The following only briefly summarizes the laws and rules contained within the New Hampshire Boating Guide.
To view the complete text, please click on one of the following links:
- Age Restrictions:
A vessel powered by 25 horsepower or less may be operated by a person of any age and does not require a Safe Boater Education Certificate.
A vessel powered by more than 25 horsepower (other than a "ski craft") may be operated by:
* A person younger than 16 years of age only if he or she is accompanied by a person 18 years of age or older who has a valid Safe Boater Education Certificate. The accompanying person is responsible for any injury or damage during the vessel's operation.
* A person 16 years of age or older only if he or she has a Safe Boater Education Certificate.
No person less than 16 years of age may operate a ski craft.
- Boaters born on or after January 1, 1983 must have boating safety certificates proving successful completion of a boating safety course.
(Exemptions: persons licensed by the state of New Hampshire
or the U.S. Coast Guard to operate a commercial vessel or persons with
certificates from other states.)
A Safe Boater Education Certificate:
* May be obtained only by persons 16 years of age or older.
* Must be awarded by a boating safety course or equivalency exam approved by the New Hampshire Marine Patrol or a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved course from another state.
* Must be carried onboard.
- Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs):
All vessels must carry one wearable USCG-approved (Type I, II, III, or V) PFD for each person onboard. Type V PFDs must be worn to be acceptable.
Vessels 16 feet in length or longer (except canoes and kayaks) must have a Type IV USCG-approved throwable PFD onboard and immediately available.
Every person 5 years of age and younger must wear a USCG-approved PFD at all times
while the vessel is underway, unless the vessel is completely enclosed by railings at least 3 feet in height and constructed in such a way that a small child cannot fal through.
All required PFDs must be readily accessible.
Personal watercraft operators and passengers must wear a USCG-approved life jacket.
Each person being towed behind a vessel must wear a USCG-approved life jacket.
- Speed Limits and Reckless Operation:
- No vessel shall be operated in a reckless or negligent manner.
Examples of reckless or careless operation include, but are not limited to:
--- Excessive speed in regulated or congested areas
--- Operating in a manner that may cause an accident
--- Operating in a swimming area with bathers present
--- Bow riding or riding on the gunwale or transom where no seating is provided
--- Operation of a personal watercraft which endangers life or property
When operating within 150 feet of another boat, swimmers, rafts, shore, docks, or
mooring fields, the operator must maintain only headway speed.
- Navigation Rules:
- The State of New Hampshire adopts and enforces all Federally mandated boating safety laws.
Every vessel operating in the State of New Hampshire shall carry and use safety equipment
in accordance with U. S. Coast Guard. Additionally, every vessel shall display the lights and
shapes required by the navigation rules.
In addition to Federal requirements, all vessels should also carry an oar or paddle and an anchor and anchor
- Diving and Snorkeling:
- All divers shall display a free-flying, white diagonal stripe on a red background
divers-down flag. No diver shall surface or swim more than 75 feet from this flag.
It is recommended that no more than four divers use the same diver flag unless it is
displayed from a boat, in which case the number of divers must be limited to the legal
capacity of the boat.
Boaters and skiers shall stay at least 150 feet away from a diver-down flag.
- Ski Craft:
According to New Hampshire law, a ski craft is defined as any motorized vessel less than 13 feet in length, capable of exceeding 20 miles per hour, and with the capacity to carry no more than an operator and one other person.
Persons less than 16 years of age shall not operate a ski craft.
A ski craft may be operated only by persons who are 16 years old or older and who have a valid Safe Boater Education Certificate.
Each person on a ski craft must wear a Coast Guard approved PFD.
Ski crafts may only be operated between sunrise and sunset.
Ski crafts must not be operated within 150 feet of another vessel, platform, person, or
object except at a speed just enough to maintain headway and steerage.
Ski crafts may not be operated in a cove or within 300 feet of shore except at a speed just
enough to maintain headway and steerage.
Additionally, no person may operate a ski craft in any lake, pond or river, on which the operation
of such is prohibited.
A ski craft operator should operate in a reasonable and prudent manner.
This includes being aware of other boats in the operating area, awareness of environmental
concerns, and respecting the rights of shoreline property owners.
The ski craft operator should not follow other boats closely and should not jump the wake of other
- Water Skiing:
- No person shall tow a person on water skis, aquaplane or similar device without an
observer aboard who is at least 13 years of age.
No boat shall tow more than two persons at one time regardless of the device being towed
and there shall be at least one observer for each person being towed.
Each person engaged in water skiing or aquaplaning must wear a U. S. Coast Guard approved
The towboat operator and skier are responsible for ensuring that they operate in a manner
which does not threaten or harm or strike another person or vessel.
No person may operate a vessel or ski at a speed over six mph within 150 feet of the
Water skiing is not permitted between sunset and sunrise.
- Accident Reporting:
- Any accident involving death, disappearance, or personal injury, or damage greater than
$500 must be reported.
A "boating accident" includes, but is not limited to, capsizing, collision, foundering,
flooding, fire, explosion and the disappearance of a vessel other than by theft.
Accidents should be reported to the Marine Patrol immediately and an official written report
should be submitted within 48 hours.
- Boating While Intoxicated:
- No person may operate a boat or water ski under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Any person convicted of operating under the influence shall lose their right to operate a
boat for one year and will be fined. In addition, their right to operate a motor vehicle
will be revoked for not less than 90 days.
In addition, any person convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence
shall also lose their right to operate a boat for one year from the date of conviction.
Intoxication is considered to exist with a blood/alcohol level of .03 or greater.
- Registration and Documentation:
- All motorboats, regardless of length, and sailboats or sailboards 12 feet in length or
over must be registered. (Exceptions are U.S. Government vessels and vessels registered in another state or country
using New Hampshire waters for not more than 30 consecutive days.)
Registrations expire December 31 of each year.
Upon registration, you will be issued a certificate of number and a validation decal.
The certificate must be on board whenever the boat is used.
The number must be displayed on both sides of the bow of the boat as follows:
--- The number shall read from left to right.
--- The number must be in block characters of good proportion (not less than 3 inches in height).
--- The number must be of a color that contrasts with the boat's background.
--- The numerals must be separated from the prefix and the suffix by hyphens or equivalent spaces.
--- Federal and State law prohibit any other number from being displayed on either side of
The validation decal must be affixed within six inches to the right of, and in line with,
the assigned numbers.
- Overnight Mooring:
- Anchoring overnight is prohibited on all inland bodies of water. Sleeping aboard a boat
at anchor is prohibited with few exceptions. The New Hampshire Marine Patrol may be
contacted for more information.
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