Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of Boating
Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft (PWCs)
In addition to adhering to all boating laws, personal watercraft
(PWC) operators have requirements specific to their vessel.
- Each person riding on a PWC must wear a U.S.
Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation
device (life jacket).
- An operator of a PWC equipped with a lanyard-type ignition
safety switch must attach the lanyard to his or her person, clothing,
- It is illegal to operate a PWC between sunset and sunrise.
- PWCs must be operated in a careful and responsible manner.
For example, it is illegal for PWC operators to:
- Weave the PWC through congested waterway traffic.
- Jump the wake of another vessel when visibility is obstructed.
- Operate in a manner that requires swerving at the last
possible moment to avoid collision.
- PWC operators have age and boater education requirements.
- No one under the age of 16 years may operate a PWC.
- It is illegal to chase, harass, or disturb wildlife with your
- PWC operators should avoid operating around fishermen, anchored
vessels, or swimmers.
Towing a Person with a Vessel
Vessel operators (including PWC operators) towing a person(s) on water skis, aquaplanes,
surfboards, inner tubes, or any similar devices must obey these
- Each person 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.
- Inflatable PFDs are not approved for use by persons being towed.
- This law does not apply to persons participating in a marine permitted barefoot or trick water-skiing event. An approved PFD must be on board the vessel for each of these skiers.
- A vessel towing a person(s) on water skis or any other device
must have at least two competent persons on board—one to
operate the vessel and a second person to observe the towed person(s).
- This law does not apply to vessels that are operated by
a person at least 16 years old and that are equipped with
a wide-angle, convex rearview mirror, at least 7 x 14 inches
in size, which is positioned to allow the operator to observe
the person(s) being towed.
- This law does not apply to vessels engaged in authorized
water-skiing tournaments or competitions.
- It is illegal to tow a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard,
or similar device between the hours of one hour after sunset
to one hour before sunrise.
- The operator of the towing vessel and the skier must operate
in a safe manner. A reasonable distance from other vessels, people,
and property must be maintained so as not to endanger the life
or property of others.