Boating Education Requirement
No person born on or after January 1, 1982, shall operate a powercraft powered by more than 10 horsepower unless the operator has received a certificate for successful completion of either of the following:
- A boating course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA);
- A proficiency examination approved by the Ohio Division of Watercraft.
A person required to have the certificate as indicated above and who is stopped by a law enforcement officer while operating a powercraft more than 10 horsepower, shall present to the law enforcement officer the certificate or proof of holding the certificate within 72 hours of being stopped.
No rental business shall lease or rent a powercraft powered by more than 10 horsepower to a person born on or after January 1, 1982, unless the person meets one of the following:
- The person signs the rental agreement or attachment indicating that they have completed an approved boating course or proficiency exam as indicated above;
- The person receives educational materials from the rental business and passes an abbreviated exam with a score of 90% or better. Achievement of the passing score will be indicated on or attached to the rental agreement.
Any person born on or after January 1, 1982, that operates or supervises the operation of a leased or rented powercraft, shall meet the requirements in the paragraphs above and be named as an operator on the rental agreement.
NOTE: Also see ORC 1547.06 - Child Operators: Supervising Person.
Child Operators: Supervising Person
Except as provided, no person under 16 years of age shall operate a personal watercraft (PWC). Individuals not less than 12, nor more than 15 years of age may operate a PWC if a supervising person 18 years of age or older is also on board. In the case of a supervising person born on or after January 1, 1982, the supervising person must hold a certificate meeting the requirements of ORC 1547.05 and in the case of rented powercraft, must meet the requirements of ORC 1547.052.
No person under 12 years of age shall operate any vessel unless under the direct visual and audible supervision of a person who is 18 years of age or older. This section does not apply to personal watercraft (see previous paragraph) or other powercraft powered by more than 10 horsepower (see following paragraph).
No person under 12 years of age shall operate powercraft powered by more than 10 horsepower unless under the direct visual and audible supervision of a person who is 18 years of age or older who is aboard the powercraft (excludes PWC operation). In the case of a supervising person born on or after January 1, 1982, the supervising person must hold a certificate meeting the requirements of ORC 1547.05 and in the case of rented powercraft, must meet the requirement of ORC 1547.052.
No supervising person shall allow any violation of watercraft law.
No person shall operate or permit operation of a personal watercraft unless each person aboard is wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Operators on personal watercraft equipped with a lanyard type engine cutoff switch must attach the lanyard to their clothing, PFD, themselves or as appropriate for the specific devices.
No person shall operate a personal watercraft between sunset and sunrise.
No person who owns or has charge over a personal watercraft shall permit operation in violation of laws.
"Personal Watercraft" is defined as a vessel, less than 16 feet in length, propelled by machinery and designed to be operated by an individual sitting, standing, or kneeling on the vessel rather than sitting or standing inside the vessel.
No person shall operate a vessel, water skis or similar device:
- carelessly or heedlessly;
- without due caution;
- in disregard of the rights or safety of any person, vessel, or property;
- at a rate of speed or in a manner so as to endanger any person, vessel, or property.
No person shall operate or permit operation of a vessel in an unsafe manner. Unsafe operation includes:
- becoming airborne while crossing the wake of another vessel within 100 feet or unsafe distance;
- operating at a speed or proximity to a vessel or person being towed so as to require either vessel to swerve to avoid collision;
- operating less than 200 feet behind a water-skier;
- weaving through congested traffic.
A vessel shall be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner at all times.
Unsafe Condition & Termination
A law enforcement officer may determine that an unsafe condition presents an especially hazardous condition to persons aboard a vessel and may direct the operator to take immediate, reasonable actions to correct the situation. This includes directing the operator to return a vessel to shore until the condition is corrected or has ended. Refusal by an operator to terminate operation after being ordered to do so is a violation of the Ohio Revised Code. An especially hazardous condition exists if a reasonably prudent person would believe that continued operation would create a hazard to persons aboard.
The following situations present unsafe conditions:
- insufficient personal flotation devices;
- insufficient fire extinguishers;
- overloaded, insufficient freeboard for the water conditions in which the vessel is operating;
- improper display of navigation lights;
- fuel leaks, including fuel leaking from either the engine or fuel system;
- accumulation of or an abnormal amount of fuel in the bilges
- inadequate backfire flame control;
- improper ventilation.
