Boating can be fun. Here in Ohio, you have many choices of lakes. But if you are new to boating in Ohio, it can also be confusing. Ohio has many rules you must follow, if you do not want to be fined.

First, you should go to your local watercraft agency and ask for a copy of the Ohio Boat Operators Guide. It is a summary of all the laws and rules you must follow.

Ohio has 8 watercraft agencies. They are located in the following cities: Columbus, Delaware, Springfield, Cleveland, Sandusky, Orgeon, Cambridge, Akron, Bethel and Portsmouth. But some of the smaller cities are capable of helping you with your title and registration. You should call your local Division of Motor Vehicles, to see if they are able to help you before you plan on taking your boat on the water.

First of all, your boat must have a title just like your car does. This title proves that you are the owner.

All watercraft 14 feet or greater in length must be titled. All watercraft less than 14 feet in length with a permanently affixed mechanical means of propulsion of 10 horsepower or greater must be titled. An outboard motor of 10 horsepower or greater must be titled.

You can take care of the titles at any county title office. That part is easy.

Next, your boat will need a Hull Identification Number. This is the boat’s serial number. It is a 12 character number. This number should be permanently attached to the upper right of the boat’s transom or on the right side of the boat within two feet of the stern of the boat. If the boat is a homemade boat, a HIN number can be assigned to the boat, after being inspected by a watercraft officer (by appointment).

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When you are purchasing a boat, be sure that the HIN number on the boat matches the one on the title. If you are buying an older boat, it may have less than 12 numbers. When this is the case, you will have to contact your local watercraft agency. They will assign a new HIN number to your boat.

Watercrafts that are exempt of the HIN requirement are as follows:

canoes, kayaks, watercraft less than 14 feet without a permanently affixed mechanical means of propulsion, watercraft less than 14 feet with a permanently affixed mechanical means of propulsion of less than 10 horsepower, boats from other countries, ship’s lifeboats, boats owned by government agencies, motors less than 10 horsepower.

After you have the boat titled in your name and assigned HIN number, you are ready to register your boat. This registration is similar to what you would do with your car. You take all your paperwork to your local watercraft agency or local DMV agency (again you should make sure they can register boats).

This registering system is Ohio’s way of essentially numbering the boats. You will be given two stickers that you will place on your boat. The characters on these stickers will begin with OH (Ohio) following by four numbers. You will place these stickers on each side of the bow six inches toward the stern. Don’t worry; they will give you papers explaining this. You don’t need to memorize everything. These stickers last for 3 years unless you just pay for a temporary registration that lasts only 45 days.

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But you are not done, yet. Your boat trailer also needs a trailer tag, just like your car. First, you need to unload your boat. Then you need to find out where in your town you can have your boat weighed. Then go to your local DMV and get a weigh statement. The people who weigh your boat will fill this out for you. Take this to your local DMV. Now you will purchase your tag for the back of your trailer.

Now you should be legal. Keep all your tags and registrations up to date. Keep all documents on you, when you are boating. And if you are fishing, don’t forget to buy that license.

Follow Ohio rules and you won’t have to mess with those nasty fines.