Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Reminders on How to Be a Responsible Boat Operator

It’s against the law:
  • To operate a watercraft in a careless or reckless manner.
  • To operate a watercraft so its wash or wake endangers, harasses, or interferes with any person or property.
  • To operate a watercraft within an area legally marked off as a swimming area, or within 150 feet of a diver’s warning flag (see page 48).
  • To ride or sit on the gunwales, bow, transom, or decking over the bow, sides or stern of any motorboat while underway, unless it is equipped with an adequate railing. It is also illegal to operate a motorboat while any person is riding or sitting in a manner as just listed.
  • To chase wildlife with a motorboat, or operate a boat where it is prohibited – including marked spawning beds. Avoid traversing any emergent or floating vegetation, if possible.
  • To intentionally obstruct a seaplane.
  • To attach a watercraft to any buoy, except a mooring buoy, or to tamper, remove, or destroy a navigational aid.
  • To deposit or leave refuse in or upon the waters of the state or at public access areas.
  • To operate a watercraft so it obstructs ordinary navigation.


PERSONAL WATERCRAFT - also known as Jet Skis or Wave Runners.

Personal watercraft is defined by law as a motorboat that is:
  • Powered by an inboard motor powering a water jet pump or by an outboard or propeller-driven motor.
  • Designed to be operated by a person or persons sitting, standing, or kneeling on the craft, rather than in the conventional manner of sitting or standing inside a motorboat.
All personal watercraft are considered motorboats and therefore any regulations that govern other motorboats (such as fishing boats, cabin cruisers, etc.) also govern personal watercraft.

In summary, the law requires that:

  • Anyone operating or riding on a personal watercraft must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket that is compatible with that activity (check the label).
  • Personal watercraft must travel at slowno-wake speed (5 mph or less) within150 feet of nonmotorized boats, shore (unless launching or landing skiers directly to or from open water), docks, swim rafts, swimmers, or any moored or anchored boat.
  • Operation of personal watercraft is allowed only from 9:30 a.m. to 1 hour before sunset.
  • If you tow a person on water skis, or any other device, there must be an additional person on board the personal watercraft to act as an observer. (The observer does not have to be facing backward.)
  • Factory-installed or factory-specified wide-field rearview mirrors are allowed instead of an observer when pulling a skier or other device (tube, kneeboard, etc.).
  • After-market mirrors, stick-on mirrors, motorcycle mirrors, etc., do not qualify for the observer exemption.
  • The skier/knee-boarder etc. must also be wearing a life jacket or there must be one on board the personal watercraft for the skier.
  • If the machine is equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard-type engine cutoff switch, it must be attached to the person, life jacket or clothing of the operator when underway.
  • You may not operate a personal watercraft if any part of the spring-loaded throttle system has been removed or tampered with so it interferes with the return-to-idle system.
  • You may not chase or harass wildlife.
  • You may not travel through emergent or floating vegetation at greater than slow no-wake speed.
  • You may not operate a personal watercraft in a manner that unreasonably or unnecessarily endangers life, limb or property. You may not weave through congested watercraft traffic, or jump the wake of another watercraft within 150 feet of the other watercraft. This includes other personal watercraft.
  • A personal watercraft rules decal issued by the DNR needs to be on the craft in full view of the operator.
  • You may not operate a personal watercraft while facing backward.
  • It is unlawful for the owner of the personal watercraft to permit its operation in violation of the age restrictions (see next page).
  • Some lakes have additional restrictions, see and click on local water restrictions.
  • A person on a waterjet propelled accessory to a personal watercraft is operating a personal watercraft and must follow all regulations.

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