North Carolina Boating Laws

boat navigating in NC - North Carolina boating laws

With its scenic coastline, serene lakes, and winding rivers, North Carolina offers abundant opportunities for residents and visitors alike to enjoy boating. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time skipper, understanding North Carolina boating laws and regulations is essential to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

Personal Floating Devices

North Carolina requires all recreational vessels to carry one Coast Guard-approved personal floating device (PFD) per person aboard. Vessels 16 feet long or more must also have one Coast Guard-approved throwable PFD.

All children under 13 must wear PFDs whenever the vessel is operating, except when below deck or inside an enclosed cabin.

Boating Under the Influence

North Carolina law forbids anyone from operating a boat, jet ski, water skis, surfboard, or other water vessel or device while under the influence of an impairing substance or alcohol to the point of registering a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more.

Anyone found boating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor and subjected to a fine of up to $250. Furthermore, under Sheyenne’s Law, a drunk or drugged boater who causes another person’s death or serious injury can face felony charges, which carry potential jail sentences.

Boating Registration and License

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission requires the following vessels operating on public waterways to be registered in North Carolina:

  • All motorized vessels, including jet skis
  • All sailboats longer than 14 feet
  • A boat registered in another state brought into North Carolina for over 90 consecutive days
  • Coast Guard-documented vessels operating in North Carolina for over 90 consecutive days

North Carolina boating laws require any person born on or after January 1, 1988, to complete and pass an approved boating education course before they can operate a vessel propelled by a motor with 10 or more horsepower. No person under 14 can operate a vessel in any capacity, and boaters under 16 can do so only if accompanied by an adult who has complied with the North Carolina law for licensure.

Boat Insurance

Boat insurance protects boat owners, operators, and their passengers in the event of an accident. Here are common types of coverage offered in boat insurance policies:

  • Liability – Pays for bodily injury and property damage caused by the policyholder and other covered individuals.
  • Medical payments – Pays medical and funeral expenses due to a boating accident up to the policy limit.
  • Physical damage – Pays the boat’s actual cash value if it gets damaged or destroyed by fire, lightning, windstorm, theft, vandalism, or collision.

Personal liability and medical payments insurance for small vessels is often available through a homeowners’ insurance policy.

Contact a Boat Accident Lawyer in North Carolina for Help

Equipping yourself with knowledge of NC boat laws and regulations can help keep you and others safe on North Carolina waterways. However, accidents can still happen when others act negligently. If you suffer an injury in an NC boating accident someone else caused, contact the law firm of Kreger Brodish LLP today to speak with one of our experienced boat accident lawyers.