Table of Contents

Download the PDF Version

It's the Law


In addition to adhering to all boating laws, there are legal requirements that apply specifically to the operation of PWCs on Massachusetts waters.

Requirements Specific to PWCs


Every person on board a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device that is in good and serviceable condition.

If the PWC is equipped with an engine cut-off switch, the lanyard must be attached to the person, clothing, or PFD of the operator.

PWCs may be operated only from sunrise to sunset.

There are age and boater education requirements for operators of personal watercraft (see Who May Operate a Vessel).

PWCs may not be operated within 150 feet of a swimmer, the shore, public and private swimming beaches, or a moored vessel unless operated at headway speed.

Remember—PWC owners are responsible…

As an owner of a PWC, you are legally responsible if you allow your PWC to be operated by others in violation of Massachusetts law.

PWCs may not be operated on any Massachusetts waters that are less than 75 acres in size.

It is illegal to tow a water-skier or a person in any other manner behind a PWC.

PWCs must be operated in a safe and responsible manner.

For example, it is illegal to:

  • Jump the wake of another vessel.
  • Speed in restricted areas.
  • Follow within 150 feet of a water-skier.
  • Cross unreasonably close to another vessel.
  • Weave through congested waterway traffic.
  • Operate in a way that endangers the life, limb, or property of any person.
  • Chase or harass wildlife with your PWC.
Illegal wake-jumping on a PWC
It is illegal to jump the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to the other vessel.

Sharing Your PWC…Safely!

Before allowing anyone to operate your PWC, you should:

  • Make sure they meet the minimum age and education requirements for PWC operation.
  • Make sure they know basic boating safety information and “rules of the road.”
  • Let beginners take their first rides in a quiet area. While still on shore, show them the proper procedures for deep water starting and reboarding.
  • Explain the basic operating features of the PWC. Be sure to give instruction on how to steer and control the PWC. Remind the operator that power is required for steering control!
  • Make sure the operator understands how to use the lanyard with the engine cut-off switch.
  • Explain the importance of “slow, no wake” restrictions.
  • Emphasize the need for staying alert. Beginning riders may concentrate on riding and not on paying attention to the surrounding traffic in the area.
  • Read more about safe operation of a PWC in Chapter 3.