could be construed as reckless boating. Anyone who operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property will be cited for reckless operation.

You must operate your vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner at all times.

What is unsafe operation?

Ohio State parks regulations

Can I go boating on Ohio State Parks lakes?

On state park lakes, boating laws are enforced by state watercraft, park, or wildlife officers; sheriff's deputies; and other law enforcement units with jurisdiction in the area. The following rules apply only to lakes in Ohio state parks.

What is the speed limit between sunset and sunrise on Ohio State Parks lakes?

The speed limit for all Ohio state park lakes is 10 miles per hour, except from sunrise to sunset in designated speed zones, ski zones or open zones.

Power crafts must not be operated at a speed that would be considered unreasonably fast, or in such a way as to disregard surface conditions, surrounding traffic, and all other conditions and situations that are potentially hazardous within the limits of a speed or ski zone, or on an open area.

Do I need a Special Activities Permit?

If you wish to conduct a special activity on Ohio State Park lake you must obtain a permit from the park office 30 days before the event.

Are airfoils allowed?

You must not use an airfoil or balloon while being towed by a watercraft for the purpose of becoming airborne over Ohio state park waters.

Are air-propelled powercraft or hovercraft allowed?

Air propelled powercraft or hovercraft may only be operated in ski or speed zones, the water that leads directly to these zones from a dock or ramp, at Indian Lake, Grand Lake St. Mary's, Mosquito Lake and Rocky Fort Lake.

More State parks regulations...