Boating rules everyone should know
Excerpts taken from Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities prepared by DNR.
Shallow water navigational
Make sure that the water you operate in is at least 24 inches deep. Riding in shallow water can cause bottom sediments or aquatic vegetation to be sucked into the pump, damaging your PWC and the environment. Avoid causing erosion by operating at slow speed and by not creating a wake when near shore.
Who may operate a boat
Those less than 12 years old:
May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (hp) legally without restrictions.
-May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp but no more than 35 hp legally only if they:
-Have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat and …
-Are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years of age.
-May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp legally under any conditions.
-Those born on or after July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally only if they have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat.
-Those born before July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally without restrictions.
Who May Operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC)
-Those less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a PWC.
-Those 14 and 15 years of age may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate and …
-He or she is accompanied on board by his or her parent or legal guardian or by a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian or …
-He or she is operating or riding the PWC at a distance of not more than 100 feet from his or her parent or legal guardian or from a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian.
-Those at least 16 years of age and born after December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate.
-Those born on or before December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally without restrictions.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
All vessels must be equipped with a personal flotation device for each person on board or being towed.
-The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requires that all vessels have at least one Type I, II, or III personal flotation device that is USCG–approved, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board or being towed. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.
-Michigan's PFD law permits a vessel that is less than 16 feet long, or is a canoe or kayak, to choose to have either a wearable PFD (Type I, II, or III) or a throwable PFD (Type IV) for each person on board.
In addition to the above requirements, one USCG–approved Type IV PFD must be on board vessels 16 feet or longer and be readily
Michigan law requires all children under 6 years of age to wear a USCG–approved Type I or II PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel while underway.
Each person riding on a PWC or being towed behind a PWC or other vessel must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, or III personal flotation device. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed on PWCs or while being towed behind PWCs or other vessels.
All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible.
Michigan law designates these dangerous operating practices as illegal. Reckless Operation of a vessel or reckless
manipulation of water skis, a surfboard, or similar device is defined as operation which disregards the safety or rights of others or endangers the person or property of others. Some examples
-Weaving your vessel through congested waterway traffic or swerving at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision
-Jumping the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to the other vessel or when visibility around the other vessel is restricted
-Chasing, harassing, or disturbing wildlife with your vessel
-Causing damage from the wake of your vessel
-Improper Distance is not maintaining a proper distance while operating a vessel or towing a person. To maintain a proper distance when you are operating at greater than “slow, no wake speed” (except in channels that are not posted), the vessel or persons being towed must not be within 100 feet of: a shoreline (if operating in water less than three feet deep), any moored or anchored vessel, a dock or raft, any marked swimming area or person(s) in the water.
“Slow, No Wake Speed” means the slowest speed at which it is still possible to maintain steering and which does not create a wake.
Requirements Specific to PWCs
-Each person riding on or being towed behind a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved wearable Type I, II, or III PFD. Inflatable PFDs may not be used.
-You may not allow a child under 7 years of age to ride on or be towed behind a PWC unless with a parent or guardian or designee of the parent or guardian.
-The lanyard of a PWC's ignition safety switch must be attached to the person, clothing, or PFD of the operator.
It is illegal to operate a PWC during the period that begins at sunset and ends at 8:00 a.m. “Sunset” means that time determined by the national weather service.
-PWCs must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner at all times. It is illegal to: Jump the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to the other vessel, Weave your PWC through congested traffic, Swerve at the last possible moment to avoid collision.
-A PWC must be operated at “slow, no wake speed” if crossing within 150 feet behind another vessel unless the other vessel is also a PWC.
-You may not operate a PWC within 200 feet of a Great Lakes shoreline unless traveling at “slow, no wake speed” perpendicular to the shoreline.
-You may not operate a PWC in waters less than two feet deep unless you are operating at “slow, no wake speed” or are docking or launching your PWC.
-It is illegal to harass wildlife or disturb aquatic vegetation with your PWC.