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Know boating rules

With summer in full swing and temperatures in the 80s and 90s, people are retreating to their boats on the water.

It is important to remember the laws and regulations of boating on the water. Vessels are like cars, and the laws are similar to traffic laws. This month’s article will touch on some of the more commonly asked laws and regulations of the water.

First off, I get asked a lot at what age can someone operate a boat and what requirements are there for that age.

Operators who are 12 or younger

∫ may legally operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (hp) without restrictions.

∫ may legally operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp, but no more than 35 hp, only if they:

– have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board; and

– are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years old.

∫ may not legally operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp legally under any conditions.

Those born on or after July 1, 1996 may legally operate a boat only if they have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board. Those born before July 1, 1996 may legally operate a boat without restrictions.

Jet ski/wave runners (personal watercraft) have some different rules and regulations than a vessel:

∫ Those younger than 14 may not legally operate a personal watercraft (PWC).

∫ Those 14 and 15 years old may legally operate a PWC if they have obtained a boating safety certificate; and are

– accompanied on board by their parent, legal guardian or by a person who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian and is at least 21 years old; or

– operating or riding the PWC at a distance of not more than 100 feet from their parent, legal guardian or by a person who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian and is at least 21 years old.

Those at least 16 years old and born after Dec. 31, 1978 may legally operate a PWC only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate. Those born on or before Dec. 31, 1978 may operate a PWC legally without restrictions.

An important law to follow is how many and what type of personal floatation device (PFD) or life jackets you need to have on your vessel.

Vessels of different length and different younger passengers are required to have different PFDs. All vessels must be equipped with a PFD for each person on board or being towed. Each person riding on a PWC or being towed behind a PWC or other vessel must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, or III personal flotation device. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed on PWC or while being towed behind PWC or other vessels.

Michigan law requires all children younger than 6 to wear a Coast Guard-approved Type I or II PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel while underway. The Coast Guard requires that all vessels have at least one Type I, II, or III PFD that is Coast Guard-approved, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board or being towed.

Sizing for the PFDs is based on body weight and chest size. Michigan law permits a vessel that is less than 16 feet long, or is a canoe or kayak, to choose to have either a wearable PFD (Type I, II, or III) or a throwable PFD (Type IV) for each person on board. In addition to the above requirements, one Coast Guard-approved throwable device must be on board vessels 16 feet or longer and be readily accessible. All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible.

If you ever drive a vessel at night, it is important to check your navigation lights before you go out into the lake. Many boating accidents happen because an operator did not have navigation lights and a vessel with functioning lights collides with the non-lighted vessel. If the vessel is under 26 feet, the vessel needs red and green sidelights visible from at least a mile away, and an all-white light that can be seen by 360 degrees and two miles away is required. Not having these while underway will result in a civil infraction ticket.

Those are a couple important laws to follow, as they are big safety concerns. Have fun and be safe on the boat this summer.

Jessie Curtis is a conservation officer assigned to Alpena County. If you have a question for Conservation Officer Curtis, you can email her at askaconservationofficer@gmail.com or mail them to Ask A Conservation Officer, CO Jessie Curtis, Alpena Field Office, 4343 W. M-32, Alpena, Michigan, 49707.

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