Florida Boating Requirements

Whether you’re a seasoned captain or a novice navigating the Florida waters, you’ll need to navigate through the requirements and laws that ensure safety and compliance when boating in Florida. Let’s dive into the essentials and requirements to operate a boat in freshwater streams or just off the coast. So, grab your captain’s hat and let’s head into the insight of Florida’s boating laws!

An individual stands navigating the wheel of a boat.
Set sail behind the wheel! Your boating adventure awaits!

Requirements to Operate a Boat in Florida

Before you can embark on your boating journey in Florida, you need to meet certain requirements. First and foremost, anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, is required to complete a boating safety education course, approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). This applies to operators of vessels with 10 horsepower or more. The course covers topics ranging from navigation rules to emergency procedures, ensuring every captain is knowledgeable in the essentials of safe boating.

Safety Equipment for Personal Watercraft

Safety first – a mantra that resonates when it comes to personal watercraft (PWC) in Florida. For PWC operators, the law mandates the use of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) and a lanyard-type engine cutoff switch. These precautions enhance safety and minimize the risks associated with PWC operation. When renting a boat from Castaways on the River, we ensure your safety gear is in place!

Multiple pontoon boats lined up waiting to be taken out on the river on a sunny boating day.
The pontoons are lined up ready to be taken out for the day!

What are the age requirements to drive a boat in Florida?

The allure of captaining a boat often begins at a young age. In Florida, aspiring young individuals can take the helm as early as 14 years old, but certain conditions apply. To operate a boat powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or more, a 14 or 15 year-old must complete a boating safety education course approved by the FWC. Additionally, they must be accompanied by an adult who is at least 18 years old and possesses the required boating education. Note that individuals must be 18 years of age or older to rent a boat at Castaways on the River. 

Boating Options at Castaways on the River

When embarking on a boating adventure with Castaways on the River, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the boat rental policies. We offer both full and half-day rentals. Keep in mind boat rentals are confined to an 11-mile boundary North and South of Castaways on the River, as indicated on the authorized areas map. If your furry friend is joining the voyage, four boats are designated as dog-friendly, allowing one dog per boat! For a full list of our boat rental information please visit our boat rental page or contact us by calling 352.759.3422!

A dog is shown on the edge of a boat with their tongue sticking out.
Our furry friends love navigating a day out on the river!

From mandatory safety education courses to legal amendments, understanding state requirements ensures your boating experiences are enjoyable but also responsible. Ready to take on the river? Be sure to view our boat rental options at Castaways on the River. Tag us on X, Facebook and Instagram with #CastawaysontheRiver to share your day boating on the St. Johns River!

What to Do During A Storm On A Boat

Storm season presents many challenges to Florida boaters. It’s best to be aware and prepared for what may come rather than being caught by surprise without an action plan.

A saying in Florida is true, it’s not if a storm is coming especially during the busy summer months, but rather when is it coming? Typically you can set your watch by Florida’s predictable afternoon summer storms. If you are heading out to enjoy a fun day on the water or to get in a little fishing, there are a few tips to follow to ensure you know what to do during a storm when boating.

Make Your Boating Plans Known:

Make sure someone knows your boating plan for the day. Whether it’s a family member not on the boat with you or the staff at the boat rental facility, inform others of where you are headed on the boat. In case a storm rolls in and you are unable to return, they will be able to notify authorities of where to search should you need assistance.

Make sure everyone has on a life vest. It’s Florida law for children age 6 and under to wear a life vest at all times on a boat.

Wear Life Vest While Boating:

This next tip is common sense, but few take time to heed it until it’s too late. Take a moment to put on a life vest or other personal flotation device (PFD). It simply can save your life if the weather turns bad and you are separated from the boat. And remember, it’s the law in Florida that children age 6 years and younger must wear an approved life vest while the vessel is underway.

Check the guidelines for life vests, life jackets, or personal flotation devices. Note: inflatable personal flotation devices are prohibited.

Note: The National Safe Boating Council promotes National Safe Boating Week annually in May.

The Boat U.S. Foundation is a reference for free online boater safety courses. In order to rent at boat at Castaways On The River, anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 must have a boating safety card.

Check The Weather Before You Leave The Dock:

Be sure to check the weather for your planned boating day. A storm prediction may mean altering your plans a bit. Instead of going out in the afternoon, it may be best to boat in the morning and return to shore well ahead of the storm.

Be prepared of what to do in a storm while on a boat.
Be prepared of what to do in a storm while on a boat.

Be Prepared – Know What To Do On A Boat During a Storm:

It is not uncommon in Florida to have a fast moving storm approach without any warning. If you are caught out on the water, a survival kit of sorts may come in quite useful until you can make it back to shore. Include:

  • A secondary source of communication should the boat radio become disabled.
  • A backup power source is a good item to include in your kit.
  • Extra water and food to tide you over just in case.
  • Flashlights, a first aid kit.
During a storm it's advised to take down the top to prevent damage from high winds and lightning.
During a storm it’s advised to take down the top to prevent damage from high winds and lightning.

