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Georgia State Specific Regulations

Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Each person, whether operator or passenger, riding on a PWC, must wear a U. S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device (PFD) that is of the proper size for the individual and is properly fastened. Inflatable Type IV PFDs are not approved to wear when riding on a PWC.

Every PWC operated in Georgia must be equipped with either, a fully functional safety device that reduces the engine to idle and steers it in a circle, or a lanyard type device that shuts off the engine when pulled out. If the PWC has an engine cut-off system, the lanyard must be firmly attached to the person (around the wrist), clothing or PFD of the operator.

PWCs may not be operated (even if equipped with navigation lights) after sunset and before sunrise.

A PWC operating at a speed greater than idle, shall not come within 100 feet of another moving boat or PWC, unless it is overtaking the other boat or PWC in compliance with the rules for encountering other boats. When a PWC is overtaking another boat, it must not change course to ride or jump the wake of the boat being overtaken.

A PWC operating at a speed greater than idle speed, shall not come within 100 feet of another moving boat or PWC. If the PWC is overtaking another vessel or PWC it must follow the "procedures when overtaking another vessel" section contained in the United States Coast Guard Rules of the Road.

A PWC must slow an operate at idle speed if it comes within 100 feet of a non-moving, drifting, or anchored boat, dock, pier, bridge, or any person swimming, standing or wading in the water. A PWC must operate at idle speed if it comes within 100 feet of a shoreline which is next to a residence, public park or beach, designated swimming area, boat marina, restaurant or other area used by or opened to the public.

It is unlawful for an owner of a PWC to allow another person to operate the PWC on Georgia waters in such a manner that violates the laws contained in the Georgia Boat Safety Act.

It is unlawful for anyone employed by a boat rental agency to rent, lease or let for hire, any personal watercraft to a person under 16 years of age.

Georgia Age of Operation

Personal Watercraft (PWC - commonly called jet skis)

Class A Vessels (Vessels less than 16 feet in length)

Class I, II, or III Vessels (Vessels 16 feet in length and over)

A person under 12 years old may not operate a PWC. They can operate a Class A vessel with a 30 horsepower or smaller motor if they are accompanied by a sober adult age 18 or older. They can not operate Class A vessels with a motor larger than 30 horsepower. They can not operate Class I, II, or III vessels.

12 - 13 year olds can operate a PWC if they meet any of the following conditions:

  1. Have completed a DNR-approved boating safety course; or

  2. Are under the direct supervision of a sober adult age 18 or older.

They can operate a Class A vessel with a 30 horsepower or smaller motor if they meet any of the following conditions:

  1. Have completed a DNR-approved boating safety course; or

  2. Are under the direct supervision of a sober adult age 18 or older.

They can not operate Class A vessels with a motor larger than 30 horsepower. They may not operate Class I, II, or III vessels.

14-15 year olds can operate a PWC if they meet any one of the following conditions:

  1. Have completed a DNR-approved boating safety course; or

  2. Are under the direct supervision of a sober adult age 18 or older.

They can operate any Class A vessel if they meet any one of the following conditions:

  1. Have completed a DNR-approved boating safety course; or

  2. Are under the direct supervision of a sober adult age 18 or older.

They can operate any Class I, II, or III vessel if they meet any one of the following conditions:

  1. Have completed a DNR-approved boating safety course; or

  2. Are under the direct supervision of a sober adult age 18 or older.

16 year olds and over may operate a PWC or any Class A, I, II, or III vessel, provided they are carrying proper identification.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

When preparing to go out on a boat or a PWC, the operator must check that the legally required equipment is onboard and in proper working order.

All boats must have at least one Type I, II, III or V wearable PFD that is U. S. Coast Guard approved, and of the proper size for each person onboard. The proper size for PFDs is based on the body weight and chest size of the intended wearer.

Georgia law requires that a U. S. Coast Guard approved, properly fitting, PFD be worn by all children under 10 years of age while onboard any moving boat. This law does not apply when the child is inside a fully enclosed cabin. It is recommended that you secure the strap that goes thru the legs. This is designed to prevent the PFD from sliding over the child's head if they fall into the water.

One Type IV U. S. Coast Guard approved (throwable) PFD must be onboard all boats (except PWCs) and readily accessible, in addition to the above requirements.

One Type V may be substituted for any other type if it is specifically approved by the U. S. Coast Guard for the activity at hand. Type V PFDs may not be substituted on children weighing less than 90 lbs.

All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition, without tears, rips, broken buckles or zippers, and must be readily accessible.

