Michigan Boating Laws

Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs)

All vessels must be equipped with a pfd for each person onboard.
Children less than six years old must wear a type I or II pfd.
All people on or towed by personal watercraft (pwc) (jet ski) must wear type pfd.


Direction of Movement

Boating on waters not marked by channels or buoys shall operate in a counterclockwise direction.


Personal Water Craft (PWC)

Those less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a PWC.

Those 14 and 15 years of age may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate and …

  • He or she is accompanied on board by his or her parent or legal guardian or by a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian or …

  • He or she is operating or riding the PWC at a distance of not more than 100 feet from his or her parent or legal guardian or from a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian.

    Those at least 16 years of age and born after December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legallyonly if they have obtained a boating safety certificate.

    Those born on or before December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally without restrictions.

Pwcs shall not be operated during the period that begins 1 hour before sunset and ends at 8:00am.


100 Foot Rule

All boaters (including pwc) must stay at least 100 feet from any moored or anchored vessel, a dock or raft, and any marked swimming area or person(s) in the water.


Water Skiing

Any person towing a water skier (includes tubes) in any manner, shall have one other person in the boat, or a pwc, capable of communicating with the operator.
Skiers are to be towed in a counterclockwise direction.
Water skiing is prohibited from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise if towed by a boat or 8am if towed by a pwc.
Persons being towed must observe the 100 feet rule.
Motorized vessels must yield right of way to persons being towed and to the boats towing them.


Additional Requirements and Restrictions

The statewide speed limit for boats is 55 mph.
Navigation lights shall be displayed between sunset and sunrise.
It is illegal to operate a motorized vessel with a blood alcohol concentration is 0.10% or greater.
All vessels, including pwcs, are required to have a Type B fire extinguisher(s) onboard if fuel is carried in a built-in container or in an enclosed compartment.
Children under 12 years may operate a motor 6 hp or less or up to 35 hp if directly supervised.
Persons 12-14 require a permit to operate a motor of more than 6 hp.


This information is summarized from boat-ed.com/mi/handbook. The pamphlet Michigan Boating Guide is available from the Department of Natural Resources.