Maine Marine Patrol Encourages Boating Safety Ahead of Memorial Day

Augusta – As Memorial Day and the unofficial start of the summer recreational boating season draws near, the Maine Marine Patrol wants to remind recreational boaters of a recent law change that took effect this year which is designed to encourage safety on our state’s coastal and inland waters.

Beginning this year, anyone born on or after January 1, 1999 must be at least 12-years old and must take a boater safety course to operate a recreational boat with a motor that is 25 horse-power or greater on coastal or inland waters.

These boaters must possess and present a boater safety and education course certificate to a Marine Patrol Officer or Maine Game Warden for inspection upon request.

There are a few exemptions, such as for registered Maine guides (hunting, fishing, and recreational guides only), daily boat renters who complete a temporary boater safety course provided by the rental agent, and boaters who possess a merchant marine document issued by the US Coast Guard for operation of Uninspected Passenger Vessels, or who hold a Master or Mate License. Commercial fishermen are not required to take a course unless they are operating a motorboat for recreational purposes.

Boaters under the age of 12 may operate a motorboat on Maine waters as long as the engine is less than 10 horsepower. Anyone under the age of 12 must have supervision to operate a motorboat if the motor is between 10 horsepower and 25 horsepower.

Anyone born after January 1, 1999 is required to complete a boater safety and education course and be at least 16 years of age to operate a personal watercraft (such as a jet ski), or to supervise a person under 12 years of age who is operating a motorboat.

Visit the Boating Safety and Education Course page on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website for more information on the law, education courses, and frequently asked questions.

The Maine Marine Patrol also offers the following reminders for a safe, enjoyable experience on Maine's coastal waters:

Wear a Life Jacket

  • In Maine, all children 10 and under must wear a life jacket. Adults don't have to wear them, but they must be available on board for every occupant.
  • The latest U.S. Coast Guard statistics show 75 percent of boating fatalities were due to drowning, and that 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
  • New life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight, and stylish than the bulky orange style most boaters know. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling, or hunting, and are much cooler in the warmer weather.

Check Your Boat and Gear

  • Safe boaters should also have working navigation lights, visual distress signals, sound signaling devices, VHF radio, cell phone, proper ventilation, and properly displayed registration numbers.
  • A thorough check of fire extinguishers and flares should be completed to ensure they are not expired and will function properly.

Plan Before You Go

  • Always check the local marine forecast before heading out on Maine's coastal waters.
  • Boaters should file a float plan with a friend or relative, letting them know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Paddle Safe

  • Kayakers, canoeists, and paddle boarders should always wear a life jacket.
  • Bring a hand-held VHF radio and a cell phone in a waterproof case.
  • Carry signaling devices (whistle, mirror, flares) in a pocket of your life jacket.
  • A personal locator beacon will relay your precise location to rescue agencies if you're in distress.
  • Kayakers should always carry a paddle float and bilge pump.
  • With ocean temperatures in many places less than 50 degrees, paddlers should dress for the water temperature and consider wearing a dry suit or a wet suit. Warm temperatures can be misleading; the ocean is often 30-40 degrees colder than the air temperature.
  • Place a sticker on smaller craft like kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards, with contact information including a name and phone number.
    • “IF-FOUND” stickers are available at both Marine Patrol and Warden Service offices and headquarters.
    • If Marine Patrol, Warden Service, or the Coast Guard locates a vessel with nobody onboard, they can call the number on the sticker and confirm whether the owner is missing, potentially avoiding a costly and unnecessary search and rescue operation.

Don't Boat Under the Influence

  • Another important safety issue is drinking and boating.
  • According to Coast Guard statistics, alcohol is a leading contributor in deadly boating accidents.
  • Environmental stressors such as sun, wind, noise, and the movement of the boat while on the water intensify the effects of alcohol or drug use.
  • Boaters can become impaired more quickly on the water than on land.
  • Operating a boat with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher is against the law in Maine. BUI laws pertain to all vessels, from rowboats and kayaks to the largest ships.
  • Marine Patrol will prosecute people who are under the influence while operating a boat.