Unlawful and Dangerous Operation

Reckless operation of a boat or PWC is defined as, the disregard for the safety of persons or property. Examples of are:

  • Intentionally operating your PWC or boat dangerously close to any other boats, swimmers or persons in the water, boat launch ramps or swim areas, coming within 100 ft. of another vessel to jump the wake of that vessel or buzzing spraying down that vessel are considered reckless operation.

  • A person on water skis, tube, or other towed device who comes dangerously close to any swimmer, person in the water, skier, or boat, or sprays down a person on a dock may be cited for reckless operation.

  • You may be cited for reckless operation if you intentionally power your PWC or boat so as to cause property or shoreline damage from the wake produced by your boat.

"Improper Distance" is not maintaining a distance between your boat and other vessels that will allow you to avoid any dangerous situations. This distance increases as your speed increases. If you are towing a skier you need to allow additional distance so you avoid placing the skier in danger.

Operating your vessel at greater than a "no wake or idle speed" within 100 feet of the following, are examples of "improper distance".

  • Any vessel underway or tied to a dock, anchored, tied to a mooring buoy or adrift, whether it is occupied or not.

  • Any structure such as a bridge or bridge pilings

  • Any dock or marina or breakwater

  • Any park or swimming area

  • Any persons floating, swimming, walking or standing in the water.

  • Any shoreline or shore structure next to a residence

Circling or come within 100 feet of another boat at greater than idle speed, unless you are in an overtaking situation or meeting the other boat. These situations are covered in the "rules of the road."

  • Making any maneuvers with your craft that allow you to jump the wake of another vessel within 100 feet of the other vessel.

"Idle Speed" is best described as the speed of your vessel in gear, with the throttle at the minimum position. On most PWC's removing your hand from the throttle lever will return it to idle.

"Failure to Regulate Speed" is operating a vessel at a speed that is not reasonable or prudent given the situation at the time of operation, which may result in injury, damage to property either directly by the vessel, or as a result of the force of your vessel's wake. In Georgia it is illegal to:

  • Fail to regulate your speed when approaching or operating close to any boats moored or engaged in fishing, swimming areas, docks or marinas.

  • Operate a PWC or boat at a speed faster than would allow you to react to a situation safely, under conditions then existing, such as fog, rain, sun glare, poor visibility, heavy boat traffic, darkness, etc.

"Overloading" is loading the boat or PWC with persons or gear, the combined weight of which, exceeds the weight allowed by the "U.S. Coast Guard Maximum Capacities" information label (commonly called the Capacity Plate). This plate is affixed to the interior of the vessel, in plain view, by the manufacturer. It is dangerous and illegal to overload a vessel.

No person operating any vessel shall allow any person or persons to ride standing on the bow or gunwale of any vessel unless the vessel is equipped with a substantial railing or some other device that is designed and located to prevent any person or persons from falling or being thrown overboard should the vessel be required to turn sharply or stop suddenly to avoid a dangerous situation. Very few rails are designed to prevent persons from falling over or sliding under during a sudden maneuver. It is always wise to have all persons seated in the seats provided while underway.

Obstructing Navigation

It is illegal to:

  • Anchor or moor your vessel where it will interfere with any vessels transiting the area. Examples of these areas are: designated channels in rivers used by vessels with deep draft, areas outside the entrance or exits of marinas, docks, boat ramps, or other normal boating lanes.

  • Moor, tie, or attach your vessel to any regulatory buoy, navigational aid or other device placed to warn boaters of hazards. Also, it is illegal to move, drag, displace, tamper with, remove, damage, cover, or destroy any navigational aid or regulatory buoy placed by proper authorities.

Remember: the Coast Guard requires an anchor light be displayed during the hours of darkness when anchoring.

Towing People

In Georgia it is a violation of the law to tow any person(s) on wakeboards, skis, or similar device behind or along side any P.W.C. or vessel after sunset and before sunrise. It is also a violation of the law to be towed on any device, water skis, wakeboard etc. from sunset to sunrise.

It is illegal for the operator to be in actual physical control of a moving vessel, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is also unlawful to be towed on any skis, wakeboard towed device etc. while under the influence of alcohol and or drugs.

The operator of any PWC or boat shall not operate or tow any wake boards, skiers, persons on tubes closer that 100 feet from any shore based installation such as a dock whether public, private or commercial, or any swimming beach or designated public park, or restaurant at a speed greater than idle speed. This law also applies to towing skiers, etc. within 100 feet of any vessel anchored, drifting or not underway.