Take Down the Boat Top:

Usually the roll of storm clouds in Florida means lightning in most cases is not far behind. If your boat has a top, the high winds may make it dangerous to navigate and it becomes a target for lightning strikes. At the first rumble of thunder and increasing winds, it may be best to stop and take the boat top down. It may mean being wet as the rain falls, but it may make your return to shore safer.

Florida’s tropical climate and warm water temperatures are the perfect ingredients for lightning strikes. The state has the nickname as the Lightning Capital of the U.S. So when you see storm clouds moving in your direction keep an ear out for thunder and prepare to get to safety. It’s better to be cautious than to deal with the consequences of a lightning strike on open water.

Head to Shore Out Of The Storm:

Take a look around to see where you are when you realize a storm is approaching. Once you make the decision to head back, your return route may be altered to ensure the quickest and safest path. This is not the time to speed recklessly, you could cause unnecessary damage. During a storm, take your time and guide the boat safely back to shore.

Plan Your Boat Rental and Stay on the River

Spend the day boating along the St. Johns River from the dock at Castaways On the River here in Astor, Florida. We can help you with a checklist of Florida boating regulations, navigating what you need to know to rent a boat, and plan your stay with us. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and area travel plans today!

Tips for Renting Boats: What You Need to Know

It’s a beautiful time of year to be on a boat cruising the St. Johns River in search of crystal clear springs for swimming or to catch fish. Don’t have a boat? That’s not a problem. We’ll teach you the tips you need to know to rent a boat this summer on the river.

rent a boat
We’ll teach you the tips you need to know to rent a boat this summer on the St. Johns River.

Review Boat Rental Companies

You already know you want to be on the St. Johns River for your boating adventure. The crystal clear water, great fishing and wildlife make it the perfect choice. But how do you find the right boat rental company to choose from? Search the Internet for “boat rentals” in the region where you are planning your trip. When selecting a boat rental operator, research the following:

  • The ratings of rental operators
  • The reviews given by previous customers
  • The prices for half day and full day rentals

Rental Boat Licenses and Regulations

Each state has different age and license requirements for boaters. Boat rental operators and charter captains are required to have a valid boat license, which is regulated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). This license allows operators to carry anywhere from 4 to more than 11 customers on board a boat, depending on which charter boat license they carry.

For those wishing to rent a boat in Florida, Florida law requires anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the FWC. Other questions about obtaining a boating card can be found here.

If you are visiting from another state and meet the boating safety requirements elsewhere, you can obtain a temporary Florida boating certificate from a list of vendors. Make sure you ask your boat rental operator what they require before you show up to rent a boat.

pontoon boat at sunset
Most boat rental operators mandate their boats are returned before nightfall.

What’s in the Rental Agreement?

Boat rental agreements vary so make sure you take a close look at them before you sign on the dotted line. Some limit how far you can travel from the boat dock and others won’t allow you to tow tubes or skiers. Most rental operators mandate their boats are returned before nightfall. Normal wear and tear is expected but if you come back with a damaged propeller or a ripped captain seat, you’re likely going to have to pay for the damage.

Rental agreement tip: Make sure it’s outlined how weather-related cancellations are handled so you’re not stuck paying for a boat rental you didn’t get to use.

Is the Rental Boat Insured?

It’s important that a rental company’s liability coverage is outlined in your boat rental agreement. It’s common to accept all responsible for anything that happens to the boat and motor regardless of cause.

Rental Insurance tip: It’s worth contacting your insurance agent to find out what kind of rental coverage you’re eligible for under your policy while operating a rental boat.

Perform a Rental Check

Boats and their maintenance are expensive. So take a long look at your rental boat and outline any issues with the boat in writing before you take the keys and fire up the engine. You never want to be accused of causing previous damage to a rental boat. List the following on your rental agreement before you sign it:

  • Scratches and dents on the hull
  • Damage to the motor or propeller
  • Seat stains
  • Windshield cracks
  • Missing, broken or loose fittings

What Safety Equipment is Provided?

Boat rental operators are required to have all necessary safety equipment on board your rental boat. Make sure you know where it’s all stashed and how to operate it before you leave on your boat trip. Make sure your rental boat operator gives you a tour of the boat.

Safety Tips: Make sure your provided life jackets are sized and adjusted properly before you and your passengers leave. Make sure children wear life jackets at all times. It’s the law.

Castaways tips for renting boats Pinterest pin
Pontoon boats are fun for cruising the river for fishing or for a leisurely river cruise.

Rent a Boat

Now all that’s left to do is rent a boat. How do you choose the perfect rental boat? Here’s a sampling of boats you can try on the St. Johns River:

  • Pontoon fishing boats – These boats are fun for cruising the river for fishing or for a leisurely river cruise. You can fit a dozen people on a pontoon river cruiser or accommodate your fishing party.
  • Mako fishing boats – Mako fishing boats are bit sportier and more stylish and are a popular choice among anglers. A 19-foot Mako comes equipped with a 140-horsepower motor that can accommodate seven fishers, two fishing seats and comes equipped with fishing rod holders.

