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FAR 91.119 governs minimum safe altitudes. It contains a reference to open water. What qualifies as open water in the eyes of the FAA?

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Most probably the same definition as a dictionary's:

open-water. An expanse of an ocean, sea, or large lake which is distant from shore and devoid of nearby islands or other obstructions.

I searched for a legal definition but I can't find one. It's like defining a sparsely populated area, it's hard to draw a line. So sticking to charts is best I guess.

You might want to search for maritime laws that define such boundaries, which are borrowed by aeronautical charts.

On an FAA chart it's depicted like this:

enter image description here

Source: FAA

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