Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of Boating
Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft
In addition to adhering to all boating laws, personal watercraft (PWC) operators have
requirements specific to their vessel.
- It is illegal to operate a PWC between sunset and sunrise or
during periods of restricted visibility (such as fog) unless
the PWC is equipped with the required
- Everyone on board a PWC must wear a U.S.
Coast Guard—approved PFD.
- The PWC must be equipped with a self-circling device or a lanyard-type
ignition safety switch. The operator of a PWC equipped with a ignition
safety switch must attach the lanyard to his or her person,
clothing, or PFD.
- You may not remove, alter, or tamper with any part of the spring-loaded
throttle mechanism on a PWC, which immediately returns the engine
to idle speed on release of the operator’s hand from the
throttle control, or with any part of an ignition safety switch installed
by the manufacturer.
- PWCs must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner. It is
- Weave your PWC through congested waterway traffic or
swerve at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision
- Jump or attempt to jump another vessel’s wake when
within 100 feet of the vessel creating the wake or
when visibility is obstructed
- Follow within 100 feet of anyone being towed behind another
- Speed in restricted speed areas or operate at greater
than headway speed while
within or at the entrance to a marina or other mooring
- Operate in areas where motorized vessels are prohibited
- PWC operators have these speed and distance requirements.
- If operating your PWC on the waters of Delaware’s
Inland Bays contiguous to incorporated areas or on the
Atlantic Ocean, you must reduce speed to headway speed
when within 300 feet of:
- Any wharf, pier, dock, boat launching area, piling, or bridge
- Any non-motorized vessel or any vessel
at anchor, moored, or adrift
- Any person in the water
- If operating your PWC on any other Delaware waters (except
the Nanticoke River), you must reduce speed to headway
speed when within 300 feet of any person in the water and
when within 100 feet of:
- Any wharf, pier, dock, boat launching area, piling,
- Any non-motorized vessel or any vessel at anchor,
moored, or adrift
Towing a Person With
a Vessel Legally
Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, aquaplanes, kneeboards, or any other similar devices must obey these laws also.
- All persons being towed behind a vessel on water skis or any other device must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD. Ski belts are not approved PFDs.
- In addition to the operator, a competent observer must be in the vessel in a position to observe the progress of the person being towed (on a PWC, this means the observer must be seated facing toward the towed person). A competent observer is a person who knows and understands the water-skiing hand signals and can relay these signals to the operator.
- If towing a person behind a personal watercraft, the PWC must be rated for at least three people—the driver, the observer, and the retrieved skier.
- Persons may be towed behind a vessel on water skis or any other device only during daylight hours (sunrise to sunset).
- The length of the tow line must not exceed 75 feet.
- Water-skiing is prohibited on some Delaware waters (see below).
- The operator of the towing vessel and the skier must not operate in a manner which endangers the safety of persons or property. It is illegal to:
- Tow a skier in a restricted area or where an obstruction exists.
- Operate the vessel or manipulate the towed device in a way that causes the skier to strike or threaten to strike another person, vessel, or property.
- Operate the vessel or manipulate the towed device within 100 feet of
- any person in the water
- a pier, dock, float, or wharf
- any public or private vessel launching ramp
- any vessel at anchor or adrift
Prohibited Water-Skiing Areas
You may not engage in water-skiing or operate a vessel towing
a person on the following waters:
- The Rehoboth-Lewes Canal, in its entirety
- The channel through Masseys Landing from Buoy No. 12 off Bluff
Point to Buoy No. 19A
- The Assawoman Canal, in its entirety
- The Indian River Inlet between Buoy No. 1 and the Coast Guard
- Roosevelt Inlet from 100 yards off the jetty entrance to the Canal
- White Creek south of Marker No. 9A
- Any marked swimming areas, unless authorized by a special
permit issued by the DNREC