Boating Safety

Safety Laws:

{Based on information from the law enforcement division of the DNR}

  1. Boats that must be registered include all motorboats of any size or type, including those with electric trolling motors, personal watercraft, and all sail boats of any size, except sail boards.
  2. Proof of registration must be kept on board the vessel anytime that it is being operated.
  3. Children under 12 may not operate a motorboat larger than 35 horsepower at any time.
  4. Children under 12 may operate a motor boat with 6 to 35 horsepower only under the direct supervision of an adult on board.
  5. Anyone 12 to 16 years of age must carry their Boat Safety Certificate when operating a motorboat or personal watercraft.
  6. Children less than 6 years of age must wear a Type I or Type II PFD when riding in the open deck area of a boat.
  7. Vessels less than 16 feet (including canoes and kayaks) must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or IV PFD for each person on board.
    The U.S. Guard requires all vessels less than 16 feet, used on the Great Lakes or connecting waterways, to carry one approved Type I, II, or III device for each person on board.
  8. Vessels 16 feet and longer, in addition to the Type I, II, or III for each person on board must carry one type IV. (Canoes and kayaks over 16 feet are exempt from the Type IV requirement.)
  9. All motor boats, regardless of size, must display red and green bow lights and a white stern light when underway between sunset and sunrise.
  10. Boat operators as well as persons being towed shall maintain a distance of 100 feet from any dock, raft, occupied bathing area, or other boat, except when you are proceeding at a slow-no wake speed or when water skiers are being picked up or dropped off, provided that the operation is conducted with due regard to the safety of the persons and property in the immediate area.
  11. Bow riding is prohibited.
  12. Sailboats, rowboats, canoes, and other non-motorized vehicles have the right of way over motorboats.
  13. All boats must be operated in a counter-clockwise manner.

For more information consult the Handbook of Michigan Boating and Responsibilities.




Rules for Boat Operators

  1. A skier’s / rider’s / tuber’s life may depend on how well you handle the boat, so become proficient in boat handling.
  2. Don’t “hit it” until the rope is taut, you can see the ski tips and the skier has indicated he is ready to go.
  3. Have an extra person in the boat at all times to watch the skier and an approved rearview mirror.
  4. Steer the skier away from all objects such as docks, seawalls, boats.
  5. Should the skier fall, pick him up. Approach him on a downwind side so that the boat will not drift too close.
  6. Kill the motor when taking a skier into the boat as he may slip and be injured by the propeller. Idling the motor in neutral is not enough, since the propeller may still be turning and cut the skier.
  7. No operator shall tow anyone in any way during the period one hour after sunset to one hour prior to sunrise.

Rules for Skiers / Boarders / Tubers

  1. Learn to swim before attempting to water ski. Skiers should wear a life jacket at all times.
  2. If you fall: Recover skis, as they will keep you afloat; raise a hand to signal boat driver all is well; if you’re in a congested area, raise a ski so other boats can see you.
  3. Stay away from all objects such as docks, seawalls, boats. Skiers seldom get hurt from hitting the water but accidents have happened from hitting solid objects.
  4. Be considerate of the rights of swimmers, boatmen and fishermen.
  5. Don’t yell “hit it” until your ski tips are up and the rope is taut.
  6. When landing, run parallel to shore, come in slowly and release tow bar a safe distance from shore. Don’t land in swimming areas.
  7. Always check equipment before skiing.
  8. When skiing with more than one person, use ropes of the same length. A longer rope for one skier might wrap around the legs of the others should the first skier fall.
  9. When jumping use a single handle. Double handles are dangerous in a fall as they may wrap around a part of the body.
  10. Any person permitting himself to be towed during the period one hour after sunset to one hour prior to sunrise is guilty of a misdemeanor.