Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, is situated on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, offering a unique perspective of its iconic landmarks, such as the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Washington Monument. Boating is a unique way to explore Washington, D.C. Kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and pedal boats are among the many different types of boats available for rent.

All GetMyBoat operators must adhere to local guidelines and operate legally within them. This includes obtaining the necessary registrations and permits, meeting vessel and captain requirements, and using authorized docks and designated boating areas for commercial activities, in accordance with local laws and facility regulations. For your convenience, we have compiled important information on boating in Washington, D.C.

Boat Registration:

All vessels that are principally used on Washington DC waters must be registered with the Metropolitan Police to obtain a Certificate of Title, registration number, and annual registration decals. This includes all types of vessels, including canoes, kayaks, sailboats, powerboats, CG Documented vessels, rentals, clubs, and commercial vessels. To register online please visit the MPDC Online Vessel Registration System.

Insurance:

Getting the right insurance is essential for keeping passengers safe, protecting your business, and meeting legal requirements when running a boat rental service. Our trusted partner, BCI, can provide expert advice on the coverage you need.

Boaters Safety Certificate:

In Washington, D.C., all individuals operating a boat must possess a boating safety certificate. Additionally, if you're under 18 and wish to operate a boat that's 16 ft. or longer, you must hold a boating safety certificate or be supervised by an adult (at least 18 years old) who has this certification.

USCG License:

Boat captains must have the appropriate US Coast Guard license to operate the size and type of vessel they are commanding. This includes a 6-pack license for vessels that can carry up to six passengers and a Master Captain's license for larger vessels. Captains are responsible for the safety of their charter vessels and all passengers on board. To learn more about captain's licenses, visit Mariners Learning System.

Passenger Pick Up/ Drop Off:

Many locations facilitate boat drop-offs and pickups for rentals, and here are a few with designated passenger zones. Before confirming your plans, be sure to check and confirm the pickup and drop-off policies at each location.

  • The Wharf Marina: Located at at 650 Wharf St SW, Washington, DC
  • The Yards Marina Located at 515 M St SE Suite 222, Washington, DC.

Certificate of Inspection (COI):

Vessels operating in Washington, DC, like all U.S. vessels, must hold a valid COI from the US Coast Guard. This certificate ensures compliance with safety standards and specifics about the vessel's capacity and type. Inspection and renewal happen every five years or with significant modifications. Additional requirements apply to DC vessels. Please visit the USCG for more informat

Additional Requirements:

  • Permits: In addition to the licenses listed above, you may also need other licenses or permits, depending on the type of business you plan to operate. Please contact the Harbormaster at 202-727-4582 with any questions.
    • Business License:
      • Operating a commercial vessel business in Washington, DC requires a Basic Business License from the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP).
    • Fishing License:
      • To fish in Washington, DC, you need a fishing license. You can buy one online from the District Department of the Environment (DDOE). Licenses are sold for a calendar year and are good from the date of purchase until December 31. You must report your catch to the DDOE regularly.
    • Commercial Vessel Operator License:
      • To operate a commercial vessel in Washington DC waters or on the Potomac River, you must have a Washington DC Commercial Vessel Operator License, which is issued by the US Coast Guard's Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance.
  • The following safety equipment is required on all vessels in Washington DC:
      • Life jackets: Every individual on board must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, with an additional Type IV throwable device for boats 16 feet or longer. The life jackets should be in good condition, easily accessible, and available.
      • Fire extinguishers: Every vessel must carry at least one B-I fire extinguisher. Boats with enclosed living spaces, permanent fuel tanks, or gasoline-powered engines may need additional fire extinguishers.
      • Sound-producing devices: It is recommended to have a horn or whistle to indicate intentions or position. Boats under 20 meters must have an effective means to produce sound.
      • Visual distress signals: Visual distress signals, such as flares or a signaling mirror, are recommended for all vessels operating offshore.
      • First-aid kit: A first-aid kit is recommended for all vessels.

To thoroughly enjoy Washington, D.C.'s rivers, it's essential to adhere to the rules. Ensure your boat is registered, obtain the necessary licenses, and have essential safety gear such as life jackets and fire extinguishers. Adhering to these guidelines is crucial for a safe and enjoyable boating experience in the capital city. For further details or inquiries, feel free to contact the DC Harbormaster.