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Maine Boating Laws
Practice Safe Boating on Maine Waters


All of the following laws and regulations have either been passed by the Maine legislature or adopted by the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. The following rules/laws are intended to be used only as a guide for boating, and in some cases, the laws and rules have been summarized. For more detailed information on any of the laws/rules contact the Department office In Augusta.


Bow (Fore) - "Bow" means the forward half of the watercraft.

Airmobile - "Airmobile" means any vehicle propelled by mechanical power that is designed to travel upon a cushion of air on or within 2 feet of the water or land surface of the earth.

Federal waters - "Federal waters" means all the waters not internal and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

Internal Waters - "Internal waters" means waters under the exclusive jurisdiction of the State of Maine.

Motorboat - "Motorboat means any watercraft, including airfoils, equipped with propulsion machinery of any type, whether or not the machinery is the principal source of propulsion, is permanently or temporarily attached or is available for propulsion on the watercraft.

Operate - "Operate", in all its moods and tenses' when it refers to watercraft of any type or description, means to use that watercraft in any manner on the waters specified, whether or not the watercraft is under way. The operator" means the person who is in control or in charge of a watercraft while it is in use.

Personal watercraft - "Personal watercraft" means any motorized watercraft that is less than 13 feet in hull length as manufactured, is capable of exceeding a speed of 20 miles per hour and has the capacity to carry not more than the operator and one other person while in operation. The term includes, but is not limited to, a jet ski, wet bike, surf jet, miniature speedboat and hovercraft. Personal watercraft also includes motorized watercraft whose operation is controlled by a water skier.

Point - "Point" means eleven and one-quarter degrees of arc.

Stern (Aft) - "Stern" means the rear half of the watercraft, vessel or boat as contrasted to the bow which is the forward half of the boat.

Watercraft - "Watercraft" means any type of vessel, boat or craft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water other than a seaplane.

Waters of this State - "Waters of this State" means all internal waters and all federal waters within the jurisdiction of this State.

Water safety zone - "Water safety zone" means the area of water within 200 feet of any shoreline, whether the shoreline of the mainland or of an island.


No person may operate a watercraft at a speed greater than headway speed while within the water safety zone or within a marina or an approved anchorage in coastal or inland waters except while actively fishing. For the purposes of this section, "headway speed" means the minimum speed necessary to maintain steerage and control of the watercraft while the watercraft is moving.

The operator of any watercraft must operate at a reasonable and prudent speed for existing conditions and regulate the speed of a watercraft so as to avoid danger, injury or unnecessary inconvenience in any manner to other watercraft and their occupants, whether anchored or under way. The operator must consider the effect of the wash or wave created by their watercraft to waterfront piers, floats or other property or shorelines.


Any person who operates or attempts to operate any watercraft while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs or a combination of liquor and drugs; or while having 0.08% or more by weight of alcohol in that person's blood is guilty of a criminal violation.

The operator of any watercraft must complete a blood-alcohol test when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe that the person operated or attempted to operate a watercraft while under the influence of intoxicating liquor; or when the person was the operator of a watercraft involved in a watercraft accident which results in the death of any person.


It is illegal to operate any watercraft, water ski, surfboard or similar device in such away as to recklessly create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person.


It is unlawful for the owner of a watercraft to negligently permit another person to operate the watercraft in violation of law.


A person is guilty of operating a watercraft to endanger if he operates any watercraft, water ski, surfboard or similar device so as to endanger any person or property.


A motorboat cannot be operated in an area marked or buoyed for swimming.


As the operator of a watercraft you are required by law to file a formal, written report of any collision, accident or other casualty or damage to any watercraft or other property of more than $300, by the quickest means of communication, to the nearest available law enforcement officer:

Within 24 hours of the occurrence if a person dies, disappears, loses consciousness, receives medical treatment, or is disabled for more than 24 hours,

Within 5 days of the occurrence if the accident involved property damage only.

Boating accidents include:

  • Capsizing
  • Collision
  • Disappearance
  • Explosion
  • Falls Overboard
  • Fire
  • Flooding
  • Grounding
  • Sinking
  • Struck by Boat/Prop (other than theft)
  • Swamping

The operator of a watercraft which is involved in a collision, accident or other casualty must render all necessary aid and assistance to all persons involved, so far as can be done without serious danger to his/her watercraft, crew and passengers, if any, as well as give their name, address and watercraft identification to any person injured and to the owner of any property damaged.

Other Boating Links

Registration Information - All motorboats of any size, including airmobiles and personal watercraft, must be registered in Maine to be used on the waters of this State, except the following….

Motor Size Restrictions On Internal Waters - The Commissioner of Inland Fisheries & wildlife may adopt and amend rules governing the horsepower (manufacturer's rated horse-power of the machinery; includes the aggregate of all such propellant machinery) of motors used to propel watercraft on all internal waters of this State.

Navigational Requirements - These requirements cover all navigational requirements for all waters in the State of Maine.

Personal Watercraft Requirements - •Any person under 16 years of age may not operate a personal watercraft which includes jet-skis. •A person between 16 & 18 years of age may operate a personal watecraft if they have successfully completed an approved education course, or if they are accompanied by a person 18 years of age or older. Proof of age and course completion must be possessed while operating a personal watercraft. •Anyone operating or riding on a personal watercraft must wear a Type I, II or III PFD. •The parent or guardian of a minor under 18 years of age is responsible for the minor’s actions while operating a personal watercraft. •Personal watercraft may not be operated during the hours between sunset and sunrise.

Liability Laws - No person may throw, drop, deposit, discard or otherwise dispose of litter in any manner or amount: in or on any public highway, road, street, alley, public right-of-way or other public lands, except in containers, receptacles, or on property that is designated for disposal of garbage and refuse; or in any fresh water lake, river, stream, tidal or coastal water or on ice over the water. When any litter is thrown or discarded from a watercraft both the operator of the watercraft, unless it is a watercraft being used for the carriage of passengers for hire, and the person actually disposing of the litter are in violation of this section. This subsection does not prohibit persons who fish, lobster or otherwise harvest from the water from returning to the water harvested products, bait and similar materials that naturally originate in the water.


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