The person being towed by a boat or PWC must wear a United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation device, Type I, Type II, Type III, or Type V. Each such personal flotation device must be properly fastened, in good and serviceable condition, and the proper size for the person wearing it. Ski belts and ski-jackets are also allowed.

All boats in addition to the operator are required to have one of the following when towing a skier, wake board or other device:

  • An observer who's task is to observe the skier and advise the operator on the skier's status.

  • A wide-angle rear view mirror which allows the operator to observe the progress of the skier at all times.

PWC's are required to have an observer in addition to the operator when towing anyone.

Every PWC towing a person(s) on water skis, wakeboards, tubes or similar device, must be rated, on the capacity plate, to carry three or more persons by the manufacturer.

Required Equipment Checklist

All PWCs, Class A and Class 1 powerboats and their operators must possess the following:

  • Boater Safety Certification Card (for operators between the ages of 12 and 15)

  • Certificate of Boat Registration

  • Validation Decal Displayed

  • PFDs: Type I, II, III or V (anyone on a PWC must wear a PFD at all times. Children under the age of 10 must wear a PFD at all times when underway on Class A and Class 1 boats). PFD's must be of the proper size for the intended user and in serviceable condition. Class A and Class 1 boats must also have a Type IV or throwable PFD.

  • Type B-1 Fire Extinguisher

  • Flame Arrestor (required on inboard and stern drives only)

  • Ventilation System

  • Muffler

  • Class 1 boats must have a Daytime Visual Distress System

  • Night Time Visual Distress System and Navigation Lights

    • Additional P.W.C. requirements

      • PWCs must also have an Ignition Safety Switch (also known as a safety lanyard)

      • Night time PWC operation in Georgia is prohibited.

      Outboard Motor Restrictions:

      • No motor in excess of 9.9 hp may be operated on the Ogeechee River upstream of State Hwy 119

      • No motor in excess of 25 hp may be operated on Lake Juliette

      Almost one-half of the boating accidents in Georgia are caused by collision with another boat or object. Practically all boating accidents occur because of carelessness, inexperience or ignorance of safe boating practices.

      Alcohol and Drugs

      Just remember this simple rule: Don't drink and boat!

      The Georgia Boat Safety Act prohibits anyone who is under the influence of alcohol and or drugs, from operating, steering, or being in actual physical control of any vessel, P.W.C., or boat, water skis, wakeboard, or similar device.

      It is also unlawful for any owner of a vessel to knowingly allow any other person to operate their P.W.C., vessel, water ski, or wakeboard, while the person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

      Georgia boating law states:

      A person under the age of 21 shall not operate any personal watercraft, vessel, moving water skis, wake board, or similar moving device, or while the person's alcohol concentration is 0.02 grams or more.

      If the operator of the PWC or vessel is 21 years of age or older , and the blood alcohol concentration is .08 grams or more or if drugs are detected, they are considered to be boating under the influence.

      Penalties for water violations under the Georgia Boat Safety Act:

      Persons arrested for BUI on Georgia waters may have their privilege to operate a boat or PWC suspended:

      • For the first time in five years your privilege to operate a boat is suspended for one year.

      • The second suspension, the period of suspension shall be for three years

      • If it's the third time in five years, the period of suspension shall be for not less than five years

      The time of suspension may be reduced if they successfully complete the Georgia Department of Human Resources, DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program. Persons arrested for BUI on Georgia waters, will also be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a $1000 fine.

      Georgia State Law states that anyone operating a PWC or boat on Georgia waters has given their implied consent to be tested for alcohol and or drugs if requested by a local, county, or state law enforcement official. You may loose the privilege to operate a PWC or boat for up to one year. The fact that you refused to be tested for alcohol or drugs may be entered into evidence against you at trial.

      If a child under the age of 14 years is onboard any boat or PWC while the operator is under the influence of alcohol and or drugs, the operator is also guilty of a separate charge of endangering a child.

      Booze and boats do not mix! It is unlawful to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

      Accidents and Casualties

      If you are involved in a boating accident, you first must stop and render whatever assistance is necessary to any person involved in the accident, unless by doing this, it would endanger you, your boat, or your passengers. If you render assistance in good faith and in a prudent manner, to any injured person, you cannot be held liable for any civil damages.

      Boat operators involved in an accident must report the accident, by the fastest means possible (within 48 hours) if there is:

      • A person(s) disappears as a result of the boating accident

      • A person dies at the accident scene or within 24 hours following the accident

      • Injury requiring first aid or medical attention at the scene or at a medical facility, or is disabled more than 24 hrs.

      Boat operators involved in an accident that only involves property damage to vessels or structures exceeding $2,000 are required to file an accident report within 5 days.

