Boating in Michigan is a part of life in the Great Lakes State. Using proper safety precautions and complying with the latest procedures is a must before using your boat on the water. With the upcoming 2019 summer season only a few months away, it is always good to refresh yourself on the latest rules, laws and regulations for participating on Michigan’s waters.
First step is to register your watercraft with the state. This insures your boat is legal come time for boating season. You may be exempted from the registration requirement if your watercraft is less than 16 ft long, propelled by oars/paddles, kayak or canoes and not used for rental or commercial purposes. If you craft is registered in another state you may use it in Michigan temporarily only. You can register online, mail or in person.
Life jacket regulations are the most important part of boating. They will save the lives of the passengers on your watercraft as well as yourself. 90% of boating deaths could have been prevented if that person was wearing a life jacket. Children under the age of 6 must wear a Type I or Type II PFD (personal flotation device) when they are riding in the open deck portions of the boat. If they are down in a galley of a larger boat they do not. If anyone is being towed behind the boat they must have a Type I, II or III PFD if they are under 12 the PDF must be Type I or II. You must also have the proper PFD’s on the boat ready for deployment should they be needed in an emergency. They cannot be in containers or in plastic but readily available for anyone that should need them. For watercrafters under 16 ft you must have a Type I, II, or III for every person on board. For crafts over 16 ft you need the same set up but one additional Type IV PFD as well. For descriptions of all these PFD’s the DNR has a great page listing all the attributes.
It’s always good to be aware who is allowed to drive the boat when you are out on the water. Children under the age of 12 may operate a boat powered by a motor with no more that 6 horsepower without restrictions. If the child is under 12 but has been issued at boating safety certificate and they are under the supervision of someone 16 years or older they may operate a boat powered with a motor up to 35 horsepower. Those wishing to operate a boat with more than 35 horsepower must be older than 12 and have a boating safety certificate. If you are 21 or older may operate a boat without any restrictions.
Personal watercraft have different requirements than boats. No one under 14 may operate these vehicles. If you are 14-15 you may operate one with a boating safety certificate and under the supervision of a parent/guardian or someone designated as such, they must be 21 or older and no more than 100 ft from the child. Those who are older than 16 but born before December 31st, 1978 may operate any personal watercraft alone if they have their boating safety certificate. Those born after December 31st, 1978 may operate the these vehicles without any restrictions or certificates.
Alcohol on boats is always something to be extremely careful with. There are many strict laws prohibiting certain behavior when alcohol is on the boat. The driver may never have a blood alcohol content of 0.1, anything great constitutes as operating under the influence. Even if you are under 0.1 but above 0.07 you may still be arrested at the officers discretion. Best rule of them is limit the driver to one beer because sun, wind, alcohol and driving on the water can be a very dangerous combination for you, your passengers and other boaters. No other passengers that has been drinking over the limit may drive the boat either. Always remember if you are operating a motorboat on Michigan waters you have given your consent to be tested for alcohol and drugs by doing so.
Always be aware of buoys as they will protect you and your boat. For a refresher on what the various styles mean visit this quick guide on buoys and flags.
Music on the water is always fun and with no legal limits on how loud you can play many people love blaring those speakers and starting a party out on the water. However, there are still local noise ordinances to be aware of and if you are in violation of them, perhaps on a local inland lake you may be cited for a noise complaint.
As the 2019 boating season starts be sure you are legal and ready for the fun on the water!