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Boating Rules and Regulations

Boating requires rules and regulations for a safe environment. The Navigation Rules are endorsed worldwide, and the U.S. divides these rules into Inland rules applicable to coastal waters within certain Demarcation Lines, and International Rules which apply beyond those lines.

In addition, each State has additional Rules, Regulations and Statutes which apply within their jurisdiction. Not discussed here are regulations and bylaws which some cities and towns may impose in addition to Federal and State Regulations. You should check with your local Harbormaster or city/town officials to see if there are any additional regulations which apply to your home port. Every boater should know the rules that apply to their area of operation.

These rules and regulations are enforced by the Coast Guard, Harbormasters and/or Police in your area. Be safe for yourself and others on the water!

Here you'll find valuable resources to help you find relevant information for safe and prudent boating.

Racing Rules of Sailing

There are also rules for Sailboat Racing, which you can find here.

Additional Resources:
  • Chart #1 (Chart Symbols) - This reference publication depicts basic chart elements and explains nautical chart symbols and abbreviations. Click here for more info.
  • ATONS (Aids to Navigation) - The waters of the United States and its territories are marked to assist navigation by the U.S. Aids to Navigation System. This system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers and light characteristics to mark navigable channels, waterways and obstructions adjacent to these. Additional info here.
  • Notice to Mariners - Updated weekly, the US Notice to Mariners provides timely marine safety information for the correction of all US Government navigation charts and publications.
  • Coast Pilot - The Coast Pilots are 9 text volumes containing information important to navigators such as channel descriptions, port facilities, anchorages, bridge and cable clearances, currents, prominent features, weather, dangers, and Federal Regulations.
  • Light Lists - These publications contain a list of lights, sound signals, buoys, daybeacons, and other aids to navigation.
  • Demarcation Lines - U.S. Inland Rules apply to vessels operating inside the line of demarcation while International Rules apply outside the lines. Demarcation lines are printed on most navigational charts and are published in the Navigation Rules.
  • Float Plan - Prudent mariners will file a float plan,  describing the vessel, equipment, crew, and itinerary of a planned voyage. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has a site, Float Plan Central, with valuable information about float plans.


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