What Are the Boat Requirements in Arkansas?

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No matter the state you are in, there are standard rules and regulations regarding boating, especially safety regulations. In this article, I will be focusing on the great state of Arkansas, and the specific boat requirements found there. So what are the boat requirements in Arkansas? Below is a summary of the main boat requirements:

  1. Legal Age: 12 years old, with adult supervision up until 16 years old.
  2. Boating License: Required for anyone born January 1st, 1986, or younger.
  3. Boating Equipment: Life jacket, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, communication, dock line

Like the other states, the state of Arkansas put these requirements in place for everyone’s safety as well as protection for the environment.

Whether it is for fun or making a living, boating can certainly be a fun and productive activity. Like many other outdoor activities that involve specialized equipment, boating does present some hazards. However, most accidents that are boating-related can be prevented by education.

Arkansas has more than 90,000 miles of streams, rivers, and creeks. The state also has about 600,000 acres of lakes. Boating is among the leading recreational activities in an area that is blessed with so many bodies of water.

Boating is loads of fun, but it can be dangerous for everyone involved if you just jump right in without the necessary licenses and technical knowledge to operate such vessels. Risking the operation of boats without a permit will put people in danger, and if caught, they can face some hefty fines.

Read on to learn more about the boat requirements in Arkansas, including the legal age, required equipment, as well as the required boat license and registration.

Boat Requirements in Arkansas

The Legal Age Requirement

All states require boat operators to undergo a licensed boater safety course before allowing anyone to operate any watercraft, including a host of other requirements.

For starters, let us talk about the operators themselves. Arkansas law states explicitly that if you were born on or after January 1, 1986, you would need to undergo boating education. 

The legal age in Arkansas to operate a motorized marine vessel with an engine of 10 horsepower or more is 12 years of age. However, from the age of 12 up until 16, they would have to be accompanied by a competent adult for supervision.

An operator of a vessel needs to have an Arkansas Boater Education Card (Arkansas Boating License) on board when the maritime boat is underway.

Boating Equipment

As with all regulatory requirements, a considerable bulk of it would revolve around equipment being up to code and the standards set upon by the regulatory body.

Let us take a look at boating equipment that one absolutely needs in order to have their boating experience not only hassle-free and all legal, but more importantly, safe for everybody that will be riding on your beloved vessel.

Here are 5 required pieces of boat equipment:

  1. Lifejacket
  2. First Aid Kit
  3. Fire Extinguisher
  4. Communication
  5. Dock Line

1. Lifejacket

When talking about boating equipment, the first thing that comes to mind would be the typical orange or red flotation device, commonly called the life jacket. Ideally, a life jacket should be lightweight and brightly colored for greater visibility in poor weather.

An excellent example of this would be the Onyx Curve Lifejacket, which has both of these features. It comes in bright colors and is lightweight, with the bonus of having excellent mobility.

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For larger boats, an additional throwable flotation device may be necessary. It is required to have one life jacket per passenger.

2. First Aid Kit

Equally important is the first aid kit. The kit that you would usually find on marine vessels would be different from the usual run-of-the-mill kit you normally find at home.

The difference in these types of kits is that aside from the typical first response kit for injuries, you also find the necessary signaling and sound devices. These devices are ideal for some reasons, particularly if you become stranded or became adrift at sea.

This Goglobe Boat Safety Kit is United States Coast Guard approved and contains a medical first aid kit as well as a comprehensive safety kit with signaling and sound gear. This kit takes care of two birds with one stone.

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3. Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers that are rated for marine use are also required. These are usually lightweight and suited for high-risk but small areas, like the engine bays of the boats. These fire extinguishers should have portability and should be refillable.

The size of the fire extinguisher is directly proportional to the size of the vessel that you will be operating. For larger boats, it may be that multiple fire extinguishers are needed. 

4. Communication

Communication equipment is another Arkansas boating requirement that will allow you to legally and safely operate a boat. Marine VHF radios have been used in the seafaring industry for the longest time.

The most modern VHF radios will allow you to communicate and have GPS integrated into their systems, adding that extra notch to the safety level of the vessel.

Take a look at the ICOM M330G Compact VHF Fixed Mount Marine Radio, as it is among the top choices for marine communication equipment. These radios also have a built-in distress beacon, which is extremely useful in an emergency.

