Delaware Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)


Delaware Kayaking Laws - Rules Regulations

From its inland rivers, canals, ponds, and creeks to its beaches along the western shore of the bay, Delaware has numerous opportunities to explore in your kayak. Learn more about Delaware kayaking laws before you you plan your next kayaking trip.

What are the Delaware Kayaking Laws?

  • What is a kayak? – Delaware identifies kayaks and canoes as non-motorized (manually propelled) vessels.
  • Delaware Kayak Registration – Any non-motorized vessel is exempted from registration requirements.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – Any vessel propelled by any form of mechanical power must be registered with the state of Delaware.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing – Anyone can kayak in Delaware without a boating license or safety certification, but children 12 and under must wear their life jackets.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – There’s no minimum age required to operate a motorized kayak in Delaware, however successful completion of the Delaware Boating Safety Course is required for persons born on or after January 1, 1978.
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Title 23, Chapter 23 of the Delaware Code identifies an exemption from BUI (Boating Under the Influence) laws for devices moved by human power. For motorized kayaks and canoes a blood alcohol level of 0.08% is illegal and is considered BUI.
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – You must have one PDF on board per person. Children 12 and under must wear it at all times.
  • Kayak Lights Law – If practical: kayaks must have red and green sidelights visible from one mile away on a clear night, as well as a stern light visible from two miles away. If not practical, you must have at least one lantern or flashlight shining a white light.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – Vessels less than 65.6 feet (20 meters) must have some means of producing a sound audible for at least half a mile.
  • Kayaking Visual Distress Signaling (VDS) Law – On federally controlled waters, all vessels are required to carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved night VDS devices when operating between sunset and sunrise. Manually propelled vessels are exempt from carrying day signaling devices.

Well, that’s the summary of Delaware boating laws as they apply to kayaking and canoeing. The details are more in-depth. Read on to find out how to safely and legally paddle Delaware waters.

Delaware Kayak Registration Laws

Do you need to register a kayak in Delaware?

The quick answer is no. All vessels used on the waters within the state must be registered, except those that are:

  • Non-motorized
  • Registered in another state, and using Delaware waters for less than 60 days
  • Documented with the U.S. Coast Guard

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Delaware?

The quick answer is yes. All motorized vessels used on the waters within the state must be registered.

Delaware Kayaking Education Laws

Do you have to have a license to operate a kayak in Delaware?

The short answer is no. Non-motorized boating safety classes are voluntary in Delaware.

Do you need a license to operate a (motorized) boat in Delaware?

If born on or after January 1, 1978, operators of registered vessels (including Personal Watercraft) must complete a Boating Safety Education course approved by the DNREC.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) presides over all boating safety courses for the state.

Delaware Kayaking Alcohol and Drug Laws

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Delaware? The quick answer is yes. Boating under the influence (BUI) is illegal in Delaware. And you are considered under the influence if you have a 0.08% blood, urine, or breath alcohol content (BAC) or greater.

Is a BUI the Same as a DUI in Delaware?

The quick answer is yes. Delaware considers Boating Under the Influence (BUI) to be the same as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and will penalize you accordingly.

Related Article:Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak?

Delaware BUI Penalties

Delaware has increasing penalties for each subsequent BUI offense:

  • First offense – Generally, a first BUI in Delaware is a misdemeanor. Penalties range from fines up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.
  • Second offense – Generally, a second BUI generally is a misdemeanor. Penalties range from fines up to $2,000 and up to 18 months in jail.
  • Third offense – Generally, a third BUI is a class G felony. Penalties range from fines up to $3,000 and up to two years in jail. If under 17 years old, additional fines apply (see first offense).
  • If the convicted boater is under 17, Delaware adds an additional fine and the convicted boater must do up to 80 hours of community service.

Delaware Boating Laws Life Jackets

Are life jackets required on kayaks and canoes in Delaware?

The quick answer is yes. There must be one personal flotation device for each person on board.

In Delaware, a life jacket must:

  • Be readily accessible
  • Fit the intended wearer
  • If the vessel requires a Type IV PFD, it must be immediately available
  • Be U.S. Coast Guard approved
  • Have a legible label
  • Be in serviceable condition

Delaware PFD Age Laws

A life jacket must be worn by children 12 and under.

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Delaware?

Vessels 16 feet and over must have one throwable Type IV USCG-approved PFD on board in addition to the required number of PFDs for each person.

Delaware Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night?

The type of navigation lights required for boating in Delaware varies according to the type and size of your vessel.

Powered vessels less than 65.6 feet (20 meters) long must display:

  • Red and green sidelights visible from two miles away on a clear dark night (one mile away for vessels less than 39.4 feet).
  • An all-round white light (for vessels less than 39.4 feet) OR a masthead light AND a sternlight. The all-around light and the masthead light must be at least 3.3 feet higher than the sidelights. Each of these lights must be visible for at least two miles away on a clear dark night.

Unpowered vessels less than 65.6 feet (20 meters) long must display:

  • Red and green sidelights visible from two miles away on a clear dark night (one mile away for vessels less than 39.4 feet).
  • A sternlight visible for at least two miles away on a clear dark night.
  • If less than 23.0 feet (7 meters), a vessel must have the same lighting required for vessels less than 65.6 feet long, if practial. If not practical, these vessels must have on hand at least one lantern or flashlight that shines a white light.

These lights must be displayed:

  • When away from the dock between sunrise and sunset
  • During periods of restricted visibility

NOTE: Red or Blue lights are reserved for law enforcement use.

Lights While Moored or Anchored

Whenever moored or anchored outside a designated mooring area, between sunset and sunrise, all vessels must display a white light visible in all directions.

Delaware Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a horn to kayak in Delaware?

The quick answer is yes. Vessels less than 65.6 feet (20 meters) must carry some means of making an efficient sound signal audible for at least half a mile.

The best “sounding” device for kayakers and canoes is a whistle attached to your PFD in a place that’s easy and quick to reach.

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

All vessels (including kayaks) are required to three carry night signals between sunrise and sunset. Most other vessels are required to carry day signals as well. You must have at least three devices that can be used in either daytime or nighttime.

The only exceptions are during daytime (sunrise to sunset) for:

  • Recreational boats less than 16 feet in length
  • Boats participating in organized events such as races
  • Open sailboats less than 26 feet and not equipped with propulsion machinery
  • Manually propelled boats

Delaware Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Delaware?

The quick answer is no. A fire extinguisher is only required on vessels with at least one of the following:

  • Fuels tanks stored in closed compartments under seats
  • Closed living spaces
  • Double-bottoms not sealed to the hull or not filled with flotation material
  • Closed compartments storing flammable gases or vapors
  • Permanently-installed fuel tanks

Additional Delaware Kayaking Resources

Delaware Boating Law Enforcement

Delaware law enforcement officers are authorized to enforce the boating laws of Delaware.

Boating Education Resources

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