Boating Safety

We all want a safe, hap­py, healthy expe­ri­ence on the lake.  Below are two links, one to the Boat­ing Safe­ty Hand­book and the oth­er to the Mass­a­chu­setts Envi­ron­men­tal Police Boat­ing Safe­ty Web­site.  One of our first con­cerns when on the lake should be safe­ty for all while we are enjoy­ing this beau­ti­ful resource.  The Mass­a­chu­setts Boat­ing Law Sum­ma­ry below address­es safe­ty infor­ma­tion and boat­ing laws for motor­ized boats and PWC, as well as kayaks, canoes, pad­dle­boards, etc.  Please also read the infor­ma­tion con­tained in the links as well.

Please read this impor­tant infor­ma­tion.  It could save a life.

Boat­ing Safe­ty Hand­book

Mass­a­chu­setts Envi­ron­men­tal Police Boat­ing Safe­ty Web­site

Mass­a­chu­setts Boat­ing Law Sum­ma­ry

Min­i­mum Age Restric­tions: No per­son under 12 years of age may oper­ate a motor­boat, unless accom­pa­nied on-board and direct­ly super­vised by a com­pe­tent per­son 18 years of age or old­er. Per­son­al water­craft (PWC) users must still be at least 16 years of age in order to oper­ate, with no excep­tions.

Safe­ty Edu­ca­tion Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion: Youth who are between 12 and 15 years of age must com­plete an approved basic boat­ing course in order to oper­ate a motor­boat with­out adult super­vi­sion. Upon suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of such a course, stu­dents are issued a state “boat­ing safe­ty cer­tifi­cate” which must be in the pos­ses­sion of the cer­ti­fied oper­a­tor when under­way. Per­son­al water­craft users who are 16 or 17 years of age must also com­plete such a boat­ing course. Youth less than 16 years of age are not allowed to oper­ate per­son­al water­craft.

Acci­dent Report­ing: The oper­a­tor of any motor­boat involved in an acci­dent which results in per­son­al injury, death, or prop­er­ty dam­age (over $500) shall imme­di­ate­ly noti­fy the MA Envi­ron­men­tal Police and file the appro­pri­ate acci­dent report with­in the required time frame. (2 days-fatal­i­ty; 5 days — all oth­er acci­dents)

Safe­ty Equip­ment: Most of the state equip­ment car­riage require­ments are sim­i­lar to fed­er­al laws. This pri­ma­ry list includes life pre­servers, fire extin­guish­ers, sig­nal­ing devices, visu­al dis­tress sig­nals, and nav­i­ga­tion lights. In Mass­a­chu­setts, life pre­servers are required to be worn by: (1) youth less than 12 years of age (2) per­son­al water­craft users (3) water­skiers (4) canoeists/kayakers from Sep­tem­ber 15 — May 15. A boat own­er or a boat’s oper­a­tor is respon­si­ble to ensure that pas­sen­gers on-board wear life pre­servers as required. Addi­tion­al­ly, the state requires that all motor­boats (with the excep­tion of per­son­al water­craft) be equipped with an anchor, man­u­al bail­er, and line. A pad­dle or an oar is required on boats less than 16 feet in length. Motor­boats tow­ing skiers must also be equipped with a board­ing lad­der. Reg­is­tra­tion and num­ber­ing of all boats pow­ered by machin­ery is required.

Pro­hib­it­ed Oper­a­tion–The fol­low­ing types of oper­a­tion are extreme­ly unsafe and are pro­hib­it­ed:

  • Oper­at­ing any ves­sel under the influ­ence of alco­hol or drugs. A blood alco­hol con­cen­tra­tion of .08 BAC is the cur­rent stan­dard of intox­i­ca­tion in Mass­a­chu­setts. Penal­ties have increased sub­stan­tial­ly and may include the loss of a motor vehi­cle driver’s license.
  • Oper­at­ing a motor­boat with­in 150 feet of a swim­ming area, whether pub­lic or pri­vate.
  • Oper­at­ing at an exces­sive speed con­sid­er­ing weath­er con­di­tions, boat traf­fic, and oth­er haz­ards.
    For inland waters, oper­at­ing at a speed greater than 45 mph is con­sid­ered neg­li­gent oper­a­tion.
  • Oper­at­ing a motor­boat with­out prop­er­ly work­ing lights.
  • Oper­at­ing a motor­boat dur­ing the night­time while tow­ing water­skiers, tubers, etc.
  • Oper­at­ing at greater than head­way speed (6 mph or less) with­in 150 feet of a swim­mer, water­ski­er, moor­ing area, mari­na, boat launch, or when the operator’s vision is obscured in any way.
  • Oper­at­ing in an over­loaded con­di­tion (car­ry­ing total weight that exceeds capac­i­ty plate rec­om­men­da­tions or is exces­sive con­sid­er­ing water con­di­tions)
  • Oper­at­ing with pas­sen­gers on the bow, gun­wales, or any oth­er place where there may be a chance of falling over­board.

Per­son­al Water­craft Oper­a­tion:   Per­son­al water­craft (PWC) are con­sid­ered motor­boats by law and must com­ply with all boat­ing laws and nav­i­ga­tion rules, includ­ing the speed and oper­a­tion pro­vi­sions above. Addi­tion­al­ly, PWC users must adhere to state reg­u­la­tions spe­cif­ic to per­son­al water­craft oper­a­tion:

  • Wear an approved life jack­et (PFD) at all times (oper­a­tor and pas­sen­gers).
  • Attach the safe­ty lan­yard to the oper­a­tor and the cutoff/kill switch.
  • Always oper­ate at slow, no-wake speed (6 mph or less) with­in 150 feet of the fol­low­ing:
    Boat launch
    Raft or float
    Moored or docked boat

You must not oper­ate:

  • If less than 16 years old
  • Under the influ­ence of alco­hol
  • Between sun­set and sun­rise
  • At high speed in con­gest­ed areas
  • On waters under 75 acres
  • While tow­ing per­sons on skis, tubes, etc.

This is only a sum­ma­ry of boat­ing laws. All boaters must know and observe all local, state, and fed­er­al laws. For fur­ther infor­ma­tion on boat­ing laws, boat­ing edu­ca­tion, or to obtain acci­dent report forms con­tact the Mass­a­chu­setts Envi­ron­men­tal Police at (508) 564‑4961


This page has the following sub pages.