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Official Ohio boating course

The Ohio BOATsmart! Boating Safety Course is approved and accredited by the Ohio Division of Parks & Watercraft. With more than 3,000 Five Star Reviews we’re proud to be recognized as an official Ohio State Boating Course and the choice of boaters in Ohio.

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NASBLA & Coast Guard Approved

The BOATsmart! Ohio Boating Safety Course is officially recognized by the United States Coast Guard as meeting the standards of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program. BOATsmart!’s online Ohio Boating Safety Course is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) as it meets and exceeds U.S. Boating Education Standards. NASBLA develops education standards for boating safety and represents boating law administrators in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

BOATsmart! courseware on a tablet.

Watch, Listen & Learn

From anywhere, on any device at any time.

Our animated and narrated Boating Safety Course is perfect for all ages. Study from your Smartphone, Tablet or Desktop and switch between devices at any time. BOATsmart! automatically tracks your progress so you can study at your own pace.



A Ohio Boater Education Certificate proves that you’ve obtained the knowledge needed to safely operate a motorized boat on Ohio waterways. All boat operators in Ohio who were born on or after January 1st, 1982 are required to obtain an Ohio Boater Education Certificate in order to operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 10 hp. 


It is illegal for a person under 16 years of age to operate a personal watercraft (PWC) in the state of Ohio.

Children that are between 12-15 years of age may operate a PWC if a supervising person who is 18 years of age or older is also on board the PWC. If the supervisor was born on or after January 1, 1982, they must hold a Boating Safety Certificate.


Boat operators in Ohio who are less than 12 years of age:

  • May not operate any boat unless under the direct visual and audible supervision of a person who is 18 years of age or older
  • May not operate a PWC.
  • May not operate any other boat powered by more than 10 horsepower unless under the direct visual and audible supervision of a person 18 years of age or older


You can get your Ohio Boater Education Certificate by completing the Official BOATsmart! Course online. Once you successfully complete the online study guide and final exam, you can print a temporary card immediately.  BOATsmart! will mail your permanent card within 4 weeks. 


There is no minimum age to complete the Ohio Boater Education Course and obtain your Ohio Boater Education Certificate,  however there are age and horsepower restrictions that apply to boaters who are under 16 years of age. 


It takes a minimum of 3 hours to get your Ohio Boater Education Certificate  online. Once you’ve completed the online course and official test, you can print a temporary card and go boating right away. Your permanent card will be mailed to you by BOATsmart! within 4 weeks..


Yes. Ohio boaters can keep up-to-date on the latest boating regulations with the free BOATsmart! Knowledge Base. Learn about boating equipment requirements, navigation and right-of-way regulations and restrictions that may apply on Ohio waterways to be sure that you’re safe and confident on the water. 


Boat operators in Ohio are not permitted to rent a boat powered by a motor of more than 10 hp unless they are certified with their Boater Education Certificate. The renter must either:

  • Sign a statement that they have successfully complete a boating safety course OR;
  •  Successfully pass an abbreviated exam with a score of 90% or higher, administered by the rental business. 

Boating and alcohol in Ohio

Ohio boating and alcohol laws

It is illegal in the state of Ohio for a person to operate any boat that is underway, or to manipulate any waterskis or similar device, if the person is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This includes prescription drugs.

In Ohio, a person is considered to be under the influence if:

  • They have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher.  
  • They are under 21 years of age and have a BAC level or 0.02 or more.


Additionally, a BAC of less than 0.08 is admissible in court along with other evidence of impairment to prove operating under the influence.

Penalties for drinking and boating

In Ohio, a person convicted of operating a boat while under the influence will be subject to the following penalties:

First offense:

  • A minimum of 3 days in jail and a $150 fine.
  • A maximum of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.


Second offense:

  • A minimum of 10 days in jail and a $150 fine.
  • A maximum of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.


Third offense:

  • A minimum of 30 days in jail and a $150 fine.
  • A maximum of up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Ohio Boating Age Requirements

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Under 12 years of age

Boat operators in Ohio who are less than 12 years of age:

  • May not operate any boat unless under the direct visual and audible supervision of a person who is 18 years of age or older
  • May not operate a PWC.
  • May not operate any other boat powered by more than 10 horsepower unless under the direct visual and audible supervision of a person 18 years of age or older
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Ohio's Boating Fines

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Operating under the influence

Up to $1000

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Failure to carry Ohio Boater Education Card

Up to $250

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Illegal Discharge of Waste

Up to $250

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Life Jacket Violations

Up to $250

General Ohio boating FAQs

Who regulates boating laws in Ohio?