Failure to Control
No person shall operate or permit the operation of a vessel without sufficient control to avoid an incident that results in:
- property damage
- physical injury
- loss of life
- any combination of above
Operation in Restricted Areas
No person shall operate a vessel in designated "swim areas," areas buoyed off as "no boats," or within any area buoyed designating it as an are in which boats are prohibited.
Areas marked as "no boats" include the areas above and below dams and endangered species areas.
No person shall operate a vessel at greater than idle speed or create a wake under any of the following circumstances:
- within any area buoyed or marked as a "no wake" area
- within 300 feet of any marina, boat docking facility, boat gasoline dock, launch ramp, recreational boat harbor, harbor entrance on Lake Erie or on the Ohio River
- during sunset to sunrise between the Dan Beard Bridge and the Brent Spence Bridge on the Ohio River for any vessel not documented by the U.S. Coast Guard as commercial and during daylight hours of U.S. Coast Guard approved special events.
No person shall operate a vessel within 300 feet of an official diver's flag unless tendering the dive operation. (See diagrams of dive flags in "Aids to Navigation."
No person shal permit operation of a vessel in violation of these sections.
Many Ohio state park lakes have an unmarked 300-foot "idle speed" or "no wake" shore zone, while other lakes have a 100-foot shore zone. To gauge the 300-foot zone, visualize the length of a football field. Check the lake zoning before boating.
"Idle speed" is the slowest possible speed needed to maintain steerage and maneuverability.
"Wake" is defined as a track left in the water by a watercraft, causing waves that may cause discomfort, injury or damage to persons, watercraft or property.
Mooring and Interference with Buoys Prohibited
(ORC 1547.09 & OAC 1501:47-1-10)
No person shall moor or anchor in any designated speed zone or water ski zone. Unless in distress, no person shall moor, anchor, or tie to any marker, aid, buoy, light, or other aid to navigation. No person shall operate or permit operation of a vessel in violation of this section.
No person shall climb on, swim or hang on, dive off, tie a watercraft to, injure, sink, disconnect from its anchor, damage, deface, or interfere with any buoy or other aid to navigation.
Obstructing a Waterway, Securing of Docked and Anchored Vessels
No person shall anchor, moor, tie-up, or raft off to any other vessel, dock, launch ramp, or structure in such a manner that the vessel blocks, impedes, or restricts other vessels in their normal and reasonable use or navigation.
No person shall leave any vessel anchored, or in any dock space, or tie-up space, without first properly fastening and securing the vessel in such a manner as to avoid fouling or collision with any other vessel, or from drifting free.
Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs Prohibited/Testing
(ORC 1547.11 ; ORC 1547.111)
No person shall operate or be in physical control of any vessel underway, or manipulate any water skis or similar device if the person is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. A person is in violation with a concentration of 0.08 or more Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).
NOTE: Legal limit for persons under 21 years of age is 0.02 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).
Any person who operates a vessel, water skis or similar device shall be deemed to have given consent to a chemical test or tests of their blood, breath, or urine to determine alcohol or drug content if arrested. If a person under arrest refuses to submit to a chemical test the person is prohibited from operating a vessel or water skis or from registering a vessel for a one-year period. If the person is the owner of the vessel the registration certificate and tags will be impounded for a one-year period.
Penalty for Operating Under the
Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
||3 days jail
|6 months jail
||10 days jail
|6 months jail
||30 days jail
|6 months jail
Incapacitated Operators Prohibited
No person shall operate any vessel if they are unable physically or mentally to operate in a safe and competent manner. No person shall permit operation of a vessel in violation of this section.
Complying with Officer; Eluding or Fleeing; Stopping or Yielding to Law Enforcement Vessel
(ORC 1547.13, 1547.131 & 1547.132)
No person shall fail to comply with any lawful order of an officer having authority to direct or regulate the operation or use of vessels. A boat operator shall not purposely elude or flee from an officer after a visible or audible signal to bring the vessel to a stop is given.
Upon the approach of a law enforcement vessel with a blue flashing light, the operator of any vessel shall stop or give-way in any situation until the law enforcement vessel has passed.
No person shall permit operation of a vessel in violation of this section.
No person shall operate a vessel that creates a wake within 100 feet of a stopped law enforcement vessel with a blue flashing light.
No person shall operate a vessel that creates a wake within 100 feet of a public service vessel displaying a red and yellow alternating flashing light.
