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Laws & Regulations

Boaters must know the state and national boating regulations that govern recreational sailing. Learn what safety equipment you must have on your boat, depending on its size and use, and the rules for who has the right of way when boats meet on the water.

Rules of the Road for Sailboats
To avoid collision, the captains of sailboats, powerboats, and all other vessels must clearly understand the Rules of the Road, the term for U.S. regulations regarding which boat has right of way over another boat in different situations. Here are the rules for sailboats when under sail or under power.

Federally Required Equipment for Recreational Sailboats
All sailboats sailed in US waters must carry certain equipment required by federal law, depending on the boat's size, presence and type of engine, and other factors. Check these lists to see what is required for your boat.

Legal Requirements for Inflatable PFDs
Inflatable PFDs now meet Coast Guard requirements and have key benefits over regular lifejackets, but you must understand how to care for and use the inflation device.

State Boating Regulations
Learn the laws of your state regarding boat registration, state PFD and equipment requirements, waste and oil disposal, boat speed limits, and other legal requirements.

Coast Guard Vessel Documentation
Most smaller recreational sailboats are registered in the owner’s state, but larger vessels may be Coast Guard-documented, sometimes instead of state registration. Here at the National Vessel Documentation Center you can learn the requirements for documentation and the procedures to follow. Start by reading the FAQs.

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