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Boat Registration and Numbering
All motorized boats must be registered and, depending upon State requirements, titled when operating on state waters. If a watercraft does not have a motor it may still have to be registered depending on the State. Each state or territory's registration and titling requirements may differ. Penalties for failing to register a watercraft may involve paying a fine of up to $1000 as well as the possibility of serving jail time. You should consult the State in which you are registering your boat for specific information.
Registering your boat means applying for and getting a Registration Certificate and the number itself. The registration number is actually a combination of letters and numbers normally beginning with the abbreviation of the State in which the boat is registered. The Registration Certificate is small and must be on the boat whenever it is being used. A validation decal is required to be placed along side the numbers on the port side of the watercraft. Some states require decals on both port and starboard side. This decal is usually renewed annually. Check your State specific regulations.
All states have a temporary reciprocity allowing you to use your boat on the waters of another state for a limited time period. Check the regulations for the State in which you will be boating if it is not the State where your boat is registered.
Proper display of boat numbers
- The figures are read from left to right.
- They must be displayed on the forward half of each side of the bow of the boat.
- Numbers must be in bold, block letters of good proportion.
- Numbers must be not less than three inches high.
- They must be of contrasting color to the boat hull or background.
- They must be as high above the waterline as practical.
- No number other than the number assigned can be displayed on the forward half of the boat.
- Letters must be separated from numbers by spaces or hyphens.
- The validation decal must be displayed within six inches of the number.
Registration and numbering violations are one of the top reasons for citations or arrests.
Some boats that are at least five net tons in size and owned by an American citizen can be registered with the U. S. Coast Guard. These boats are "documented." Documented boats still must be registered with the state. Check your State specific information for additional requirements.
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