Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of Boating
Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft (PWC)
In addition to adhering to all boating laws, PWC operators have
requirements specific to their watercraft.
- Everyone on board a PWC must wear a U.S.
Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, or III personal flotation
device (PFD) at all times.
- PWCs must have either a self-circling capability or be equipped
with an ignition safety
switch. An operator of a PWC equipped with an ignition safety
switch must attach the lanyard of
the switch to his or her person, clothing, or PFD.
- PWCs may be operated only during daylight hours (between sunrise
- PWCs must operate in a responsible manner. Remember, it is
- Weave your PWC through congested waterway traffic
- Steer toward another object or person in the water and
swerve at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision
- Follow behind another vessel that is towing a person(s)
on water-skis, surfboard or similar device
- Cut between a vessel and the person(s) being towed by that
- Jump the wake of another vessel in a way that endangers
another’s life, safety, or property
- Cross the path of another vessel when visibility is obstructed
- Operate within 50 feet of a commercial vessel and its tow
that is in operation on the waterway, unless the operator
of the commercial vessel has given consent
- Chase, harass, or disturb wildlife with your PWC
Learn more about how to operate a PWC with this interactive Flash
animation. Most students will already have Flash installed.
If not, click
here to install the Flash Player.
Towing a Person Legally with
Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water-skis, aquaplanes,
kneeboards, inner tubes, or any other device must also obey these
- 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, or III PFD.
is illegal for vessels to tow persons on water-skis, surfboards,
or any other device between sunset and sunrise.
- It is illegal for a vessel to tow a person(s) on water-skis,
a surfboard, or any other device unless:
- A person at least 12 years old, in addition to the vessel
operator, is on board observing the towed person(s) or
- The vessel has a wide-angle (160 degree field of vision)
rearview mirror mounted such that the operator can observe
the towed person(s) at all times
- The vessel must have adequate seating for all riders, including
the retrieved skier.
- A reasonable distance from other vessels, people and property
must be maintained so as not to endanger life or property. It
is illegal to ski within:
- 100 feet of a commercial boat dock, a moorage harbor or
a swimming area
- 2,000 feet of a lock or dam
- Vessels towing person(s) on airborne devices, such as parasails
or kites, must:
- Have on board a person at least 12 years old, in addition
to the vessel operator
- Stay at least 500 feet from commercial docks and ramps
- Limit the tow rope to 150 feet or less in length
- Not tow more than two persons at any time