Oregon Boating Laws – What you need to Know

Here’s who needs to take a boating safety course and carry a Boater Education Card:  

  • All boaters who operate a motorboat with over 10 horsepower (hp) and youths: 
  • Must be 12 or older to get a boating education card. 
  • Youths ages 11 and under are not allowed to operate a motorboat. 
  • Youths 12-15 years old operating a motorboat of any size. 
  • They can operate a boat of more than 10 hp if accompanied by a person 16 or older (18 or older for personal watercraft) who has a boating education card. 
  • They can operate a boat of 10 hp or less without an adult.   

A person 16 or older will need a boating education card to operate a powerboat (including a PWC) greater than 10 hp. 

Personal Watercraft 

As a personal watercraft owner, you should become familiar with how to operate your boat and the laws around safe operation. Your personal watercraft is a powerboat. So, you must follow the same operation and equipment laws as other boaters.  

Jet Drive Basics 

The thrust of a jet pump propels a personal watercraft. The pump draws water into the housing ahead of the impeller. The impeller forces the water in a stream out through the nozzle at the back of the personal watercraft. There’s a steerable nozzle at the rear of the pump housing. When you turn the handlebars, the nozzle directs the stream from side to side turning the craft. If the engine is not pushing the jet of water, there will be no thrust to steer the craft. Without throttle, you have no steering and no way to avoid obstacles!  


Personal watercraft are small, fast, maneuverable, and can operate in so many locations. For these reasons, it is important for operators to be familiar with: 

  • boating laws 
  • rules of the road 
  • waterway restrictions, 
  • boating courtesies in mixed-use areas. 

Youth 12-15 may operate a PWC if accompanied by an adult 18 or older who also has a boater education card. 

A person 16 or older will need a boater education card to operate a PWC. 

Even after you’ve completed an approved boater education course, do the following: 

  • You must carry your boater education card (and any accompanying adult). You must also carry the Certificate of Number (registration) for the PWC. 
  • Read the owner’s manual. 
  • Practice starting and stopping the engine. Some personal watercraft are unstable at slow speeds, so practice slow-speed operation. 
  • Beginners should use extreme caution. 
  • Learn the local boat operating rules and the rules of the road before climbing aboard your watercraft. 
  • Move around – avoid “buzzing” around the same location for long periods of time.  
  • If you enjoy sharing the sport with family and friends, make sure they are taught safe operation and carry their boater education card, too. Teaching new riders is the owner’s responsibility.  

Age Restrictions 

It is against the law for anyone under 16 years of age to operate a personal watercraft without being accompanied on the watercraft by someone 18 or older. The 16-year-old must also have a boater education card carried aboard when operating. No person shall rent a personal watercraft to anyone under the age of 18.  

Speed Restrictions 

  • You must slow to 10 MPH when you approach within 100 feet of another motorized boat or a sailboat underway. You are not required to slow if they are approaching you. 
  • Any time you are within 100 feet of anchored vessels or non-motorized craft, you must slow to slow-no-wake. 
  • Except for safe take-offs and landings, you must also operate at slow-no-wake when within 200 feet of a lake, bay or reservoir shoreline. 
  • State law also requires a maximum slow-no-wake speed within 200 feet of a swimmer, surfer, shoreline angler, diving flag or location where people are working at the water level. That limit also applies within 200 feet of a dock, launch ramp, marina or moorage, floating home or boathouse, pier or swim float. 
  • You may not operate a personal watercraft within 200 feet directly behind a water skier, wakeboard, tube or similar towed device. 

Noise Restrictions 

Operators should reduce speed while heading out or returning to shore in order to reduce noise. Some personal watercraft owners have modified their exhaust systems, resulting in increased noise. This annoys fellow boaters, and the increased noise may keep you from hearing horn signals or approaching boats. Citations will be issued when noise exceeds 90dBA on a personal watercraft manufactured before January 1, 1993, 88 dBA on personal watercraft built after January 1, 1993. In addition, personal watercraft must be mechanically muffled. Please operate your craft with consideration for others by avoiding swim areas and shoreline residences. Required and Recommended Equipment Under Oregon law, each person on a personal watercraft must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II or III personal flotation device (PFD). A ski-type PFD is desirable due to its high impact rating. An engine shut-off lanyard, if equipped by the manufacturer, must be attached to the person operating the boat, to their clothing, or to their PFD. 

Other items that you must have onboard include: 

  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher 
  • Lights, if operating at night (sunset to sunrise) 
  • Sound-producing device (horn or whistle, etc.) 
  • Recommended items include protective eyewear, a wetsuit, gloves, and footwear. 

