Boating Safety

Safe Boating Begins with You!

  • Registration - Required for all power vessels and in North Carolina sailboats greater than 14 feet.
  • Vessel Lights - A power driven vessel, except for PWCs, of less than 12 meters in length must exhibit an all around white light and side lights. Running lights on the bow are green on the right (starboard) and red on the left (port) side. The stern light should be at least 40 inches higher than the bow lights and show a white light that is visible for 360 degrees.
  • Fire Extinguishers - Motorboats and PWCs must carry a Coast Guard approved Class B fire extinguisher. Boat length will determine size and number of fire extinguishers required.
  • Horn, Whistle or Air Horn - Must be loud enough to be heard for 1/2 mile is required.
  • Visual Distress Signal - Daytime-wave an orange flag or PFD. At night-use a flashlight or flare.
  • Ignition Lanyard Cut Off Switch - If the PWC is equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard-type engine cut off switch, the lanyard must be attached to the operator's clothing or PFD.
  • Backfire Flame Arrestor On Carburetor - Required for all motorboats except outboards. The arrestor must be clean and USCG approved.
  • Mufflers or Underwater Exhaust - Required on all engines.
  • PWCs - All operators and riders must wear a Type I, II, III or V (non inflatable) USCG approved PFD in good and serviceable condition, and properly sized.
  • Persons Being Towed - All persons being towed must wear a Type I, II, III, USCG approved PFD rated at 50 mph impact.
  • Motorboats - From sunset to sunrise or in limited visibility, navigation lights must be on while underway and an anchor light must be on when anchored.
  • PWC - PWCs can only be operated between sunrise and sunset.
  • Towing skier, tuber or other device - South Carolina prohibits towing from sunset to sunrise. North Carolina prohibits towing from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. You Can Get More Information About Safe Boating at Lakes Wylie, Mountain Island and Norman Marine Commissions, Midtown Plaza, 1300 Baxter Street Suite 450 Charlotte, NC 28204, (voice) 704-372-2416 (fax) 704-347-4710 or on the Lake Wylie Marine Commission website.
  • Under Age 12 - Operation of a personal watercraft (i.e. PWC, jet ski, etc.) is not allowed. You can only operate a motorboat if you are under the direct control and supervision of a person at least 18 years old and are operating the motorboat for the purpose of learning how to safely operate it.
  • Age 12 to 15 Years - Operation of a PWC or motorboat is allowed only if the operator can show proof of successfully completing a National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved safety course including state and local regulations and having a photo id as prescribed by the Marine Commission regulations. Internet courses are not recognized. Otherwise you must be operating the PWC or motorboat under the direct supervision and control of someone at least 18 years old.
  • 16 Years Old and Over - Although not required by law, it is strongly recommended that all operators take a safe boating course.
  • Motorboats - In addition to the operator, there must be an observer on board, or the boat must be equipped with mirror(s) to adequately observe the person being towed.
  • PWCs - Same as motorboats, however if there is an observer on board the PWC must be rated for three people.
  • Personal Floatation Devices Lifejackets All Vessels - At least one Type I, II or III United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved personal floatation device (PFD) for each person must be on board, readily accessible, in good and serviceable condition, unwrapped and properly sized. A Type V inflatable is approved if worn. All boats 16 feet or over must also have a throwable PFD (Type IV.)
  • Overload - Don't carry more passengers or weight than your boat's manufacturer capacity plate states.
  • Reckless Operation - No unsafe movement allowed. Look before you act. No wake jumping within 100 feet of another vessel in North Carolina and within 200 feet of another vessel in South Carolina.
  • Speeding - Keep your speed reasonable for the conditions and your skill level. No wake speed is required within 150 feet (50 yards) of any boat ramp, pier, dock or marina in North Carolina and 50 feet in South Carolina. Observe and obey no-wake buoys. If you don't know what to do, take a safe boating course.
  • Alcohol and Drugs - No operation is allowed while impaired. North Carolina Boating While Impaired is.08, in South Carolina it is.10.
  • Littering and Human Waste - Use a trash can for the litter and pump out station for the human waste. Violations will result in severe fines.
  • Anchors, paddles, good map, cell phone, marine radio and telling someone where you are going are all highly recommended.

How to Contact the Marine Commissions

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

  • Phone: 704-663-3333

U.S. Power Squadron

  • Brevard Myers
    Phone: 704-366-2515 (evenings)
  • William Coggan
    Phone: 704-663-7102
  • George Persons
    Phone: 704-679-2206 (Voice Mail)

For information on state boating laws please contact the NC Wildlife Resources Commission at 919-733-7192 or the SC Department of Natural Resources at 803-734-4002. The Lake Norman, Wylie and Mountain Island Lake Marine Commissions in partnership with the law enforcement community have developed and approved local regulations for these three lakes. The intent is to increase safety on the lakes, which are becoming crowded with bigger and faster boats. One solution is to encourage all boaters, and make it mandatory for operators ages 12 through 15, to take a safe boating course. Over 30 states have already enacted similar or more comprehensive laws.