Now that you’re prepared for your summer boat trip on the St. johns River, all you need is to rent a boat at Castaways on the River. We also offer cottages and hotel rooms that sit right on the St. Johns River so you can stay awhile and enjoy the tranquil setting of the river. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3442 to plan your summer trip on the river today!

The St. Johns River: Boating Etiquette Tips

Just like driving a vehicle on the road, operating a boat is much the same but in the water. There are a few general rules of boating etiquette tips to follow for safety but also to be courteous to follow boaters.

boating etiquette wake
A good boating etiquette tip is to control the wake of the boat.

Wake Etiquette

Remember other boats are on the water and a large, rough wake may cause the other boats to rock or cause damage. Consider slowing your speed when passing near other boats to decrease the wake. Keep in mind to also control the wake upon your arrival and departure from the dock.

Signs are in place along the river for boaters to follow. In manatee zones the boat needs to maintain a slow speed.

Boating Signs of the St. Johns River

Waterways like the St. Johns Rivers are popular for boaters to enjoy. The river is home to a diverse eco-system that requires careful attention by boaters to protect these areas, especially when it comes to manatees. Posted signs in manatee zones require a slow speed and minimum wake so that the slow moving mammals have time to evade oncoming boats.

Accessing the many springs along the river also requires going slow or idling in order not to disturb the pristine, sensitive environment.

Take time to understand what the various signs and buoys mean while the boat is operating in the water.

Nautical Lingo

Do you know which side of the boat is port and which is starboard?

Port – the left side of the boat if looking at the bow.

Starboard – the right side of the boat.

So why don’t we just say left and right sides of the boat? The term starboard dates back to the days when all boats were operated by oars which were typically placed on the right side of the stern. The side opposite the oar was eventually referred to as the port side; the side used for loading the boat on the dock.

Now you’ll know which side is which when you pull into dock.

boating etiquette litter
Litter is a no-no in boating. Please keep the water clean.

Keep the water clean

Littering is a definite no-no of boating. The water is not a place to discard trash. Provide a receptacle for everyone on board to place trash that will be disposed of once on shore.

Boating Etiquette Tips

Most boaters have at least one thing in common, their love of the being out on the water. So it’s a nice gesture to wave in greeting other vessels. Those using a boat to get to their favorite fishing spots will often chat with other anglers about what’s biting. While there is lots of good advice along the way, be respectful of others who want to enjoy the solitude and quiet on the water.

Ready, Set, Launch!

It’s good boating etiquette to be ready to launch your boat upon arrival at the ramp. If you have to still load gear and park the tow vehicle, others waiting behind you may become impatient. Have everything in place before you get to the launch ramp.

Likewise when you return, clear the path the boaters following you in for day.

Contact Us

Launch your boat from our ramp and spend the day enjoying all that the St. Johns River offers. If you need a boat, we have plenty available to rent for the day or just a few hours if you prefer. Let our staff get you ready for a day of fun on the water. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates about the area, check out our website or give us a call at (352) 759-3422.

Lightning Safety

Florida’s tropical climate and warm waters create the perfect environment for lightening to strike in a flash.

Florida Lightning Statistics

Did you know that lightning is as thin as a ruler and five times hotter than the sun at some 53,000 degrees? Lightning causes between 10-13  fatalities and around 30 injuries per year in Florida, as reported by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

The Lightning Capital of the U.S.

“Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States, with storms occurring approximately 100 days out of the year, compared to California’s low of only five,” UF/IFAS states. “Although our entire state rates as a high risk area, the most dangerous area runs from St. Augustine (north) to Lake Okeechobee (south) and from east to west coasts.”

lightning (1)

Since 2006, more people have been struck to death while fishing than any other outdoor activity in the world as reported by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Lightning Safety on the St. Johns River

To ensure the safety of swimmers, boaters and anglers on the St. John’s River, adjoining lakes and nearby springs, we have provided the following tips for avoiding lightening before it strikes:

Check the Weather

Weather predictions, storm warnings and safety precautions should not be ignored. Staying up-to-date with what’s going on with the weather can mean life or death while on the water where fatal strikes are more likely to occur.

Pay Attention to Warning Signs

If you see storm clouds approaching or hear thunder, head indoors. Thunder travels faster at the speed of sound, while lightning travels at the speed of light. Don’t assume it’s not coming for you. Better safe, than struck.


Plan Ahead

If you have ever spent longer than two weeks in Florida, you’ve probably called the weather reporter a liar. Florida’s weather conditions are unpredictable and sporadic. It might be raining on one side of the highway, but not the other. Therefore, plan ahead in case weather takes a turn for the not-so-sunny.

Call Ahead

If you are coming from out-of-town, give us a call before your visit. We can tell you what kind of weather expect to expect and help plan your next fishing adventure on the St. Johns River. Looking for a jet ski or boat rental? We can help you with that too. Give us a call at (352) 759-3422.