Boating safety tips for Memorial Day weekend in Maryland

MARYLAND — Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer in Maryland. That means boaters will be flocking to the Chesapeake Bay this weekend.

With crowded waterways and potentially intoxicated boaters, captains have even more responsibilities around the holiday. Important issues to be aware of include the alcohol limit, speed limits and life jacket requirements.

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources provided these boating safety tips ahead of the 2023 season:

Take a boat safety course

Boaters born on or after July 1, 1972 are required to have a NASBLA-recognized Boating Safety Education Certificate when operating a powerboat in Maryland waters. There are different ways to get a certificate. Just because you were born before the required date above does not exempt you from the risk of an accident.

Inform yourself! Visit our website at for the dates and times of the courses we offer. Online courses are now available. Check the schedule on our website.

Drive inside

Driving on the bow or sitting on the edge of a moving boat is illegal. If you fall, you could get caught between the propeller and cause serious injury or death.

Life jacket requirements

Lifejackets must be of the correct size for the intended wearer, in good, serviceable condition and easily accessible. A portable life jacket (Type I, II, III or V) is required for each person on board on all recreational boats.

Any motorized boat 16 feet or longer must also carry a Type IV throwing vest.

Children under the age of 13 are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while navigating a recreational vessel less than 21 feet in length in Maryland waters. It must be the right size and in good, usable condition.

Children under the age of 4 must wear a life jacket which has additional safety features suitable for infants, toddlers or young children including an inflatable headrest, webbing handle and crotch strap.

See for laws and regulations.

Don’t drink and boat

A boat operator whose blood or breath analysis shows an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more is considered intoxicated and will be prosecuted. Alcohol has a more dramatic effect on the body while boating.

Personal watercraft

PWC operators in Maryland must be at least 16 years of age and hold a valid Boat Safety Instruction Certificate. A personal watercraft must be operated at 6 knots or less when within 100 feet of a ship, other personal watercraft, shore, wharf, pier, pier, bridge structure, abutment or people in the water (300 feet minimum from people removed in the water). Atlantic Ocean).

Boat Access Guide

Locate more than 425 public boat access locations in Maryland and get details on amenities such as facility size, parking, accessibility and hours of operation using the boat ramps keyword search at

Download the app!

The official mobile app from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources gives outdoor enthusiasts the tools they need to enjoy all that nature has to offer.

Contact the Natural Resources Police/Coast Guard

Report an emergency, violation or abandoned boat: 410-260-8888. Report a missing, damaged, or misplaced buoy: 410-643-6521. Report a fatal boating accident to the US Coast Guard: 410-576-2525

Chesapeake Bay Safety and Environmental Hotline

Call 877-224-7229 to report a boating accident or reckless activity, a fish kill or algal bloom, floating debris that poses a hazard to navigation, illegal fishing activity, a leak or overflow of a public sewer, an oil or hazardous material spill, etc. to report violation of critical areas or wetlands. To report an oil spill, chemical spill or maritime safety incident to the US Coast Guard National Response Center, call 800-424-8802.

Use VHF VHF marine channel 16

The primary distress frequency is continuously monitored by the US Coast Guard. Channel 16 must be kept clear – someone’s life may depend on it! Use channel 9 for non-emergency calls.

Know before you go

Check the weather often. The weather can change in an instant. Make a float plan: tell someone where you’re going, who will be with you, and when you plan to return.

Stop water hitch

Invasive species establish aggressively at the expense of native ecosystems and pose a threat to biodiversity. In Maryland, aquatic invaders include northern snakehead catfish, blue and flathead catfish, zebra mussels, and aquatic plants such as hydrilla. A single drop of water, a bit of mud or a tiny plant fragment is enough to spread harmful plants and animals. To minimize this risk:

  • Thoroughly inspect and clean vehicles, vessels, trailers and all associated equipment after use.
  • Remove all plant matter and place in designated waste stations or bins.
  • Only dispose of worms, unwanted bait fish and fish parts in the trash can.
  • Drain all water before exiting the launch. Leave the boat plugs unplugged while cruising.
  • If possible, allow your boat to dry for five days before launching it into another body of water.

Learn more at For more information on how to clean, drain and dry your boat, see our brochure.

Clean marinas and clean boaters

Boaters can help protect our waterways by (1) never littering,

(2) preventing fuel spills; and (3) avoiding harsh chemicals and detergents. There are also nearly 150 clean marinas to choose from across the state. Find locations and sign the Clean Boater Pledge at

Pumping plants for sea sewage

Keep our waters clean – use pumping systems! There are more than 350 pumping stations in Maryland. Most are funded by grants and are open to the public. Disposing of raw sewage is illegal and harms our natural resources. See for locations of grant-funded pump down stations and boat unloading regulations. Interrupted pump downs can be reported to 410-260-8772.

What do I do if I sell my boat?

A new, interactive map shows the locations of hundreds of regulated speed zones in Maryland waters. Find it at or via the mobile app.

Proper disposal of unwanted boats

If you have title to an unused boat, consider donating it to a charity or maritime museum. Or find a ship salvage company that will disassemble the ship, recycle parts and dispose of them. Never leave a boat in a marina or on our waterways. For more information:

take me fishing

A Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Sport license is required for fishing in the Chesapeake Bay, the Coastal Bays, their respective tributaries and the Atlantic Ocean.

You can purchase your $50 Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Sport Boat decal anytime from a sport license agent or Department of Natural Resources service center. The sticker allows all boat passengers to fish without an individual sporting license, but all anglers must register with the state. The primary owner of the boat receives a complimentary crabbing license and an individual Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Sport license allowing fishing from shore or someone else’s boat.

Owners or family members of waterfront properties, those fishing in a designated license-free fishing area, and passengers on a vessel with a Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Sport Boat decal are exempt from individual licensing but must register as a saltwater angler at Compass.dnr to register.

For more information on tide and non-tide fishing, tagged fishing and educational programs, visit

Find a fishing spot

Visit to find a fishing location and site-specific details such as species, special regulations, tidal/non-tidal dividing lines, and boating and parking information.

Share your catch

Tell your best fishing stories with the Maryland Angler’s Log. Reports can include your name, hometown, photos, location information, and any details of your experience that you wish to share. Start at

Watch your speed

A new, interactive map shows the locations of hundreds of

Regulated speed zones in Maryland waters. Find it at or via the mobile app.

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