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5. Dock Lines

For veteran boating enthusiasts, it is a standard operating procedure for them to carry two or more dock lines. Anchor lines are required to prevent your vessel from running aground. They also keep your boat closer to the docks in a marina.

Quite simply, the purpose of the lines is to minimize the movement of your craft while it is in a ‘docked’ placement. They also come in handy where another boater has become stranded and needs a lift, or foul weather has chanced upon you on the dockside.

The INNOCEDEAR 4 Pack 1/2” X 15’ Dock Linese has the right elasticity and tensile strength to do exactly what is required in keeping your vessel secured. Furthermore, the only rope line material to be recommended by the U.S. coast guard is nylon.

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Boating Education and Safety

One of the most important (maybe the most important) of all boat requirements in Arkansas is to have boating education and safety equipment. Boating-related accidents and fatalities occur mainly because of a lack of knowledge and not being educated about boating safety. In Arkansas, it is a working principle by the game and fish commission that an educated boater is a safe boater.

As such, nearly all boating accidents are preventable, provided that boaters remain alert, be equipped with the proper floatation and emergency devices, and know the dangers of boating well enough to have precautionary measures in place. 

It is essential to always check local weather conditions before embarking on a boat trip, especially on open seas. Play it by ear, and if you notice darkening clouds and high winds, it would be better to postpone your trip. Another equally critical step is to actually have a checklist before leaving on a boating trip, just to make sure that no vital equipment or detail has been overlooked.

Be respectful of lanes and navigational buoys, and always stay clear of other larger vessels, which may not have the agility to avoid smaller craft. It is also a great idea to let your loved ones know in advance when you are taking a trip by boat. When possible, always designate an assistant captain or someone to take over when one acting ‘captain’ gets incapacitated in one way or another.

All safety equipment should, of course, be present and on board before going underway. Items such as fire extinguishers and flotation devices are essential in a boating emergency situation. Another vital no-no is boating while intoxicated, as this multiplies the dangers of operating the boat exponentially.

Fines and Restrictions

Arkansas lawmakers also recently increased the penalties for BWI (boating while intoxicated) and now match the penalties for DUI. In the state of Arkansas, it is against the law to operate a boat if the person in question is under the influence of alcohol.

Boaters who are found to be in violation of the law against operating a vessel while intoxicated will face a hefty one thousand dollar fine, jail time of up to one year, and a suspension of your license for up to six months. 

Depositing waste of any kind, including trash, oils, and pollutants on waterways, will also warrant a fine of up to one thousand dollars. Aside from the hefty fine, the violator can be guilty of misdemeanor charges as well.

Boat Registration

For you to operate a vessel in Arkansas waterways, your boat must have an Arkansas Certificate Number and validation decals. These are required to operate a motorboat on public waters in this state. However, there are exceptions, such as vessels not propelled by engines or sails, or documented vessels by USCG.

Another exception is if the vessel is already registered in another state, provided that the said vessel will only be plying Arkansas public waterways for less than ninety days.

The requirements for registration include establishing proof of ownership, proof of personal property assessment, and current paid taxes. The required documents also cover proof of insurance and the hull identification number verification by a stencil, a simple method of rubbing a pencil over the hull identification number.

Your vessel will also need to undergo a vessel safety check throughout the course of its lifetime. There are a lot of available vessel safety inspectors duly authorized by the U.S. Coast Guard that can perform these checks for you. Most of these are actually free of charge, and their goal is simply to make boating safe for you and your loved ones.

Check out the below great videos, part 1 and 2, which discusses some of the processes for registering your boat in Arkansas.

Conclusion – Boat Requirements in Arkansas

So what are the boat requirements in Arkansas?

  • Legal Age: Must be at least 12 years old to operate a boat, with adult supervision up until 16 years old.
  • Boating License: Must have a boat license for anyone younger than January 1st, 1986.
  • Boating Equipment: First aid kit, life jacket, fire extinguisher, communication, dock line

Operating a vessel without the worry of technicalities goes a long way in contributing to the safety of your activities while boating. Having the knowledge and peace of mind that you are operating within the law allows you to focus on boating. It also allows you to be so much more aware and alert for any untoward incident that may happen along the way.

Adding to that, having the correct equipment and the know-how in emergency cases dramatically lowers the chances that you or the vessel you are operating will be involved in any accidents.

Related reading:

Is Boat Insurance Required in South Carolina?

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat? US License Laws