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Who needs a Boating Safety Certificate?

New Educational Requirements

All individuals born on or after 5/1/96 are now required to successfully complete an approved course in boater education in order to operate a motorboat. Approved courses include those offered by NYS Parks, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadron. Individuals less than 10 years of age may not take this course of instruction. Certain allowances to this law have been made for visitors to New York, persons renting a boat from a livery and persons purchasing a new boat for the first time.

Life Jacket Law for Children Under 12

Any youth under the age of 12 on boats 65 feet or less in length must wear a securely fastened U.S. Coast Guard approved personal floatation device of appropriate size. It does not apply if the youth is in a full enclosed cabin.

NYS Nav. Law Section 40.1(d).

Cold Weather Boaters – Life Jacket Laws

Anyone underway in a boat less than 21 feet in length anytime between November 1 and May 1 must wear a securely fastened life jacket. This includes canoes, kayaks, rowboats and motorboats Commercial vessels are exempt.

NYS Nav. Law Section 40.1(e).

Click here to view and download NYS Life Jacket Laws

Personal Watercraft

Hours of operation: between sunrise and sunset, and only when conditions are not classified as restricted visibility. The installation of an after market light kit will not allow you to legally operate a PWC at night.


  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved jacket.
  • Carry a U.S. Coast Guard approved visual distress signal.
  • Carry a sound signaling device – capable of a two second blast, audible 1/2 mile
  • Engine Cutoff – if so equipped must be functional and attached to the rider.


  • Operate a PWC under the age of 14
  • Operate in excess of 5 m.p.h. within 100 feet of shore, a dock, float or anchored boat.
  • Operate within 500 feet of a marked swim area
  • Operate between sunset and sunrise
  • Operate in a reckless manner, including:
  • Wake jumping
  • Playing “Chicken”
  • Weaving through traffic
  • Carrying more passengers than is recommend by the manufacturer


New York requires that anyone operating a personal watercraft complete an approved course in boating safety or otherwise be accompanied, on board, by someone 18 years of age or older who is the holder of an approved boating safety certificate. Certificates are required to be carried at all times when operating the personal watercraft.

Water Skiing

On the navigable waters of NYS, any vessel towing a water skier, parasail, or other similar device, must have on board, in addition to the operator, an observer who is specifically charged with watching out for the person towed. The observer must be at least 10 years of age.

Waterskiing, and similar towed activities, are limited to the hours between sunrise and sunset, provided that visibility is not reduced.

Effective 2002, anyone towed by a vessel must wear a securely fastened US Coast Guard approved personal flotation device. This includes those on water skis, inner tubes, parasails, inflatable devices, to name a few. The preferred life jacket for these activities is the type III special purpose device as it is impact rated, form fitting, and generally affords better visibility for the skier. Never use a fully inflatable life jacket.

Remember the skier is considered a passenger and is to be counted against the maximum passengers allowed. Exceeding that number can be written as reckless operation.