Following are some of the laws and regulations governing boating in the State of Michigan:


  • Travel around the lake is always in a counterclockwise demonstration
  • When passing another watercraft, always pass on its port (left) side.
  • Motorboats must give way to non-motorized vessels such as sailboats, rowboats, sailboards and kayaks. In general, larger boats are to give way to smaller boats.
  • Michigan law states that watercraft must stay at least 100 feet from shore, docks, rafts and anchored boats unless traveling at a no-wake speed (5 mph).
  • A boat or personal watercraft pulling skiers, tubers, etc. must have a spotter--a person other than the driver--to watch those being towed.
  • Age limits for operating a boat--A person who is 12 or more and less than 14 years of age may operate a PWC only if:
    He or she obtained a boating safety certificate prior to January 1, 1999 or....
    ALL of the following conditions
    are satisfied:
    • The person is accompanied solely by his or her parent or legal guardian.
    • Both the person and the parent or legal guardian have obtained a boating safety certificate
    • The PWC is equipped with a lanyard-type ignition safety switch and the parent or legal guardian has the lanyard attached to his or her person, clothing or PFD.
    • The PWC is designed to carry at least two persons.
  • Maximum boating speed on an inland lake is 55 miles per hour.
  • Watch your wake! It can capsize a small boat and cause damage along the shoreline--for which the driver and owner of the boat can be liable.
  • ALCOHOL/DRUGS--It is illegal to operate a boat under the influence of intoxicating alcohol or controlled substances. The owner of a boat driven by a person under the influence can be held responsible for damage done by that person.


The following items are required by Michigan law and a boater can be ticketed for not having them on board.

  • LIFE JACKETS OR PFDs. (Personal Floatation Devices)--One for each person on board.

  • THROWABLE PFD (Ring, cushion) -- Required on any boat 16' or longer

  • MUFFLER --Noise from any boat cannot legally exceed 86 decibels at 50 feet from the boat.

  • WHISTLE/HORN -- a boat 16' or long must have a whistle or horn capable of being heard for at least 1/2 mile. It is also recommended for smaller boats.


  • LIGHTS -- Required between sunset and sunrise.

    • Powered Boats:

      One white light aft, higher than the bow light Combination bow light--green to starboard, red to portside

    • Non-Powered Boats:

      One white light aft, higher than the bow light Combination bow light--green to starboard, red to portside

The following are not required by law, but are highly recommended for safe boating:



  • TOW LINE (very handy if you run out of gas or your engine fails


Who Needs the Michigan Boater Education Card?

Boaters born after June 30, 1996, and most PWC operators. Not carrying your Boater Education Card when one is required can result in a fine.

BOAT MICHIGAN — the official boating safety course of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) now online

Fun and Easy to Use
Interactive Animations
Graphics to Speed Learning
Michigan DNR Approved

If you are 12 or older, this online safe boating course can be taken in place of the classroom course as preparation for the in-person exam, which is required to obtain your Michigan boating safety certificate
This course is very useful for boaters of any age.

Go to

for indepth information about boating
Boating classes

New Laws for the Operation of Personal Water Craft Effective October , 2011

In 2004 a personal watercraft (PWC) accident that claimed the life of Ashleigh Iserman, a 17 year old Oakland County resident. As a result of the accident Ashleigh's mother began a campaign to change the laws regarding the operation of PWCs. In June, 2008 "Ashleigh Iserman's Law" was enacted.

The law, which goes into effect in October 1, 2011, raises the minimum age of unsupervised PWC operation from 14-years-old to 16-years-old. In addition, the new law states those under 16-yeas-old can't operate a PWC unless they are at least 14-years-old and either riding with a parent, legal guardian or an individual who is at least 21-years-old and approved by the parent; or the person operating or riding the PWC is within 100 feet of the parent, legal guardian or designated person over 21-years-old.

The law also extends the hours of operation for PWCs to sunset. Previously, PWC operators had to be off the water an hour prior to sunset each day as determined by the National Weather Service. According to Hammon, the sponsor of the bill, the change in hours of operation takes effect immediately. The hike in the minimum unsupervised PWC operating age won't take effect for three years so that current 13-year-olds can be phased in.

PWC Safety and Courtesy
by Steve Ahonen

As with pontoon boats, ski boats or any other watercraft on our lake, there are guidelines in place to govern safety if not common courtesy. Because of their size, speed and maneuverability personal watercraft (PWC) represent a significant challenge to all people who enjoy our lake. That is not to suggest PWCs should be outlawed, but if we PWC owners and operators will follow a few simple guidelines we would maximize the safety of all persons using our lake.

  1. All watercraft must travel in a counterclockwise direction. Please attempt to stay a minimum of 100 feet from shore. I know this can be particularly challenging in certain areas of the lake.

    When overtaking another boat please take extra caution when doing so, slowing down if necessary. Also, try to make certain, whenever possible, to gain visual acknowledgment from the operator of the boat being overtaken. When a boat being passed is heading toward shore it may give the appearance of cutting you off. Remember, you can see them much more easily than they can see you.

    When towing anything or anyone with a PWC you must have a rearward facing spotter and enough capacity on the PWC to retrieve the person being towed as not to exceed watercraft's maximum seating requirements. Meaning, only a three-person or larger PWC may be used for towing.

    Jumping a wake may be fun, but it could be construed as reckless behavior-regardless of your distance from the boat generating the wake. So if you're going to do this, beware of the significant penalties being assigned by the Oakland County Sheriffs Marine division. They have been out this year and after witnessing numerous violations vowed to return regularly.

    Do your best to avoid the anglers. You should stay at least 200 feet from them. Although the size of our lake makes this difficult, please slow down if you are in their space.

    Use common sense. Keep your head up, looking forward without forgetting to look beside as well as behind you. These awesome machines can move very quickly. It is law that every person on a PWC must have a life vest on.

    If you are allowing a friend or anyone to borrow your machine you can also be ticketed for any infraction, even if you were not on the boat!

  2. Please don't drink and drive. The statistics are overwhelmingly against you if your faculties are challenged in any way.

Following these general guidelines will help preserve everyone's right to use the lake in a safe and enjoyable manner.

Can a Wave Runner Pull a Tuber?

There has been an increase on our lake of overcapacity of passengers in boats and, especially wave runners. A two-person PWC cannot pull a tuber. Only a three-person wave runner can since there must be a seat for the tuber if a rescue is needed. The second person in the PWC must face the tuber at all times.The following is from Michigan Handbook of Boating Laws and Responsibilities: Vessel Capacity
Always check the capacity plate usually near the operator’s position or on the vessel's transom. This plate indicates the maximum weight capacity or maximum number of people that the vessel can safely carry. Personal watercraft (PWC) do not have a capacity plate. Always follow the recommended capacity in the owner’s manual and on the manufacturer’s warning decal.

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Bald Eagle Lake Property Owners Association
December 4, 2018