The Ohio Division of State Parks & Watercraft is responsible for regulating boating laws in the state of Ohio.


Ohio’s boating laws are enforced by sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, marshals, deputy marshals, municipal police officers, township police constables, wildlife officers, park or conservancy district officers, or other law enforcement officers.

Law enforcement officers in Ohio have the authority to stop, inspect and board any recreational boat.

Boating Emergencies:
Call 911 to report a boating emergency in Ohio

How to register a boat in Ohio


To operate a boat in Ohio, the boat must be properly registered, numbered and titled, if required.

A valid registration certificate must be carried on the boat as proof of having  proper registration. You must also display two square registration tags on the boat.

Registration certificates and tags can be obtained from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks & Watercraft office. They are valid for up to 3 years and expire on March 1 of the year indicated. Always remove your expired tags.



  • Boats that have been federally documented by the Coast Guard.
  • Boats numbered by another state and operated in Ohio for 60 days or less.
  • Boats from a country other than the United States that are temporarily using Ohio’s waterways.
  • Boats owned by the United States, a state or political subdivision.
  • The lifeboats of a ship.
  • Boats exempted by the chief of the Division of Parks & Watercraft.
  • Boats under a waiver issued for a race or special event.
  • Canoes, rowboats and inflatable boats that have Alternative Registration.
  • Sailboards (or wind surfers), kite boards, paddleboards, belly boats and float tubes.



A boat or engine that is required to have a title can not be registered until a title is issued in the new owner’s name. Boat and engine titles can be obtained from any county title office.

The following boats and engines must be titled in order to be sold, purchased or otherwise acquired:

  • An outboard motor of 10 horsepower or greater.
  • A boat that is  14 feet in length or greater,
  • A boat that is under 14 feet in length that has a permanently attached, mechanical engine of 10 horsepower or greater.



If a used boat is purchased or transferred to a new owner, the new owner must take the previous registration form, with the transfer section completed by the seller, to a boat registration agent. 

Keep in mind that if the boat requires a title and is transferred to a new owner, it may only be operated for up to 60 days, if the new owner carries either of the following on board the boat:

  • A temporary boat registration form (from an authorized registration agent).
  • A bill of sale from a boat dealer containing the required information.



Boats in Ohio are not required to be insured, however it is recommended. 

Every boat that’s operated on Ohio’s waterways is required to be numbered by the state of Ohio or by the boat owner’s state of residence. The number must be properly displayed on the boat at all times.

Registration numbers and stickers must be displayed as follows:

  • The numbers must be painted or otherwise permanently affixed to each side of the boat’s bow.
  • The color of the registration number must contrast with the color of the boat.
  • The numbers must be in plain block letters and be at least 3 inches high.
  • The number must be read from left to right.
  • The numbers and letters must be separated by a hyphen or equivalent space.
  • Registration tags must be affixed to each side of the boat, within 6 inches toward the stern of the registration number.
  • The registration tags must be maintained in order to be clearly visible in normal conditions and affixed prior to operation of the watercraft.
  • These display requirements also apply to personal watercraft (PWCs).
  • Documented boats must display one tag on the port side and one on the starboard side.
  • No other numbers may be displayed on the bow. All tags shall be removed when they become invalid (expire).

Ohio lifejacket laws

Every vessel including canoes, kayaks and rowboats operated in Ohio must have onboard an appropriately sized US Coast Guard approved wearable life-jacket for each person aboard. 

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Boats more than 16 ft in length

Boats more than 16 ft in length must carry one wearable life jacket (Type I, II, III or V) for each person on board. Additionally, a throwable device must be carried onboard all boats that are more than 16 feet in length.

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Canoes and Kayaks

Canoes and kayaks must carry one wearable lifejacket (Type I, II, III or V) for each person on board. A throwable (Type IV) device is not required on canoes and kayaks.

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Personal Watercraft

Operators of personal watercraft, passengers and anyone being towed behind a vessel must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-Approved Type I, II, III or V PFD. Inflatable lifejackets are excluded. Life jackets worn by a persons being towed are required to be rated for towing activities.

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Children under 10 years of age

It is illegal to operate any boat that is under 18 feet in length with a child on board who is less than 10 years of age unless the child is wearing a properly fitted USCG-approved wearable life jacket.

