Rules for boating with kids off the coast of Florida

Don't overestimate your child's abilities when it comes to operating a boat.

No matter how old the crew of your vessel is, you need to make sure safety is a top priority. But this is especially true when you invite your kids aboard. You may think they are capable of taking on many of the responsibilities of a seasoned sailor, but you could not only be putting them in significant harm when you tackle such an endeavor, you may also be breaking the law.

One of the most popular parts of the country for boating is Southwest Florida, where family boating adventures into the Gulf are by far the favorite pastimes for many families. In fact, some parents think that because their kids have been spending summers on board the family boat, these children are equipped to take the wheel. This is not the case, however, as Florida law stipulates that any individual under 26-years-old must have taken a boating safety course certified by the state and carry a picture ID. That means that your son or daughter who doesn't even have a license to operate a vehicle ion the road has no business operating a boat.

There are other important laws one must follow if they are voting in the Sunshine State when hitting the high seas. For instance, no child under the age of six can be on a vessel less than 26 feet in length unless they have a life jacket on. 

Other precautions aren't so much legally binding but instead rules of the sea any responsible boater must apply. For instance, never dive from a boat that is anchored in less than nine feet of water, even if it's a small child jumping ship. It would also be beneficial to equip your boat with a fishfinder, chartplotter and other boat accessories that not only map out your course above the waterline but also beneath your hull.

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