      The operator or owner of any vessel involved in a reportable accident must file an accident report on a form supplied by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources

      The operator of any boat involved in an accident must give his/her name, address and Certificate of Boat Registration information in writing to person injured, and to the owner of any damaged property involved in the accident.

      Enforcement

      The primary responsibility for enforcement of boating laws under the Georgia Boat Safety Act is the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Conservation Rangers. In addition, all peace officers of Georgia are authorized to enforce the boating laws.

      Diver Down Flags

      SCUBA divers or snorkelers should display a "Diver Down" flag that marks the diving area:

      The Diver Down Flag is a rectangular red flag, at least 15 inch by 15 inch, with a white diagonal stripe and is required on state waters. If the SCUBA divers or snorkelers are in federal waters a blue and white International Code Flag A (or Alpha flag) is required. The Alpha flag is also used by commercial divers and divers operating from federal and military vessels.

      Vessels must remain at least 100 feet away from the diver in the water.

      WARNING:

      Stay well clear of ALL Federal and Military diving activities. They may be sensitive in nature and involve Homeland Security.

      Hazardous Areas

      Certain areas have been designated and marked as "hazardous areas" because of conditions which create a danger to the safety and welfare of boaters operating in such areas. When operating within a designated "hazardous area," all passengers in the boat must wear a U. S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device, which fits the wearer and is properly fastened.

      Georgia Boating Safety Zone

      The following areas are designated, in Georgia, as boating safety zones. It is unlawful to operate a powerboat or PWC between the dates of May 1st and September 30th within the following areas:

      • Jekyll Island - from the north end to the south end of Jekyll Beach, offshore 1,000 feet from the beach's high watermark.

      • Tybee Island - from the north to the south end of Tybee Beach, offshore 1000 feet from the beach's high watermark.

      • St. Simons Island - from the north to the south end of the Island, offshore 1000 feet from the island's high watermark.

      • Sea Island - from the north to the south end of the island, offshore 1000 feet from the island's high water mark.

      In Georgia it is unlawful to operate any type of boat at anytime within:

      • The marked boundary or limits of any designated swimming area.

      • The upstream or downstream area of any dam, designated by the Commissioner, and marked with signs and/or buoys.

      • It is unlawful to operate any boat with a motor in excess of 10 horsepower on the Ogeechee River upstream from the Georgia Highway 119 Bridge.

      • It is unlawful to operate any boat (including houseboats) that are equipped with a marine toilet, galley or sleeping quarters on the following lakes-- Lake Oconee, Lake Burton, Lake Rabun, Bull Sluice Lake, Goat Rock Lake, Lake Harding, North Highlands Lake, Lake Oliver, Seed Lake, Lake Jackson, Tallulah Falls Lake, Tugalo Lake, and Yonah Lake.

      Discharge Laws

      The Discharge of Waste

      The State of Georgia requires that all boats, floating cabins or other vessels that are equipped with a Marine Sanitation Device must retain all waste and sewage in a holding tank. Discharge overboard is prohibited on all waters in the state.

      "Marine Sanitation Device" is defined as any equipment installed on a vessel which receives sewage, retains it, treats it, and discharges it overboard or at a on-shore facility. Georgia does not classify a "porta potty" as a MSD.

      Any vessel in Georgia waters shall not pump out, or cause to be pumped out, or dump any sewage from a waste-water holding tank, portable toilet (porta potty) or marine sanitation device into any waters in Georgia. All boaters must use a State DNR approved shore based pump-out station or an on shore sewer system to dispose of sewage.

      All boats equipped with a marine toilet must have a Marine Toilet Certificate decal, issued by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. This decal must be affixed to the hull, adjacent to the boats registration number. There is a one-time certification fee of $5.00. No renewal of the certificate is required and it is transferable to any subsequent owner of the boat.

      Boats Equipped with a Marine Toilet:

      The vessel must have the marine toilet or MSD attached to a holding tank. This holding tank must be designed so it can only be emptied by being pumped out. "Y valves" which are designed to allow the waste to be either discharged over the side or retained in the holding tank are not allowed. All discharge from the toilet must be retained in the holding tank until emptied at a pump out facility. This law is in effect for the following Georgia lakes: Lake Allatoona, Blackshear, Walter F. George Reservoir, Blue Ridge, Clarks Hill, Lake Hartwell, West Point, Sinclair Russell, Seminole, or Sidney Lanier.

      If the vessel was built before January 1, 1978, it may be equipped with its original, fully operable U.S. Coast Guard certified Marine Sanitation Device, however you must follow current rules and procedures regarding disposal.

