Personal Watercraft

Defining Personal Watercraft
A personal watercraft (sometimes called PWC or by brand names such as Jet Ski, Wave Runner, Sea Doo, etc.) is defined by law as:
  • a motorboat powered by an inboard motor powering a jet pump or by an outboard or propeller driven motor
  • is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing or kneeling on the craft, rather than in the conventional manner of sitting or standing inside a motorboat
Personal watercraft are considered motorboats under the law so they must follow all of the regulations that govern other motorboats.
In addition, personal watercraft:
  • Are required to have a rules decal, provided at no charge by the DNR, in full view of the operator
  • Operators and passengers must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device (life vest)
  • Are required to carry a USCG approved fire extinguisher
  • Must travel at slow-no wake speed (5 mph or less) within 150 feet of:
    • Shore (except when a PWC is launching or landing a water skier by the most direct route to open water)
    • Docks, swimmers, swimming rafts, any moored or anchored watercraft, or non-motorized watercraft.
  • Cutoff lanyards must be properly used and attached to the person, life vest or clothing of the operator
  • May only operate between 9:30 a.m. and 1 hour before sunset (see sunset schedule)
You may not:
  • Chase or harass wildlife
  • Operate while facing backward
  • Operate in a way that endangers life, limb or property
  • Operate a personal watercraft if the spring-loaded throttle mechanism has been removed or tampered with so it interferes with the return-to-idle system
  • Weave through congested watercraft traffic or jump the wake of another watercraft within 150 feet of the other boat
  • Travel through emergent or floating vegetation at greater than a slow no wake speed

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