This section contains information on New Hampshire Boating Regulations that are in addition to the Federal Requirements covered in the Basic Boating Course. If you have not reviewed the course material, please do so now. All Federal Requirements in the basic boating course apply to New Hampshire; this section lists New Hampshire Boating Requirements that are above and beyond Federal Requirements.

The Nautical Know How Boating Safety Course is approved by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard as acceptable to the National Recreational Boating Safety Program. Many insurance companies offer discounts on marine insurance to clients that have successfully completed such a course.

Age Restrictions:

Persons less than 16 years of age shall not operate a motor boat or outboard motor having power in excess of 25 HP unless he or she is accompanied by an adult.

No person less than 16 years old may operate a ski craft or Personal Water Craft in the State of New Hampshire.

Boater Education:

Boaters born on or after Jan. 1, 1983 must have their boating safety certificates proving successful completion of a boating safety course by Jan. 1, 2002. One year later, that requirement extends to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1977. Each successive Jan. 1, the law expands to boaters born on or after Jan. 1, 1973 (2004); 1967 (2005); 1963 (2006); 1957 (2007) and everyone else by 2008.

There are a couple of exemptions; persons who are licensed by the state of New Hampshire or the U.S. Coast Guard to operate a commercial vessel, or those with boating safety certificates from other states.

Personal Flotation Devices:

Every person 5 years of age or under must wear a USCG approved PFD while the vessel is underway, except on boats, vessels and ships with continuous side rails enclosing the perimeter of the boat 3 feet or more in height and enclosed between the deck and the top of the railing..

PWC operators and passengers must wear an approved Type I, II, or III PFD.

Required PFDs must be readily accessible.

Speed Limits and Reckless Operation:

No vessel shall be operated within New Hampshire in a reckless or negligent manner. Examples of reckless or careless operation include:

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, you must maintain only headway speed. (That speed at which you can maintain steerage.

In New Hampshire speed is limited by law for certain conditions and areas. Contact the Marine Patrol Bureau in Gilford for a listing.

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 requirements as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations. Additionally, every vessel shall display the lights and shapes required by the navigation rules.

In addition to the Federal requirements, in the State of New Hampshire boats under 16 feet in length must carry an oar or paddle. All vessels should also carry an anchor and anchor line. See the Basic Boating Course for these requirements.

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 us 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.

Personal Watercraft:

In New Hampshire "ski craft" means any motorized watercraft or private boat which is less than 13 feet in length as manufactured, is capable of exceeding a speed of 20 miles per hour, and has the capacity to carry not more than the operator and one other person while in operation. The term includes jet skis, surf ski and other similar devices.

Persons less than 16 years of age shall not operate a Personal Watercraft.

Each person on a Personal Watercraft (PWC) must wear a Coast Guard approved PFD.

Personal Watercraft may only be operated between sunrise and sunset. Also, PWC must not be operated within 150 feet of another PWC, vessel, platform, person, object except at a speed just enough to maintain headway and steerage. PWC's 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 can operate a PWC in any lake, pond or river, on which the operation of the PWC is prohibited.

The operator of a Personal Watercraft 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 PWC operator should not follow other boats closely and should not jump the wake of other boats.

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. I addition, there shall be at least one observer for each person being towed.

In addition each person engaged in water skiing or aquaplaning should wear a U. S. Coast Guard approved PFD.

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.

You may not operate your vessel or ski at a speed over six mph within 150 feet of the shoreline.

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. 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 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.

A person is considered intoxicated when their blood alcohol level is .08 or greater.


All motorboats and sailboats regardless of length and sailboards 12 feet in length or over must be registered. Exceptions are vessels registered in another state or country using New Hampshire waters for not more than 30 consecutive days and U.S. Government vessels.

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. Registrations expire December 31st each year.

The number awarded to your motorboat or registered vessel must be displayed on both sides of the bow of the boat in such position as to provide easy identification. The number shall read from left to right, must be in block characters of good proportion not less than three inches in height, and must be of a color that contrasts with the background. The numerals must be separated from the prefix and the suffix by hyphens or equivalent spaces such as the following example: NH 0123 AB and NH-0123-AB. Federal and State law prohibits any other number from being displayed on either side of the bow of your boat. 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.

Environmental Concerns:

What can I do to help prevent the spread of Zebra Mussels?

Inspect boat and trailer for weeds and remove. Zebra mussels are often found on aquatic plants.

Flush the cooling system, bilge areas, and live wells with tap water and discard all bait that may have contacted infested waters.

Let your boat dry for 48 hours. If visibly fouled by algae wash the hull with hot water (140 degrees F) which kills zebra mussels. High pressure spray will also help remove them.

What can I do to help prevent the spread of Exotic Milfoil?

Clean all vegetation from your boat and trailer before entering or leaving a lake.

Disposal of vegetation should occur on land away from any water.

Avoid driving through vegetation.

Take the New Hampshire Review Exam Now
Review the Boating Safety Course

New Hampshire and federal boating laws are presented in a summarized form. The laws in their entirety can be found by consulting New Hampshire State Law. These laws are subject to change. It is the responsibility of the operator to be aware of the most current laws when using a boat.

Certain bodies of water in New Hampshire have local restrictions as to type and size of watercraft or motor horsepower, restricted use areas, boat speed, and times for use. Check with the local authorities for these additional restrictions. 

NH Boating Certification

Who is required by law to pass an approved boater education course

Certificate required by

                       January 1. 2002
                       January 1, 2003
                       January 1, 2004
                       January 1, 2005
                       January 1, 2006
                       January 1, 2007
                       January 1, 2008


You can take a boater course on line by going to

Or you can go to for more information

Or you can call 1-888-254-2125 1-888-254-2125 for more information.

Balmoral a Private Community on Beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee

NH Boating Regulations