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Do I Need a Licence to Use an Inflatable Kayak?

Do I Need a Licence to Use an Inflatable Kayak?

Spending time on the water is a great pastime for many people. 

You don’t have to have a big, fancy boat either. Owning a kayak provides an easy and cheap way to enjoy the water. 

Inflatable kayaks are just as good. These kayaks are surprisingly durable and they are easy to load, pack, and store

Many people are familiar with the existence of boating laws, but did you know there are laws concerning kayaks also?

That’s right– before airing up your kayak and heading out, you need to check your local laws first. 

In this article, we will discuss whether or not you need a license for your inflatable kayak.

Do You Need a License for Your Inflatable Kayak?

a license for inflatable kayaks

Just like with other laws, boating laws can be different depending on where you live. 

If you live in the US, Tennessee boating laws might be different from Pennsylvania boating laws.

If you live outside the US, such as the UK, the boating laws might be different altogether.

Let’s explore whether or not you need a kayak license in the US and the UK.

US

In the US, you are not required to have a license for your inflatable kayak. 

However, that is only true if you are paddling a kayak without using a motor. If you add a motor to your kayak, your kayak could be subject to additional laws. 

In Tennessee, for example, you will need a Boating Safety Education Certificate if you add a motor to your kayak that is 8.5 horsepower or more.

Did You Know? - Boater Education

However, many people prefer to use trolling motors on their kayaks and they are measured in pounds of thrust. 

Generally, it is suggested to use a trolling motor that provides 30 to 50 pounds of thrust. In comparison, one horsepower is equivalent to about 70 pounds of thrust.

So, in Tennessee, it is very unlikely that you would reach the 8.5 horsepower license requirement if you were using a trolling motor. 

Although your state may not have a license requirement for your inflatable kayak, several states do have laws about registering them. 

In Pennsylvania, for example, you may need to purchase a permit even if you do not have a motor on your kayak

How To Obtain PFBC Unpowered Launch Permits

There are not many states that require kayak registration, but be sure to check your local laws before you head out.

UK

waterways license in the UK

In the UK, whether or not you need a license for your inflatable kayak will depend on what bodies of water you wish to paddle. 

You will need a license for certain bodies of water. In the UK, this license is known as the Waterways License

This license gives you access to certain bodies of water that happen to be governed by three agencies: the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency, and the Broads Authority of Norfolk and Suffolk.

This license will be necessary for most types of watercraft, including kayaks without motors. 

You can find a list online containing all the applicable areas where you may need a license. You will also need to carry this license with you when you go kayaking.

Where Can You Get a License?

Licenses are relatively easy to obtain and do not typically cost much money.

UK

In the UK, you can purchase a license from any of the three agencies: the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency, or the Broads Authority of Norfolk and Suffolk.

However, purchasing a license from one of these agencies will only give you the authorization to paddle the bodies of water that the agency specifically covers.

Many people choose to purchase a British Canoeing membership instead.

The Waterways License fees are included in the membership cost, and this will also authorize you to use all of the bodies of water those three separate agencies cover.

In this case, you would not have to purchase a separate license through each agency. It is also cheaper to get the British Canoeing membership than to purchase a license from each agency.

US

How to Get a Boating License | Boating for Beginners

Although the Boating Safety Education Certificate is not technically a license, your state may still require it if the motor on your kayak has enough horsepower, according to their laws.

This course will be needed even if you plan on getting a boating license in the future, but it is also a worthwhile course even if you are not required to take it.

Not only will you learn about boating safety, but you will also learn about general boating knowledge.

You can find these courses online and they typically only take a few hours to complete. 

The cost is pretty affordable as well, with most courses costing less than $50.

FAQs

1/ When Do You Need a License?

a license needed in the US & the UK

In the UK, you will need a license for your inflatable kayak if you plan on paddling any of the waters governed by the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency, or the Broads Authority of Norfolk and Suffolk.

You will need to check online for a full list of bodies of water that will require a license.

This will be the case for most types of boats, even if you do not have a motor on your inflatable kayak.

In the US, you may need to take a Boating Safety Education course online. If you have a motor on your kayak, the horsepower of your motor may determine whether you need to take the course or not.

Be sure to check your state’s local laws regarding boats.

2/ Why Do You Need a License?

reasons to get a boat license

Although you may have to pay money for a license, it goes towards a good cause.

The money collected from license purchases is used to help maintain the waterways.

Additionally, you will want to be sure to obtain a license so you will comply with your local laws.

Failure to comply with your local laws could lead to fines or further punishment.

3/ Do You Need the Waterways License in Scotland?

inflatable kayaking in Scotland

In Scotland, you are not required to possess the Waterways License to kayak.

In 2003, Scotland passed the Land Reform Act intending to make land more accessible to the public.

Therefore, they do not require you to have a license for your kayak.

4/ Do You Have to Register an Inflatable Kayak in Minnesota?

Vermillion River whitewater kayaking in Hastings MN

If you are not using a motor on your inflatable kayak, and it is also ten feet long or shorter, then you will not need to register your kayak.

However, if you have any type of motor on your kayak, you will need to have it registered.

You can register your kayak at several locations, including Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) office locations.

Conclusion

If you live in the UK, you may want to consider obtaining the Waterways License so you will not be limited to paddling certain bodies of water. 

You may also want to consider purchasing a British Canoeing membership to bypass purchasing each separate license from each agency.

If you live in the US, you should be safe from being required to have a license for your inflatable kayak. 

Just be sure to check your local boating laws if you plan on having a motor on your kayak so you will know when you may be required to take the Boating Safety Education course or obtain a boating license. 

Stay safe and enjoy the water!

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