Safe Boating – It's The Law

All boats must travel in a counter-clockwise direction around the lake. No exceptions. 

Boats going in the opposite direction may have a head-on with another craft. People are distracted when pulling tubes or skiers and an accident like this can cause a disaster. The most frequently seen are PWCs and fast boats from fishing tournaments launched from the public boat ramp, but there are others. 

Alcohol and Boats...A New Law In 2015. 

The Governor of Michigan signed into law legislation that will reduce the maximum blood alcohol content level for boaters from .10 to .08, the same maximum level in place for automobile drivers. The new law will also prevent people from operating boats while under the influence of illegal drugs. This legislation was passed in an effort to make BUI – boating under the influence – a more serious crime, thus discouraging people from doing it and making the waters safer for everyone.

The Boater’s 100 feet Rule

According to the Michigan Handbook on boater safety, Improper Distance is not maintaining a proper distance while operating a vessel or towing a person. To maintain a proper distance when you are operating at greater than "slow, no wake speed" (except in channels that are not posted), the vessel or persons being towed must not be within 100 feet of:

  • A shoreline
  • Another vessel
  • Any moored or anchored vessel 
  • A dock or raft
  • Any marked swimming area or person(s) in the water

One reason for this was evidenced not long ago when, on Round Lake, two tubers were severely injured when a boat was towing three tubes. Turning caused the outside tube to cross the wake and collide with the other two tubes, causing them to abruptly swing towards shore and collide with a wooden raft. We’ve also seen inexperienced boat operators swing a person on a tube wide in a “donut.” If done too close to onshore or floating objects, the towed person can swing out and strike these causing severe internal injuries, multiple abrasions, facial lacerations, and severe head trauma. Save your child or friend, drive carefully – be smart.

Who May Operate a Boat

Those less than 12 years of age:

  • May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (hp) legally without restrictions.
  • May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp but no more than 35 hp legally only if they: 
    • Have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat and...
    • Are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years of age.
  • May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp legally under any conditions.

Those born on or after July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally only if they have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board the boat. Those born before July 1, 1996, may operate a boat legally without restrictions.

Who May Operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC) 

Those less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a PWC.

Those 14 and 15 years of age may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate and...

  • He or she is accompanied on board by his or her parent or legal guardian or by a person as least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian or...
  • He or she is operating or riding the PWC at a distance of not more than 100 feet from his or her parent or legal guardian or from a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian.

Those at least 16 years of age and born after December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate. Anyone born after July 1, 1996 must attend a Boater Safety Class to operate any vessel.

Those born on or before December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally without restrictions.

Michigan now offers two online boating safety classes and an exam: BoatEd.com and BoaterExam.com.

Cass County Sheriff's Office operates a Marine Patrol Division.  

The Marine Patrol uses a combination of boats and jet skis to patrol the lakes of Cass County. Marine Patrol Deputies enforce all marine laws. The Marine Division also offers boater safety classes.

If you have any questions or would like further information about the Marine Division please call: (269) 445-1225.

For more information, please see: The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities

Reporting Hazardous Boating

To report unsafe, dangerous, illegal boating, reckless operation, or excessive noise, call the Cass Count Sheriff's Dispatch at (269) 445-8644 or (269) 782-6689 and ask for the Marine Division.

Take the dispatch option to get a hold of a dispatcher to file a complaint. If one of the Marine Patrol officers are working, they will be directed to go to the lake and address the problem. If a Marine Patrol Officer is not working, then get the best description you can (registration number, etc.) so the Sheriff can possibly identify the person/persons. If you do not want to use your name, but can still get a good description, then the Sheriff can talk to the owner of the Personal Water Craft or boat and advise him/her of the law. Also, it is considered reckless operation of a water craft to harass, endanger, or hurt animals including ducks, geese, and swans, so be sure to file a complaint if you witness that as well as any other violations.