Diamond Lake Area
Recreational Association
Atwater, Minnesota
Lifejacket, Personal Watercraft  & Swimming Area Laws
by Sheriff Dan Hartog
published in the Diamond Lake News Memorial Day 2006 Edition
MN Buffer Law

Link to presentation of MN Buffer Law

Lifejacket Laws

Just a reminder on lifejackets and a law that went into effect last year.  No person may operate a watercraft underway if a child under 10 years of age is aboard, unless the child is wearing an appropriate personal flotation device or is below the top deck or an enclosed cabin.  This also does not apply if it is a commercial watercraft where the child is a passenger and the operator is licensed by the State of Minnesota or the United States Coast Guard to carry passengers for hire.  It also does not apply if the watercraft is anchored for the purpose of swimming or diving.  The key words to this law concerning the lifejacket required for children less than 10 years of ages is that if the watercraft is underway.

Personal Watercraft Laws

In summary, the law requires that:

Anyone operating or riding on a personal watercraft must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III or V personal floatation device (PFD or life jacket).

Personal watercraft must travel at slow – no wake speed (5 mph or less) within 150 feet of non-motorized boats, shore (unless launching or landing skiers directly to or from open water), docks, swim rafts, swimmers, or any moored or anchored boat.

Operation of personal watercraft is allowed only from 9:30 a.m. to one hour before sunset.

If you tow a person on water skis, or any other device, there must be an additional person onboard the personal watercraft to act as an observer (the observer does not have to be facing backward).  The skier/kneeboarder etc. must also be wearing a PFD or there must be one onboard the personal watercraft for the skier.

Factory installed or factory specified wide-field rearview mirrors are allowed instead of an observer when pulling a skier or other device (tube, kneeboard, etc.).  The mirrors must be specified by the personal watercraft manufacturer.  After-market mirrors, stick-on mirrors, motorcycle mirrors etc. do no qualify for the observer exemption.

If the machine is equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard-type engine cutoff switch, it must be attached to the person, life jacket or clothing of the operator when underway.

You may not operate a personal watercraft if any part of the spring-loaded throttle system has been removed or tampered with so it interferes with the return-to-idle system.

You must not chase or harass wildlife.

You may not travel through emergent or floating vegetation at greater than slow – no wake speed.

You may not operate a personal watercraft in a manner that unreasonably or unnecessarily endangers life, limb or property.

You may not weave through congested watercraft traffic, or jump the wake of another watercraft within 150 feet of the other watercraft.  This includes other personal watercraft.

A personal watercraft rules decal issued by the DNR needs to be on the craft in full view of the operator.

You may not operate a personal watercraft while facing backward.

It is unlawful for the owner of the personal watercraft to permit its operation in violation of the age restrictions.

If you have any questions regarding any water safety laws or rules, please feel free to contact the Sheriff’s Office and we will assist you with answering any questions.

Personal Watercraft Operator Age Restrictions (*except motorboats)

Operator Age:
Less than 13 years of age
Personal Watercraft (PWC, Jet Skis, etc.) regardless of horsepower
Cannot operate, even with adult onboard

Operator Age:
13 years of age
Must either have:
Someone at least 21 onboard, or
A watercraft operator’s permit and be in visual supervision by someone at least 21

Operator Age:
14 – 17 years of age
Must either have:
A watercraft Operator’s permit or
Have someone at least 21 onboard.

Swimming Area Laws

If you plan on putting out a swimming area, please make sure the area does not interfere with the watercraft traffic.  If you do have any questions about where to put your swimming area, please feel free to contact the Sheriff’s Office.