      For one year from the current date the owner or operator of a vessel equipped with a marine toilet must maintain a pump-out record which contains the name and location of the pump-out facility, and the date of use. The facility must also keep a record for one year of the registration number of the boat, name of the owner or operator, date of the pump-out, and verification of the pump-out.

      The Discharge of Oil And Other Hazardous Substances

      It is illegal to discharge oil or hazardous substances. You are not allowed to dump oil or other hazardous substances into the bilge of the boat where it can be accidentally pumped overboard thru the bilge pump. You must discharge oil waste to a reception facility. On recreational boats, a bucket, bailer or plastic jug can be used to retain the oil or oily water and rags and absorbent pads until they are removed to a reception facility on shore. It is recommended that you use an oil absorbent pad placed under the engine of your vessel to catch any oil leaks or drips from the engine. They are made from material that absorbs oil and not water. Be sure the pad doesn't block the bilge pump intake or interferes with any moving machinery. Prompt repair of any oil or fuel leaks is the key to prevent spills.

      If your boat is 26 feet or longer you must display a 5 inch by 8 inch placard near the bilge pump switch stating the Federal Water Pollution Control Acts law. These can be obtained at any local Marine equipment store.

      If your boat discharges oil or hazardous substances in the water, immediately call the U. S. Coast Guard at 1-800-424-8802. In addition, you must call the Georgia Environmental Protection Division at 1-800-241-4113 within 24 hours of the discharge.

      Registering Your Boat or PWC

      All boats that carry any means of mechanical propulsion and all sailboats 12 feet and longer must be registered. A boat registration application can be obtained from any office of the Wildlife Resources Division, from most marine dealers and marinas, or by writing to:

      Georgia DNR, License & Boat Registration Unit
      2065 U.S. Highway
      278 SE Social Circle
      Atlanta, GA 30025

      Or go online to: www.goboatgeorgia.com

      Send your registration application (and fee) to:

      Georgia DNR, License & Boat Registration Unit
      P.O. Box 105310
      Atlanta, GA 30348-5310

      All boat operators are required to obey laws that regulate your boat's registration, operation and boater education.

      You must have a valid Georgia state decal, and a valid Certificate of Boat Registration to operate your boat or PWC on public waters in the State of Georgia. The following are the only exceptions allowed:

      • Boats such as canoes, kayaks, prams, etc. that do not have a mechanical form of propulsion (i.e., human powered by oars, paddles, etc. or is windblown)

      • Sailboats which are less than 12 feet in length

      • Boats that are only operated on private lakes or ponds

      The PWC or boat registration certificate (pocket-sized plastic card) is required to be carried on board at all times. It must be accessible, and available for inspection, when requested, by any law enforcement officer of Georgia. The card should be secured in a safe protected place so it won't be lost in transit or on the water.

      The registration number and validation decal must be displayed in the following manner:

      • Number must be affixed to both sides of the bow which is visible from a distance, either by painting, a secure decal, or other secure method.

      • The registration number must be able to be read from left to right on both sides of the vessel.

      • Number must be written in plain block letters at least 3 inches-high. Script letters and numbers which are hard to read are not allowed.

      • The color of the numbers and letters, must contrast with its background when attached to the vessel.

      • Letters and numbers must be separated by a space or hyphen: "GA 3689 AB" or "GA-3689-AB".

      • No other numbers may be displayed or affixed in the area of the registration numbers.

      • The validation Decal must be displayed, before the letters "GA", of the registration number on each side.

      Other Facts About Registering Your Boat or PWC

      • The boat owner must notify the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Boat Registration Office by mail or phone, if they change their mailing or legal address.

      • You must send your Certificate of Boat Registration, and notify the DNR Boat Registration Office within 15 days if your boat is abandoned or destroyed.

      • If you lose, or your Certificate of Boat Registration is destroyed, you must apply for a duplicate Georgia State registration certificate by submitting a registration application form to the Georgia DNR Boat Registration Office. This certificate must be carried on the boat at all times.

      • Boats using Georgia Public Waters, bearing a valid registration from another state, or country, need not be re-registered in Georgia unless they are used in Georgia for a period longer than 60 consecutive days.

      • If a recreational boat is owned by a U. S. citizen, the owner may (but is not required to), apply to the U. S. Coast Guard and have the vessel documented if it weighs 5 net tons or more. Call the USCG Office of Vessel Documentation at 1-800-799-8362 or the U.S. Coast Guard web site for more information on documentation.

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