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.
- Everyone on board a PWC must wear a U.S.
Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, or III 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,
- PWCs may only be operated during the hours between one-half
hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
- You must be at least 16 years of age to operate a PWC.
Towing a Person with a Vessel
Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, aquaplanes,
kite skis, surfboards, inner tubes, or any 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, or III personal flotation device (life jacket). Ski belts
are not approved personal flotation devices.
- Every vessel towing a person(s) on water skis or any other
device must have a person who is at least 12 years old on board,
in addition to the vessel operator, in a position to observe
the towed person(s).
- A reasonable distance from other vessels, people, and property
must be maintained so as not to endanger life or property. Unless
necessary for landing or leaving shore, it is illegal to cause
the towed device or the person being towed to approach within
100 feet of:
- A person swimming.
- A canoe, rowboat, or other small vessel with a person
- Some areas less than 200 feet from the shoreline of a waterbody
may be designated for water-skiing. These areas may have special
rules governing their use.