Maine Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)

Maine Kayaking Laws - Rules and Regulations

Maine kayaking laws are outlined in the Maine Legislature’s Maine Revised Statutes. Those laws are enforced by Maine game wardens, Marine Patrol officers, local harbor masters, and other law enforcement officers of Maine.

With miles of beautiful coastline, rivers and not to mention Nicatous Lake to kayak, canoe or paddle board on, here’s what you need to know to safely and legally kayak, canoe, and SUP in Maine.

Not a Lawyer Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. More importantly, I am not your attorney. This article is not legal advice. If you desire legal advice, consult a competent, licensed attorney in your area.

Maine Kayaking Laws Summary

  • Maine Kayak Laws – Maine defines watercraft as motorized vessels and vessels operated by manual propulsion as paddlecraft that are exempt from most motorized vessel laws.
  • Maine Kayak Registration – Paddlecraft that do not have a motor attached to them are exempted from registration requirements.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – Watercraft or paddlecraft of any length that have a motor attached to them must be registered in Maine. That includes kayaks, canoes and paddle boards.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing – There are no legal age requirements to operate watercraft/paddlecraft without an attached motor. This includes kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – No one under 12 years of age may operate a watercraft or paddlecraft with an attached motor of more than 10 horsepower unless under direct supervision of a person at least 16 years old.
  • Kayaking OUI Law – Maine has Operating Under the Influence (OUI) law which prohibits operating any “watercraft” while under the influence. A Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more is considered under the influence, and if you’re under 21 any amount of alcohol in your system is considered under the influence.
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – One Type I, II, III, or V life jacket on board per person. Maine law requires children 10 and under to wear a type I, II, or III life jacket at all times and on any watercraft .
  • Kayak Lights Law – Power-driven vessels less than 40 feet long must display red and green sidelights on the bow and an all-round white light or masthead light. These lights must be visible from a distance of at least two miles away on a dark, clear night.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – Required for vessels under 40 feet long; whistle or horn that’s audible for 2 seconds and paddle boarders must carry a whistle also.
  • Kayaking VDS Law – All vessels are required to carry night signaling devices. Manually propelled vessels are exempt from carrying day signaling devices. On federally controlled waters, all vessels are required to carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved night VDS devices.

That only summarizes Maine boating laws applied to kayaking and canoeing. The details are more in-depth and specific. Read on to find out how to paddle legally in Maine.

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Maine Kayak Registration

Do you have to register a kayak in Maine? You do not have to register a kayak without an attached motor Maine. Kayaks, canoes and paddle boards are considered paddlecraft without an attached motor in Maine and thus exempted from registration.

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Maine? Yes, all watercraft/vessels with an attached motor and operating on Maine waterways must be registered. Watercraft or paddlecraft with an attached motor including kayaks, canoes and paddle boards must be registered.

If you have an attached trolling motor on your kayak or canoe in Maine, regardless of length, it becomes a “watercraft with an attached motor” and has to be registered.

Maine Kayak Registration Resources

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

Maine Kayaking Education Laws

Do you need a license to kayak in Maine? You do not need a license to operate a paddlecraft with no attached motor in Maine. Kayaks, canoes and SUPs with no attached motor do not require operator education or licensing.

Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Maine? No one under 12 years of age may operate a vessel with an attached motor of more than 10 horsepower unless under the direct supervision of a person at least 16 years of age. Maine Boater Education Course

Maine Kayaking OUI Laws

Can you get an OUI on a kayak in Maine? Yes you can get an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) on a kayak or canoe in Maine. In Maine it’s illegal to operate a “watercraft” of any kind, including kayaks and canoes, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or if under 21 any amount of alcohol in his or her system.

In Maine you are considered under the influence:

  • You have a BAL of 0.08% or more.
  • If you’re under 21 and have any alcohol in your system.

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

Maine OUI Penalties

Maine has minimum court imposed penalties for OUI offenses that escalate quickly. Boating OUIs are treated just like any other motor vehicle OUI offense and are punished the same.

  • First Offense – The first violation they can suspend your license for 150 days and fine you $500.
  • Second Offense – A 3 year license suspension 7-12 days in jail and a $700 fine.
  • Third Offense – A 6 year license suspension, 30-40 days in jail and up to $1,400 fine.
  • Fourth Offense – An 8 year license suspension, 6 months in jail and up to $2,500 fine.

You can read the specifics of Maine OUI laws at the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

Maine Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you have to wear a life jacket on a kayak in Maine? You don’t have to wear a life vest, but all vessels are required to have a wearable USCG-approved Type I, II, or III, or V personal flotation device for each person. PFDs must be in good condition, properly sized for each person, and be readily accessible.

Maine PFD Age Rules

How old do you have to be to not wear a life jacket in Maine? Maine boating law requires that every person 10 years of age or younger must wear a Type I, II, or III PFD while aboard any watercraft at any time.

So, kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding in Maine, you have to have a life vest with you and if you’re 10 or under you have to wear it.

Maine Type IV Throwable PFD

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Maine? Vessels 16 feet and longer, except canoes, kayaks and SUPs, must have a Type IV throwable device onboard.

So your unpowered kayak or canoe is exempted from having a Type IV throwable PFD.

Related Article: Kayak Life Jacket Laws by State (50 State List)

Maine Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night?

These lights must be displayed when away from the dock:

  • Between sunrise and sunset
  • During periods of restricted visibility

Motorboats less than 16′ long must have a bright white light on the stern, visible for 360 degrees. On the bow they must have a combined light mounted lower than the white light that displays green to starboard and red to port.

Manually propelled boats – All watercraft not propelled by machinery, such as kayaks, canoes and paddle boards, and which are only operated by hand power, rowed, paddled must have readily available, a lantern or flashlight showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.

Now, deploying a light to avoid a collision as opposed to having it on and constantly visible are two different things. I’d rather have a pole-mounted white light visible at all times instead.

NOTE: Red or Blue oscillating lights are reserved for police.

Lights While Moored or Anchored

Manually propelled vessels like kayaks and canoes must have a white-light lantern or flashlight on hand and ready to be deployed in enough time to prevent a collision.

Maine Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Maine? All vessels less than 40 feet long are required to carry a sound producing device like a whistle or horn that’s audible for at least 2 seconds. And paddle boarders are required to carry a whistle as a sounding device.

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

Here’s what we consider to be the best whistle for kayaking.

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

Visual Distress Signals let you signal for help if you have an emergency. There are daytime and nighttime VDSs. VDSs must be U.S. Coast Guard–approved, in serviceable condition, and readily accessible.

At Night

USCG rules require that all vessels, regardless of length or type, are required to carry night VDS signals when operating between sunset and sunrise.

During the Day

Most vessels must carry day signals, except:

  • Recreational vessels less than 16 feet
  • Non-motorized open sailboats less than 26 feet
  • Manually-propelled vessels (Canoes and Kayaks)

Maine Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Maine? No, you are not required to carry a fire extinguisher on boats less than 16 feet long so long as they don’t have an inboard engine, no closed compartments for fuel, double bottom construction, or permanently installed fuel tanks.

Regardless of the law, we highly recommend carrying a small class B-I fire extinguisher if you have a trolling motor on your canoe or kayak. The worst thing in the world is a fire on a boat with no way to put it out.

Additional Maine Kayaking Laws Resources

Maine Boating Statutes – Title 12, Chapter 935

Boating Law Enforcement

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife game wardens, marine patrol officers, local harbor masters, and other law enforcement officers of Maine are responsible for enforcing Maine boating laws.

Boating Safety Education Resources


I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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