Massachusetts Jet Ski Laws: A Simple Cheat Sheet With All the Details


Jet skis are a great way to spend time on the water in the summertime and create some memorable times with family and friends. In order to have a great time, you will need to know the laws for riding a jet ski according to the state you reside in. Rules and regulations can vary from state to state and it is a need-to-know in order to be able to enjoy your time on the water.

Anyone 16 or 17 years old can use a PWC in the state of Massachusetts as long as they took and passed the Boating Education Course that is state-approved. Once you pass the course you will obtain the Boating Safety Certificate and you are required to bring that along with you while operating a PWC.

It is important to be aware of the following regulations and laws for riding a jet ski on the water within the state of Massachusetts. By doing so you are responsibly following the law and that will guarantee you have an adventurous and stress-free time on your jet ski with family and friends.

Registering Your PWC or Vessel

Massachusetts Registration Fees

To title and register your boat, PWC, or any other water vessel you must pay the following if it falls under either of the measurement requirements:

  • Less than 16 feet: $44.00
  • 16 feet to less than 26 feet: $66.00

Numbers and Stickers

Once you receive your registration number and the validation stickers you must display these items in the following ways:

  • There cannot be any other numbers shown on the bow of the vessel.
  • Each number should be painted, applied onto your vessel as a decal, or place to be shown on both sides of the bow.
  • The numbers must be read from left to right on both sides.
  • The letters have to separate from the numbers with a hyphen or space.
  • The color of your numbers must also be in contrast to the color of your vessel.
  • Each number must be in block letters and three inches high.

Hull Identification Number

A hull Identification number is a 12-digit number that is assigned by the manufacturer to the vessel built after the year 1972. HIN helps be able to determine the difference between other vessels and identify the owner as well.

In case your vessel is stolen you should write down your HIN and place it somewhere safe and secure.

The Basics

Negligent and Reckless Operation of a Vessel

Reckless Operation

Recklessly operating and being negligent of the rules for operating a vessel or PWC is putting yourself and others in danger. The following are examples of negligent and reckless operation of a PWC:

  • Encircling people that are participating in water activities. Unless you are retrieving someone who is downed in the water. Do not operate a PWC around:
    • Anyone who is swimming nearby
    • Unsafely approaching or passing a dock, ramp, a moored or anchored or even a swimming area that is marked, is illegal.
    • Any other PWC or vessel.
    • Anyone who is on a PWC or vessel that is fishing, water skiing, or engaging in a water activity.

Improper Speed or Distance

  • Failing to go at a reasonable speed and even going faster than the speed recommended, especially during vessel traffic, poor weather conditions, and closeness to shore can result in injuries.

To be more specific, here are some actions that are considered to be illegal in the state of Massachusetts:

  • Going at a speed that can be harmful to your vessel.
  • Operating your PWC within 20 feet of another person who is fishing (without gaining their permission first)
  • Going faster than the speed limit posted near the body of water you are operating on.
  • Roaming around a swimming area (within 20 feet) and it is marked with red and yellow buoys.
  • Being within 20 feet of the outer boundary area that is marked by signs and buoys of it being a restricted area.
  • Operating at a greater speed than “Slow, no wake speed” that is posted in a “no wake” zone.
  • Operating your vessel at extreme speeds in the close vicinity of another vessel, PWCs or dangerous waters.

Alcohol and Drugs

In the state of Massachusetts you are considered to be boating under the influence if your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or greater.

The following penalties are enforced for violating the law. When you are convicted for the first time for BUI you can be jailed for up to 30 months and receive a fine up to $1,000. You will also have your registration removed for up to one year.

If you continue you break this law the penalties will increase and become more severe.

PWC Rules and Regulations

  • Each person on board your PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved type 1, 2, or 3 personal flotation devices.
  • You cannot remove any backfire flame arrestor or ventilators if it installed by your manufacturer.
  • You must have a whistle or horn (for emergency use) on board your PWC that is also U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • The safety ignition switch must be fully functional and have a lanyard attached to it to ensure it does not get lost or misplaced.
  • It is illegal to operate your PWC between sunset and sunrise. This is because it can be especially difficult to see during those late hours of the day.
  • Reckless operation of a PWC is not allowed. Examples of this are:
    • Jumping a wake too close to another vessel
    • Weaving through vessel traffic carelessly
    • Swerving last minute to avoid collision with another vessel
    • Carrying more passengers on your PWC than is recommended
    • If you maneuver your PWC in a way that it causes harm to you or your passengers
  • You cannot operate a PWC within 500 feet of a designated swimming area.

Required Equipment

Personal Flotation Devices

TYPE 1TYPE 2TYPE 3TYPE 4TYPE 5
Offshore Life JacketsNear-Shore VestsFlotation AidsThrowable DevicesSpecial-Use Devices
This vest can turn an unconscious person in the water to face up in the water. It was made for rough waters and for situations where rescue might take a long time This vest is fit for calmer waters and faster rescues. If you were to wear this whole unconscious it may not be able to turn your face up in the water. This vest can also be a full-sleeved jacket and it is great for calm waters and fast rescues. This will definitely not turn you face in rough waters. This is generally worn for water sports.This type of flotation device is a cushion or ring buoys and are typically used to throw at someone in trouble. They are not made to last for long hours in the waters, or non-swimmers, or the unconscious. This type of flotation device was made for activities like kayaking, water-skiing. These typically look like white water vests, deck suits, and personal flotation device hybrids.

Requirements for PFDs

  • A Type 4 personal flotation device that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard must be on board a vessel that is 16 feet or longer and it must also be easily accessible for emergency use.
  • Vessels have to have 1 of the 5 personal flotation devices on board and they must also be an appropriate size for almost anyone to wear.
  • Anyone that is on board a PWC or vessel (no matter their age) must wear a personal flotation device to keep them safe.

Fire Extinguishers

You can classify your fire extinguishers by letter and number symbol. The number helps you decipher the size of the extinguishers, and the letter indicates the type of fire that is extinguisher can be used for as well.

Type A FiresThese types of fire are combustible solids such as wood
Type B FiresThese types of fires are flammable liquids like gasoline or oil
Type C FiresThis type of fire is mainly electrical fires

These fire extinguishers must stay in a usable condition. You need to regularly check up on the extinguishers to ensure they are in the best condition:

  • There is no physical damage, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzle
  • Pressure gauges or indicators read in the operable range
  • Seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing

What To Do in an Accident

In the event of an accident you must do the following:

  • Stop the vessel or PWC you are on immediately.
  • Assist those who are injured or in danger, unless it puts you or others in danger.
  • You will need to give, in writing, the name of the injured, their address, and the vessel identification to the person injured and the owner of the property that was damaged.

Any accidents that occur must be reported on a Boating Accident Report form that you can obtain through the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Law Enforcement

In the state of Massachusetts, all conservation officers and peace officers can and will enforce the law.

  • They also have the authority to stop your PWC or vessel to be able to determine whether you are following the state and federal laws.
  • If you refuse to follow the direction of a law enforcement officer, know that it is illegal.
  • Anyone who received a visible signal from a law enforcement officer must stop their PWC.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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