The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities
The Official Boating Handbook of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources - Web Version
Table of Contents
You must have a Michigan Certificate of Number (registration) and validation decals to operate your vessel legally on public waters in Michigan.
The only exceptions are:
- Privately owned rowboats 16 feet or less in length
- Privately owned non-motorized canoes or kayaks
- Vessels registered in another state or country using Michigan waters for 60 days or less
All watercraft with a motor must be registered including electric and inflatable vessels.
The Certificate of Number and validation decals are obtained by submitting the proper application and fee to any Secretary of State branch office.
The Certificate of Number (registration card) must be on board and available for inspection by an enforcement officer whenever the vessel is being operated.
The registration number and validation decals must be displayed as follows.
- Number must be painted, applied as a decal, or otherwise affixed to both sides of the bow as high above the water line as practical.
- Number must read from left to right on both sides of the bow.
- Number must be in at least three-inch-high BLOCK letters.
- Number's color must contrast with the color of the background and be distinctly visible and legible.
- Letters must be separated from the numbers by a space or hyphen: MC 3717 ZW or MC‑3717‑ZW.
- No other numbers may be displayed on either side of the bow.
- Decals must be affixed on each side of the vessel and placed three inches after the last character of the registration number.
Where To Title and Register
The Certificate of Number and validation decals are obtained by submitting the proper application and fee to any Secretary of State branch office. You can find your closest branch office:
- By calling 1-888-SOS-MICH (1-888-767-6424)
- On the Internet at www.michigan.gov/sos
Where To Renew Your Certificate of Number
A Certificate of Number is valid for three years and may be renewed:
- Over the Internet at www.michigan.gov/sos
- At any Secretary of State branch office