Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of
Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft
In addition to adhering to all boating laws, personal watercraft (PWC) operators have requirements specific to their vessel.
- Each person riding on or being towed behind a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device. Inflatable PFDs do not satisfy this requirement.
- If the PWC is equipped with a lanyard-type ignition
safety switch, the lanyard– Short cord used for fastening something or securing rigging; on a PWC and most powerboats, it attaches the ignition safety switch to the operator's wrist or life jacket must
be attached to the person, clothing,
or PFD of the operator at all times
while the PWC is being operated.
- It is illegal to operate a PWC between
sunset and sunrise.
- PWCs must be operated in a reasonable
and prudent manner at all times. It
is illegal to operate in a reckless
manner; for example it is illegal to:
- Weave your PWC through congested
- Jump the wake– Waves that a vessel leaves behind as it moves through the water of another vessel within 100 feet to the other vessel or when visibility around the other vessel is restricted.
- Approach another vessel intentionally and swerve at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision.
- Operate contrary to the navigation rules given in Chapter 3.
- Follow another vessel too closely. Following too closely means traveling at a speed over 10 miles per hour, in the same direction as the other vessel, and within 100 feet behind or within 50 feet to the side of the other vessel. An exception to this law is made when operating in a narrow channel– A segment of the waters of the state that is 300 feet or less in width, in which case PWCs may operate at the speed and flow of other traffic.
- Operate at more than “no wake speed”– The slowest speed at which it is still possible to maintain steering and which does not produce
a wake within 100 feet of anchored or moored vessels, a boat ramp, a dock, a pier, a swim float, a marked swimming area, swimmers, surfers, persons fishing, or any manually propelled vessel.
- It is illegal to chase, harass, or
disturb wildlife with your PWC.
a Person With a Vessel Legally
In addition to adhering to the laws as they apply to all vessels, vessel operators towing someone on water skis, a surfboard, or a similar device must obey these laws.
- It is illegal for vessels to tow persons on water skis, surfboards, or any device of
this type between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise.
- Vessels towing water-skiers or participating in a similar activity must operate in a careful and prudent manner. A reasonable distance from other vessels, people, and property must be maintained so as not to endanger life or property. It is illegal to cause the person being towed to collide with any object or person.
- It is illegal to be towed on water skis, a surfboard, or a similar device while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- To tow a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard, or a similar device behind a PWC legally:
- There must be a person on board the PWC, in addition to the operator, observing the towed person(s) or the PWC must be equipped with a wide-angle rearview mirror and …
- The PWC must have a capacity rating by the manufacturer that is at least equal to the total number of persons operating, observing, and being towed.
- It is illegal for a vessel, other than a PWC, to tow a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard, or a similar device unless:
- A person, in addition to the vessel operator, is on board and observing the towed person(s) or …
- The vessel is equipped with a wide-angle rearview mirror mounted such that the operator can observe the towed person(s) at all times or …
- Each person being towed is wearing a personal flotation device