Public service vessels include boats that used for special events and as escorts. They may also be used for traffic control, salvage, fire fighting, medical aide, towing, assisting disabled boats, or search and rescue.
You are responsible for any damage or injury caused by your wake. Either steer well clear or pass at idle speed.
Skiing Confined to Ski or Open Zone
Any person who rides or attempts to ride upon water skis or similar device or who barefoot skis, or any boat operator who tows a skier shall confine that activity within a designated ski zone or open zone.
Exceptions to this section exists on Lake Erie, Ohio River, and immediately connected harbors and anchorage facilities where these zones have not been established.
Towing for recreational purposes is permitted at idle speed in a designated no-wake zone as long as it is
- not within 300 feet of a gas dock, launch ramp, or harbor entrance
- not in an anchorage area, boat swimming area, or boat camping area
- not under or within 300 feet of a bridge underpass
- not in any area designated as a no-ski zone.
No person shall permit operation of a vessel in violation of this section.
Observer Required when Towing Skier
Any person who operates a vessel towing a person on water skis, surfboard, other similar devices or barefoot skier shall have an observer ten years of age or older in the vessel who shall at all times observe the person being towed. The vessel operator shall observe the traffic pattern. No person shall permit operation of a vessel in violation of this section.
Water-Skiing After Dark Prohibited
No person shall water-ski or be towed on any device, or operate a vessel towing a person between sunset and sunrise except upon special permit. Consult an official sunrise-sunset table of the local area for exact times.
The law requires you to always wear your personal flotation device when water-skiing, tubing or any other similar activity.
Sitting, Standing, Walking on Moving Vessels Restricted
No occupant of a vessel underway shall sit, stand, or walk on any area not designed for that movement except when immediately necessary for safe and reasonable navigation or operation. No person shall permit any occupant to violate this section. No person shall operate or permit operation of any vessel in violation of this section.
One of the most common causes of boating fatalities is drowning after falling overboard. One way to reduce the risk of taking a plunge is to sit in seats designed for that purpose. Bow riding is especially dangerous because unexpected movement, large waves or sudden change in course could easily throw the passenger in the water. The risk of injury from being run over by the boat or being struck by the propeller is great in such situations.
(ORC 1547.39 & ORC 1547-40)
No person shall operate or permit operation of a watercraft in excess of any of the stated limits on the capacity plate. When no capacity plate exists, no person shall operate or permit operation of a watercraft if a reasonably prudent person would believe the total load aboard or the total horsepower of any motor or engine presents a risk of physical harm to persons or property.
No person shall alter, remove, or deface any information on the capacity plate.
Overloading is a leading cause of capsizing and swamping, especially in small boats. Capsizing and swamping are leading causes of boating deaths.
No operator or occupant shall discard litter improperly from any vessel regardless of intent. No operator shall allow litter to be discarded.
No person shall discard litter on land, in a waterway or on the bank of a waterway where it could be washed into the water.
Within the area of their jurisdiction, every sheriff, deputy sheriff, marshal, deputy marshal, municipal police officer, township police constable, game protector, park or conservancy district officer, or other law enforcement officer may enforce the state watercraft laws and has the authority to stop, inspect and board any recreational vessel.
Firearm Restrictions/Concealed Carry
(ORC 1547.69 & 2923.12)
Except for persons legally engaged in hunting, no person shall discharge a firearm while in or on a vessel.
Except for persons legally engaged in hunting OR persons legally licensed to carry a concealed handgun in Ohio, no person shall transport or have a loaded firearm in a vessel in such a manner that the firearm is accessible to the operator or any passenger.
Except for persons legally licensed to carry a concealed handgun in Ohio, no person shall transport or have a firearm in a vessel, unless it is unloaded and carried in a closed package, box, or case OR in plain sight with the action open or the weapon stripped.
This section does not apply to the possession or discharge of a U.S. Coast Guard approved distress signaling device when the device is possessed or used for the purpose of giving a distress signal. Such signaling devices shall only be loaded immediately prior to discharging a legal signal of distress.
No person shall operate or permit operation of a vessel in violation of this section.
- Handguns are restricted in Canada. Know the law before you leave U.S. waters. [www.cfc-ccaf.gc.ca]
- Interpretation of Ohio's CCL for handguns (ORC 2923.12) is adminstered by the Ohio Attorney General's Office. [www.ag.state.oh.us]