Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Personal Watercraft

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Often considered the motorcycles of the water, personal watercraft are fast and fun to drive. While considered motorized vessels in New York, there are some special regulations surrounding personal watercraft use.

  • All operators, regardless of age, must have a boating safety certificate on their person.
  • Operation of personal watercraft after dusk and before dawn is prohibited.
  • Minimum age for operation of a personal watercraft is 14 years of age.

Restricted Operation

Some municipalities prohibit use of personal watercraft. Many municipalities have additional operating restrictions on personal watercraft use including operating hours and distance from shore.


Lifejacket wear is always required for all operators and passengers of personal watercraft, regardless of age. Your lifejacket must be:

  • US Coast Guard approved
  • Free of fading, rips or tears
  • The proper size for the intended wearer
  • Intended for personal watercraft use - check the label. Most inflatable lifejackets are not approved for use on personal watercraft.
PWC Lifejacket

Required Safety Equipment

Personal watercraft have different equipment requirements than other types of motorized boats. In addition to wearing your lifejacket, you must carry:

  • a sound signaling device, such as a whistle
  • a daytime distress signal, such as a 3' x 3' orange flag
  • an engine cutoff switch, with the safety lanyard attached to your person
PWC Equipment

Specialty Craft

You may encounter some new and unusual types of specialty watercraft, such as motorized surfboards and paddleboards, personal submarines, Jetpaks™, Jetlevs™, Flyboards™, and Jetovators. These are powered by waterjet propulsion, so are subject to the same regulations as personal watercraft.

Planning Your Trip

Before you pack your bags and head out to sea, be certain to share your plans with a reliable and trusted person who will remain on land. The details of your voyage are often referred to as a a float plan.

In your float plan, include where you are planning to go, who is going on the trip, vessel information, when you plan to depart and return, and who to contact in an emergency. Be sure your emergency contact knows where to find the details of your float plan. If you do not return when anticipated, your reliable, land loving person can notify emergency personnel.

A float plan can be as simple as a text message or more complex for extended trips. Consider using a template, such as this oneLeaving New York State Parks, to make sure all the important information is recorded.

You can search for a boat launch site at

You can also download the FREE Parks Explorer App to find information about State Parks with marinas and boat launches

Boating Accidents

You can prevent many accidents if you communicate with your passengers. Before you allow passengers on your boat, explain your rules. Before you cast off, show them where you keep your safety equipment, and make sure they know how to use it. Find out if any of your passengers have any knowledge of first aid procedures. Well informed and well-behaved passengers help ensure a safe voyage. Most accidents can be prevented by following good boating safety practices.

If you are involved in a boating accident, you are required to report it to New York State Parks within 5 days if the accident resulted in:

  • An injury that required medical care beyond basic first aid
  • Death or disappearance of a person
  • Damage to any one party in excess of $1,000