General Boating Regulation Guidelines
The following is a brief summary of Rhode Island’s boating regulations. For detailed information, please refer to Division of Enforcement’s The Handbook of RI Boating Laws and Regulations, Title 46
of the General Laws of the State of Rhode Island or contact the Division of Enforcement.
- DEM Conservation and Boating Safety Officers, harbormasters, and police officers have authority to enforce state laws and regulations on all state tidal and non-tidal waters.
- It shall be a misdemeanor for any person operating a vessel on Rhode Island waters to refuse to stop or move on the oral command of a DEM Conservation or Boating Safety Officer, a harbormaster, or a police officer.
- Every motorboat operating on the waters of the state must be numbered in accordance with the laws and regulations of this state, with applicable federal law, or with an approved numbering system of another state. The number must be prominently displayed on each side of the bow of the boat.
- Required Safety Equipment:
- Personal Flotation Devices (PFD’s) - All vessels must have at least one approved type I,II,III, or V PFD for each person on board. For vessels 16 feet long or longer, one additional, throw able type IV PFD is required.
- Fire Extinguishers -All mechanically-propelled vessels except those that are less than 26 feet long and powered by outboard motors, must carry one B-I USCG-approved fire extinguisher. Motorboats 26 feet to 40 feet in length and longer must carry either two (2) B-I USCG-approved fire extinguishers or one B-II extinguisher. Vessels 40 feet to 65 feet must carry three B-I or one B-I and one B-II.
- Visual Distress Signals (VSD) - Vessels used on RI waters must be equipped with proper visual distress signals that are USCG approved, in serviceable condition, and readily accessible. Vessels under 26 ft. require 3 night VSDs while those 26 feet or longer require both 3 day and 3 night VSDs.
- Whistle (horn) and Bell - All vessels must carry an efficient sound-producing device (whistle or horn). Vessels 12 meters (36 feet) in length or longer must also carry a bell.
- All motorboats must carry and display the proper navigation lights for their size class when operating between sunset and sunrise and during daylight periods of reduced visibility.
- All vessels equipped with an engine must have a factory-type muffler or exhaust water manifold installed on the engine or another effective muffling system for noise reduction purposes.
- No person shall operate any motorboat or vessel or manipulate any water skis, surfboard, or similar device in a reckless manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of another.
- Any person transporting a child under thirteen (13) years of age in a recreational vessel less than 65 ft. in length on the waters of this state, shall require that the child wear a personal flotation device approved by the USCG when underway unless below deck or in a closed cabin.
- No person shall operate any motorboat or vessel in any harbor or inlet or any pond or other confined body of water in this state in excess of forty-five (45) miles per hour during the hours from sunrise to sunset and twenty-five (25) miles per hour during periods of darkness or other periods of restricted visibility.
- RI law prohibits anyone from boating while intoxicated (BWI). This includes the operation of any powerboat, sailboat, personal watercraft, water skis, sailboard, or similar device. Intoxicated means a person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or drugs such that his/her thought or actions are impaired causing danger to others. RI law sets blood alcohol limit for boating while intoxicated at 0.08% or greater.
- Any person SCUBA diving, skin diving, or snorkeling in any area where power or motorboats are operated shall place a diver’s warning flag on a buoy at a place of his or her submergence. No person shall operated a motorboat within fifty (50) feet of a displayed diver’s flag.
- New Regulation: Prohibited is the transport of any plant or plant part into or out of any Rhode Island waterbody on boats, vessels, other water conveyances, vehicles, trailers, fishing supplies, or any other equipment, with the exception of authorized research activities, species identification and other management activities.