State Boating Rules

State Boating Rules

Michigan sets safety rules that all boaters should know. Here are some of the most important ones.

SL 1. Law Enforcement Authority
The boating laws of Michigan are enforced by officers of the Law Enforcement Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and any other authorized law enforcement officer. They have the right to stop and board vessels to check for compliance with federal and state laws. The U.S. Coast Guard has enforcement authority on federally controlled waters.

SL 8. Muffling Devices
To reduce noise, motorboat engines must be equipped with factory-installed mufflers, exhaust water manifolds or other effective muffling system. Excessive noise can prevent a vessel operator from hearing signals and voices. Michigan law states that a vessel’s muffler or exhaust system must prevent noise in excess of:

  • 90 decibels at idle from three feet away, and
  • 75 decibels measured from onshore.

SL 10. Vessel Speed Restrictions
Failure to Regulate Speed is operating a vessel at speeds that may cause danger to life or property of any other person or speeds that will not permit you to bring your vessel to a safe stop. It is unlawful to operate a vessel:

  • In excess of 55 mph except if at least one mile offshore of the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair.
  • At greater than slow-no wake speed if any person is in the bow of a vessel without proper seating.
  • Faster than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions (weather, vessel, traffic, etc.).

A person must not operate a motorboat on Michigan waters at a speed greater than slow-no wake speed or the minimum speed necessary for the motorboat to maintain forward movement when within 100 feet of the shoreline where the water depth is less than 3 feet. Violations of speed restrictions are defined as Reckless Operation of a Motorboat and subject to penalties in Section 324.80171 of the Michigan Marine Safety Act.

SL 12. Reckless and Careless Operation
Michigan law designates these dangerous operating practices as illegal: Reckless Operation of a vessel or reckless manipulation of water skis, a surfboard or similar device is defined as that which disregards the safety or rights of others or endangers the person or property of others. Some examples are:

  • Weaving your vessel through congested waterway traffic or swerving at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision.
  • Jumping the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to the other vessel or when visibility around the other vessel is restricted.
  • Loading the vessel beyond the recommended capacity shown on the capacity plate installed by the manufacturer.
  • Chasing, harassing or disturbing wildlife with your vessel.
  • o Causing damage from the wake of your vessel. Boating in Restricted Areas is defined as operating within a restricted area clearly marked by buoys, beacons, diver down flags, etc.