reprinted from: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement

Wisconsin Boating Regulations

The regulations listed below are for the state of Wisconsin. Other states regulations may be different.

The Law Enforcement Mission
Wisconsin's Personal Watercraft Law
Boat Registration
Exemptions from Registration (Watercraft)
Boat Certificates of Number
Lighting Equipment Requirements
Equipment Requirements
Personal Flotation Devices-PFD's
''Approved'' Personal Flotation Devices-PFD's
Traffic Rules
Speed Restrictions
Age Restrictions

Prohibited Methods of Operation
Water Skiing
Skin Diving
Accidents

Distress Signal Flag
Throwing Refuse in Water
Waterway Markers
Channel Marker Buoys
Regulatory and Signs
Suggestions for Safety
10 Most Common Boating Violations
The Zebra Mussel

The Law Enforcement Mission

To protect, enhance and promote the safe and wise use of our natural resources, Wisconsin Conservation Wardens shall:

Wisconsin's Personal Watercraft Law

Personal Watercraft (PWC) are classified as Class A (less then 16 feet in length) inboard boats. All PWC must be registered and display valid registration decals and registration numbers on the forward half of both sides of the craft and abide by all boating regulations, plus the following specific regulations.

1. No persons operate a PWC from sunset to sunrise.

2. All persons riding a PWC must wear a PFD of the proper size and type (type I, II, III, or V).

3. No persons may operate a PWC equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard without the lanyard attached to the operator.

4. No person may sell a PWC manufacturer after 1/1/93 unless equipped with a lanyard or self- circling device.

5. No one under 12 may operate a PWC. (Rental age limit is 16.)

6. Persons at least 12 but under 16 must be in possession of a valid boating safety student certificate (issued under s. 30.74(1)) to operate a PWC. (Parental supervision is not a substitute for a boating safety certificate as with other motorboats. PWC operators must have a certificate.)

7. Rental PWC:
No one under 16 may rent a PWC.
Rental agent must provide PFD of proper size and type.
Rental agent must provide renters with instruction on PWC operator unless the renter holds a valid boating safety student certificate (s.30.74(1)) or has previous experience operating a PWC.

8. There is no towing of persons engaged in water skiing, aquaplaning, or similar activities unless the PWC is designed to seat 3 people.

9. PWC towing of stranded or disabled boats is only allowed if speeds do not exceed slow-no-wake.

10. Operation of a PWC within 100' of the following:
Operation does not exceed a slow-no-wake.
Neither boat is involved in any type of water skiing or similar activity.

11. It is illegal to operate a PWC within 100' of the following:
Another boat towing a skier or person engaged in similar activity.
The tow rope of another motorboat towing a skier or person engaged in similar activity.
A person involved in skiing or a similar activity.

12. No person operating any type of motorboat (including PWC) that is towing persons engaged in water skiing, aquaplaning, or similar activity may operate within 100' of any occupied anchored boat, any personal watercraft, any marked swimming area, or public boat landing.

13. No persons who are water skiing or engaged in similar activity, may get within 100 feet of a personal watercraft or allow the toe rope to get within 100 feet of a personal watercraft.

Rules 11-13 do not apply to waterski pickup or drop areas that are marked with regulatory marked and that are open to operators of personal watercraft and to persons and motorboats engaged in water skiing.

Boat Registration

No person may operate, and no owner may give permission for the operator of any boat unless the boat is covered by a valid certificate of number issued by the Wisconsin DNR.

Federally documented boats must be registered in the State of Wisconsin unless they are exempted by law. They shall also display type registration year decal is not displayed a Wisconsin registration number unless the decal is not displayed by the documented name. Then the number and decal shall be displayed.

Exemptions from Registration (Watercraft)

1. Sailboats 12 feet and under without motor.

2. Manually propelled and not equipped with a motor or sail.

3. Covered by a valid certificate from another state of federal government when used in this state not more than 60 consecutive days or if this state is not the state of principal use.

4. Licensed documented fishing vessels.

5. Sailboards.

A boat present in this state is exempt for a period of 10 days for the express purpose of competing in a race sanctioned by a government subdivision.

Boat Certificates of Number

A fee shall be paid for the issuance of a certificate of number and/or title by the new owner upon the transfer of ownership of a boat numbered in this state. The certificate shall then be effective for the remainder of the numbering period for which the previous certificate was issued. After application a person may operate a boat when a copy of the application is carried onboard.

Sailboat numbers and decals shall be affixed in the same manner as outlined above.
Federally documented boats shall display the decals on each side of the name on the transom.
It is unlawful for any other number or decals to be painted attached or otherwise displayed on either side of the forward half of any registration boat.
It is unlawful to operate or use any registered boat without having the certificate of the number available for inspection at all times on such boat.
A boat owner who changes residence shall within 15 days notify the DNR of both the old and the new address.