Ohio’s General Boating Regulations


It is not permitted within the state of Ohio to conduct a race, regatta, or other special event within the state of Ohio without obtaining a permit. The permit must be obtained 30 days prior to the event. The permit must be obtained from the state or federal agency, or political subdivision that has jurisdiction over the waters where the event will be held.  

Ohio State Parks Rules

  • Powercraft can not be operated within or through a shore zone, danger zone or any area marked as a no wake zone at a speed that produces a wake.
  • Operators are not permitted to sleep at night aboard a vessel adrift, at anchor, docked, moored, tied-up or beached on Ohio State Park waters except in designated locations. Some parks have designated boat camping areas. Inquire about locations at the specific park office. Go online to ohiostateparks.org to find out more.
  • No person shall swim, bathe, dive, or wade from any watercraft in Ohio State Park water except in officially designated boat swimming areas. Most state parks have an area for boats to pull up to the public beach, and many parks have designated boat swim areas.
  • No person shall overtly and publicly consume or display the presence of any beer or intoxicating liquor on any watercraft on any waters administered by Ohio State Parks.
  • While being towed by a watercraft, no person shall have any airfoil or balloon for the purpose of becoming airborne over Ohio State Park waters.

Environmental Protection

Non-native Aquatic Species

The spread of Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) pose a risk to Ohio’s native aquatic wildlife, ecosystems and to all of Ohio’s water-based recreation. Ohio’s most common ANS include: Asian Carp, Zebra Mussels, Flowering Rush, Round Goby, Ruffe, Rusty Crayfish, Sea Lamprey, and White Perch.

Unfortunately, Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) spread easily from one body of water to the next, which is why boaters must take preventative measures each time they leave the water.

Educate yourself on the increasing threat of these uninvited guests. Milfoil, zebra mussels and other ANS are being increasingly regulated to prevent their spread.

Perform the following actions every time your boat leaves a waterway:

  • Remove all visible aquatic plants and animals from your boat, motor, trailer and other equipment before leaving the access area.
  • Always drain live wells and transom wells before leaving the water.
  • Never dump live bait into any lake, river or stream.

Help prevent the spread of non-native species

  • Inspect all surfaces of your boat and remove aquatic plants or animals before leaving any body of water.
  • Ensure you flush raw-water cooling systems and clean sea-strainers before moving your boat from one body of water to another.
  • Empty and dry any buckets before leaving a body of water.
  • Remove any plant fragments from bait wells, fishing gear, trailers, dive gear or props.
  • Dispose of plant fragments and bait into a garbage receptacle on land. 
  • Avoid chopping vegetation with your boat’s propeller.
  • Clean and dry all live-wells prior to transporting your boat.
  • Drain all water from your motor and bilge and dry all areas.
  • Thoroughly wash your boat, including the hull, before putting it into a new body of water.
  • Refer to specific drying times.

Infestations of non-native species

Report new infestations of non-native aquatic species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (209) 946-6400.

Ohio AIS Online Reporting

Visit http://ohiodnr.gov/ais/reporting to easily report sightings of AIS in Ohio.

Buckeye State, Blue Waters, Good Times

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Ohio Boating Destinations

Boating in Ohio

Ohio’s ‘back yard’ is an awesome playground for outdoor enthusiasts and during the warm weather season, it’s all about the boating!

This state can boast to having 74 State Parks, more than 130 State Nature Preserves, several metro parks as well as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There are also more than 50 rivers and hundreds of lakes that welcome boating, paddle boarding, fishing and kayaking activities! There’s lots of on-the-water fun to be had in Ohio, you just need to pick your water venue!

So where will you be boating? Will you be visiting a large city like Cincinnati near the Ohio River, or in Cleveland alongside Lake Erie? Adventuring in one of Ohio’s State Parks? Or maybe you’ll be visiting a charming small town like Put-In-Bay where cars are few and boats are many. Wherever your location in OH, there’s sure to be a boating destination nearby for you to enjoy.



There are over 74 State Parks in Ohio to explore with endless stretches of trails to hike, bike or walk on and many lakes that are great for fishing, paddle sports, and boating activities. So what are you waiting for? Start your outdoor adventure in Ohio! 

Hocking Hills State Park (rated one of ‘America’s 10 Best State Parks’ by Fodor’s Travel) is a popular choice for paddlers who like to float among sandstone gorges, cliffs, waterfalls, and basins. 

Power boaters will love the unlimited horsepower designation and 2,380-acre lake in Ceasar Creek State Park or the convenient, cityside location of Cleveland Lakefront State Park. 

Helpful resources for boating in Ohio