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PA Boating Handbook
CHAPTER 2 - LEGAL REQUIREMENTS
Boat Operation Requirements

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to...

  • Operate a watercraft in a reckless, negligent or dangerous manner. Boats must be operated at a rate of speed that does not endanger the life or property of any person.
  • Operate a boat at greater than slow, no-wake speed within 100 feet of the shoreline, docks, launch ramps, swimmers or downed skiers, persons wading in the water, anchored, moored or drifting boats and floats. Slow, no-wake speed is the slowest possible speed of a motorboat required to maintain maneuverability so that the wake or wash created by the motorboat on the surface is minimal. (The slow, no-wake zone for wake surfing activity is 200 feet. See Water-skiing & Similar Activities.section.)
  • Operate a motorboat less than 20 feet in length at greater than slow no-wake while a person is standing on or in the boat.
  • Operate a motorboat at greater than slow, no-wake speed with a person riding outside of the passenger carrying area or while a person is riding on the bow decking, gunwales, transom or motor covers.
  • Cause a boat to become airborne or to leave the water completely while crossing another boat’s wake when within 100 feet of the boat creating the wake.
  • Weave through congested traffic.
  • Operate faster than slow, no-wake when within 100 feet to the rear or 50 feet to the side of another boat that is underway, unless in a narrow channel.
  • Operate within 100 feet of anyone towed behind another boat.
  • Operate a pontoon boat while a person is riding outside the passenger-carrying area.
  • Operate a motorboat with anyone sitting, riding or hanging on a swim platform or swim ladder attached to the boat.

Many waterways in Pennsylvania have special regulations such as electric only or horsepower restrictions.

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