Rules of the Water 101 – View Boat Rules- PDF – (4.6 MB)

Ready for some summer fun? Summer is here and the boat is calling, but before you hit the waves this summer, take some time to re-educate yourself on boating laws. I’ve dug through all of Michigan’s marine laws, and pulled the ones that apply to inland lakes, such as ours. Be sure to read through this crash course to boating safety, to ensure you and your family and friends have a safe summer here at Gravel Lake!

Before You Head Out:

  • Before you hit the water, make sure that you have the Michigan Certificate of Number (aka the registration) onboard at all times, so that in the case that you are pulled over by an enforcement officer, they may inspect it.
  • The new registration sticker must be applied to your boat. The registration number must be painted or applied as a decal to both sides of the bow, as high above the waterline as practical.

How To Equip Your Boat for Maximum Safety:

  • All vessels, including PWCs are required to have a Type B fire extinguisher onboard.
  • A vessel’s engine must have a factory-installed muffler or exhaust system for noise reduction or another effective muffling system.

When On the Water…

  • Improper direction is defined as the failure to operate in a counter-clockwise direction.
  • Riding on the bow is illegal if the vessel is not equipped with bow seating and the vessel is operating at greater than slow-no wake speed.
  • Riding on the gunwales is not allowed.
  • Operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal.
  • While underway, a person cannot sit, stand, or walk on any portion of a vessel not designed for that purpose.

Personal Flotation Devices

You must have a personal flotation devise (PFD) that is categorized as Type I, Type II, or Type III onboard for each person in the vessel.These PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible.

  • Michigan law requires all children under six years of age to wear a Type I or Type II PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel.
  • Any person riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a PFD at all times.

Age Requirements:

Those less than 12 years of age:

  • May legally operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than six horsepower (hp) without restrictions.
  • May legally operate a boat powered by a motor of six to 35 hp if they are directly supervised onboard by a person at least
    16 years of age.
  • May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp under any conditions.

Those 12-15 years of age:

  • May legally operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than six hp without restrictions.
  • May legally operate a boat powered by a motor of more than six hp only if they have obtained their boating safety certificate and they are directly supervised onboard by a person at least 16 years of age.

Those 16 years of age or older:

  • May operate any boat on the waters of Michigan with the following restrictions:
  • Persons born after the year 1978 shall not operate a watercraft unless they obtain a boating safety certificate.

Persons born before the year 1978 may operate a watercraft without having obtained a boating safety certificate.

  • The operators of the watercraft must carry their boating safety certificate and display it upon the demand of an officer.

No one who is less than 12 years of age my legally operate a PWC

Those 12-14 years of age:

  • Must be accompanied solely by a parent or legal guardian.
  • Must have obtained his / her boating safety certificate.

Those 14 years of age or older:

  • Must have obtained his / her boating safety certificate if born after the year 1978.
  • Those born before the year 1978 may operate a PWC without restrictions.Just for Personal Watercrafts
  • Any person riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft (PWC) must wear a PFD at all times. Also, every operator and passenger should know how to swim.
  • Children under seven years of age may not ride on or be towed behind a PWC unless they are with a parent / guardian, or a designee of the parent / guardian.
  • The lanyard of a PWC’s ignition safety switch must be attached to the person, clothing, or
    PFD of the operator.
  • It is illegal to jump the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to that vessel, weave your PWC through congested traffic, and swerve at the last possible moment to avoid collision. Also, it is illegal to harass wildlife or disturb aquatic vegetation with your PWC.
  • Never exceed the weight limit on your PWC.

Towing Skiers / Tubers / etc.

  • Every vessel towing someone must have a person, in addition to the vessel operator, observing the towed person at all times.
    Any person being towed must stay at least 100 feet away from any moored or anchored vessel, any dock or raft, and any marked swimming area or person in the water.
  • It is illegal to tow a person behind your vessel between:
    – One hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise (if towed by a boat).
    – One hour before sunset and 8:00 AM (if towed by a PWC).

Who Has the Right of Way?

  • When operating a power-driven vessel, you must give way to any vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver, such as a vessel towing someone / something. Also, you must give way to a sail boat under sail.

Nighttime Boating

  • When underway between sunset and sunrise, vessels must be equipped with and exhibit navi- gation lights.
  • If vessel is less than 26 feet long, an all-round white light or both a masthead light and a stern light must be shown.

Hours of Operation

  • It is illegal to operate a PWC between one hour before sunset and 8:00 AM.

The Loose Ends

  • Don’t forget to always allow plenty of room for stopping. Also, remember that no power means no steering control.
  • Take extra care when fueling your PWC or other motorized vessel near the water. Oil and gasoline spills are very detrimental to the aquatic environment.