Georgia boasts 34 major rivers and 31 lakes. And although it’s coastline is only about 100 miles along the Atlantic Ocean, it is a popular and scenic destination; from Tybee Island to Cumberland Island, boating is a desirable way to enjoy our beautiful state. If you are planning to get out on the water this summer, here are some of the laws you will need to make sure you know.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Operate a Vessel?

Those under 12 years of age may only operate a vessel less than 16 foot in length if it is not motorized. They may operate a vessel under 16 foot in length with a 30 horsepower (or less) engine if they are in the presence of a competent adult.
Those between 12 and 15 years old can operate any vessel less than 16 feet in length as long as they have passed a boat education course or are accompanied by an adult. Vessels over 16 feet in length are still off-limits.
Those over 16 years old can operate any boat on any waters, with proper identification on board. Anyone born after January 1, 1998, must pass a boater education course and carry their card on board along with identification.

How Are Boat Lengths Classified?

To be in full compliance with all state and federal laws, you will need to understand your boat’s classification. You will need proper equipment to both transport and operate the vessel based on its size. Less than 16 foot is a Class A vessel; 16-26 foot is a Class 1 vessel; 26-40 feet is a Class 2 vessel, and a vessel longer than 40 feet is a Class 3. Length is determined by measuring from the tip of the bow to the stern, not including outboard motors, brackets, ladders, and attachments. A capacity plate is placed near the operator or on the boat’s transom and indicates maximum weight and passenger capacity.

What Do I Need to Know About Trailering My Boat?

When pulling a boat with a trailer, the total length can be no longer than 60 feet; the maximum width is 8’6” and the max height is 13’6”. Tow vehicles, trailers and boats must travel at the posted speed limit, If a trailered vessel is 1500 pounds or greater, it must have separate brakes. For all towed vehicles, the following equipment is required – safety chains, brake lights, tail lights and clearance lights, license light, turn signals, reflectors, and flares. 

If you have an over-sized vehicle, you must obtain a permit to take it over the road. The permitting office can be reached at 800-570-5428

Before You Go

It is always a good idea to file a float plan – whether that be at a local marina, or with a good friend. Before you head out onto the water, notate the boat’s number, size, make, capacity and type of engine. Write down where you are going, the route you plan on taking, and when you plan on returning; as well as those on board – names, addresses, contact and emergency information. Of course, we always recommend that you have an up-to-date Sign and Glide membership, just in case anything unexpected should happen. For a complete list of current GA rules, visit Boating Ideas & Laws to Know