The Owner of a numbered boat shall notify the DNR within 15 days after a boat has been destroyed or abandoned and shall return the registration certificate to the Department at: DNR-Boat Registration, Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707.

Lighting Equipment Requirements

Any person operating a boat from sunset to sunrise must carry and use the following lighting equipment. Click to see Light Table

26. Feet or Over- No more than 65 feet

Optional lighting Requirements-Any boat may carry and exhibit the lights required by the federal regulations for preventing collisions at sea.

Equipment Requirements

It is unlawful for any person to operate any boat unless equipped properly and no owner shall rent such boat to any person unless such boat is properly equipped at rental for for then existing conditions. "Open construction"-Open construction means boat construction of a type that will not allow the entrapment of explosive or flammable gasses or vapors.
Such fire extinguisher shall be kept in condition for immediate and effective use and shall be so placed as to be readily accessible.

Personal Floatation Devices-PFD's

The operator of every boat must supply the required number and type of Personal Devices that are described below. In addition, the wearable Personal Flotation Devices must be the correct size for the intended wearer. In addition to the above, each boat 16 feet or longer except canoes or kayaks must have at least 1 Type IV PFD--Buoyant cushion or ring buoy on board.
ALL PFD'S MUST be placed in the boat so that they are readily accessible.

''Approved'' Personal Flotation Devices-PFD's

An approved PFD is one which meets the safety standards established by the U.S. Coast Guard, has a Coast Guard approval stamped or sewn on it, and is in serviceable condition (ripped, damaged or unserviceable PFD's are not legal). All PFD's must be of the appropriate size for the person for whom it is intended, to be legal. They must be readily accessible for use.

Type I-PFD-Life Perserver- This is a jacket type worn like a coat and designed to turn an unconscious person's face up in the water.

Type II-PFD-Buoyant Vest- Horse collar type and worn like a bib.

Type III-PFD-Special Purpose Device- Skivests, fisherman's vest, float-coats.

Type IV-PFD-Buoyant Cushion, Ring Buoy- These are throwable devices and are not designed to be worn. They must be immediately available.

Type V-PFD-Special Use Device-
A Coast Guard approved Type V PFD may be carried in lieu of a Type I-III PFD, if the Type V device is approved for the activity in which the craft is being used. (Note: Type V devices are approved for specific and restricted uses and may have to be worn to be approved.)

Capsizing and falls overboard are the leading cause of boating fatalities in Wisconsin.

Traffic Rules

Speed Restrictions

Age Restrictions

Prohibited Methods of Operation

The use of intoxicants impairs a boat operator's senses and judgement. Intoxicants are related to 50% of all boating accidents. In Wisconsin, all motor boat operators are deemed to have given consent to a blood alcohol test.

Body Weight in Pounds

Number of Drinks

Key:
Impaired (may be under the influence)
Under the influence
Absoluttely DO NOT operate

It is unlawful:

Water Skiing

It is unlawful:

Skin Diving

Accidents

Distress Signal Flag

When observed a boat or person displaying a distress signal showing that person or boat is in need of help, it is the duty of any boat operator observing such a flag to stop and render aid. No such signal shall be displayed unless assistance is needed.

Throwing Refuse in Waters

DO NOT LITTER

Waterway Markers

All official waterway markers (signs, buoys, lights, etc.) are designed to assist the boater by marking unsafe areas, directing traffic through safe channels, preventing accidents, and protecting resources. Honor them-they have been placed for your benefit.

Channel Marker Buoys

Regulatory Buoy and Sign

Suggestions for Safety

1. Keep an alert lookout.
2. It is recommended that all occupants of any boat, or at least children and nonswimmers, wear an approved personal flotation device for their added safety.
3. Obey rules of the water.
4. If the boat tips but floats-stay with it.
5. Keep away from immediately above and below locks and dams, especially on the Mississippi River. Obey the U.S. Corps of Engineers signs.
6. Wisconsin weather has a habit of changing radically in a short period of time. These changes are almost always forecast well in advance by the weather bureau and warnings issued.

Make Wisconsin's Waters Safer

Report Boating Violations call your local law enforcement agent (warden, Sheriff, or police Department) or call 1-800-TIP-WDNR for Violations.

10 Most Common Boating Violations

The Zebra Mussel- A Boaters Concern

The zebra mussel, a new invader to the Great Lakes, is about the size of a thumbnail. Zebra mussel can cause severe problems because they are very prolific and can attach in great numbers to any solid underwater surface. They are of special concern to boaters since they can encrust on boats hulls or cause damage to an engine.
Please take the following precautions when you transfer your boat from the zebra mussels infested waters of the Great Lakes or the Mississippi River to your favorite inland waters: For more information contact your nearest Department of Natural Resources field office.

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