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 while underway must wear a U.S.
Coast Guard–approved personal flotation device (life jacket). Inflatable PFDs are not recommended
for persons riding on PWCs. Impact-rated PFDs offer more protection.
- An operator of a PWC equipped with a lanyard-type ignition
safety switch must attach the lanyard to his or her person, clothing, or PFD. It is unlawful
to remove or disable an ignition safety switch that was installed by the PWC
- PWCs may be operated during the hours between sunrise and sunset only.
- You must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft legally.
- It is illegal to lease, hire, or rent a personal watercraft to anyone under 16 years
- PWCs must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner. For example, it
is illegal to:
- Weave your PWC reckelssly through congested waterway traffic.
- Jump the wake of another vessel unreasonably close to that vessel or when
visibility around the vessel is obstructed.
- Maneuver a PWC such that you must swerve at the last possible moment in
order to avoid a collision.
- Operate a PWC while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Chase, harass, or disturb wildlife, birds, or marine mammals
Towing a Person With a Vessel
Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, aquaplanes, surfboards, inner
tubes, or any similar devices must obey these laws also.
- Every vessel towing a person(s) on water skis or other devices must have on
board, in addition to the operator, a person capable of observing the person(s)
being towed and reporting their progress to the operator.
- The observer must observe the person(s) being towed continuously and display
a skier-down flag whenever a person is in the water after falling or while
preparing to ski. The flag must be displayed so that it is visible from all directions.
- Every person being towed behind a vessel on water skis or other devices must wear a U.S.
Coast Guard–approved personal flotation device (life jacket).
Inflatable PFDs are not recommended for persons being towed.
- Everyone engaged in water-skiing—the operator, the observer, and the towed
person(s)—must conduct themselves in a safe manner that does not endanger
other persons or property.
- It is illegal for vessels to tow a person(s) on water skis or any other device
during the period from one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise.
- If towing a person on water skis or other devices, the vessel must be rated to
carry at least the number of persons on board plus those being towed. You
may not exceed the vessel’s safe carrying capacity.