Operating your Personal Watercraft 

Protective gear, common sense, and courtesy will enhance your experience on the water. Tips for operating your personal watercraft: 

  • Check your equipment, fuel level, and weather before starting. 
  • Don’t drink alcohol or ingest other drugs and operate any boat. 
  • Observe all speed limits and no-wake zones. 
  • Watch for hazards, floating and submerged obstructions. 
  • Never operate between a skier and the ski boat; a moving tow line can cut like a knife. The display of an orange flag by boaters indicates a skier or equipment in the water nearby. 
  • Go slowly near shore and operate with caution in rocky areas. 
  • Drive cautiously, especially near swim areas and launch ramps. Watch for traffic and swimmers before making turns. 
  • Avoid sudden course changes in congested waters. 
  • When pulling a skier, there must be seating capacity on the craft for the operator, observer, and skier. 
  • Avoid overexposure to the sun and cold water. 
  • A wetsuit can help protect you from hypothermia, which is a dangerous lowering of the body’s core temperature. Quit before fatigue sets in. 
  • Avoid operating your personal watercraft near big ships. A personal watercraft is very difficult for a ship’s pilot to see. 
  • Never chase or harass wildlife. 

Coastal Water Operation 

Safe boating along the coast requires proper preparation, good boat-handling skills, and knowledge of coastal waters. Stay well away from the beach. Other persons who enjoy the quiet of the ocean and waves don’t enjoy personal watercraft noise. Federal law requires boats operating under certain circumstances to carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved visual distress signals such as flares, strobe light, or a distress flag. Check the U.S. Coast Guard publication Visual Distress Signals for requirements. 

Owner Liability  

Most personal watercraft accidents involve an operator other than the owner. Owners may be held liable if they let someone operate their craft and it is involved in an accident. Be sure that all operators of your craft understand its operation and know the rules of the road. Although liability insurance is not required, it is strongly recommended. Protect yourself!  

Causes of Accidents  

Operator Inattention 

  • Operator inexperience or inattention is the primary cause of accidents involving personal watercraft. The craft can speed up quickly and are very maneuverable. To avoid collisions: 
  • Maintain a proper lookout by watching ahead and to the sides and behind your personal watercraft at all times. 
  • Always look before turning. 
  • Keep a reasonable distance between yourself, other boats, the shoreline, and swimmers. 
  • Become familiar with the safe boating rules 

Alcohol and Other Drugs  

Alcohol is a factor in nearly a third of all motorboat fatalities. It is against the law to operate a boat while under the influence. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment, coordination, and concentration. Sun, wind, and water, increase the effect of alcohol and other drugs. 

Report Required 

Operators involved in boating accidents must provide assistance and exchange information including name, address, and boat registration number. A written report to the Marine Board is required when a person dies, is injured, or property damage exceeds $2,000.  

Unsafe/Reckless Operation 

Oregon law considers maneuvers that endanger people or property as unsafe or reckless operation. Citations carry fines up to $6,250 and/or a penalty of up to one year in jail.  

Reckless operation includes: 

  • Weaving through congested traffic. 
  • Jumping wakes close to the boat that creates them, or in situations when visibility around the boat is obstructed. 
  • Buzzing or spraying others. 
  • Operating near or between a boat being towed and its tow craft. 


Personal watercraft used mainly in Oregon must be titled and registered according to Oregon law. Contact the Marine Board. The Board will issue a Certificate of Number (registration number), a Certificate of Title, and a set of registration stickers. The registration number begins with OR (shown on the certificate.) The Certificate of Number must be available for inspection when the vessel is on the water. Any time the personal watercraft hull is replaced due to damage, a new title must be issued. If the damaged hull is sold, the title for the hull must go to the buyer. Contact the Marine Board for details. 

Display of Numbers and Decals  

Fasten or paint the OR number on each side of the forward half of the boat above the waterline. Numbers must be read from left to right. 

  • Use bold, block letters at least 3″ high in color contrasting to the hull. 
  • Place the validation decal 3 inches aft (toward the back), in line with your registration numbers. 
  • Place your numbers on the most vertical surface above the bumper line for legal visibility.   

Personal Watercraft (PWC) 

The following table lists which rivers and river sections ARE OPEN to personal watercraft use.  All other rivers NOT listed are closed to PWC (OAR 250-021-0040). 
Personal Watercraft open areas on select rivers to operate:  

  • Alsea Downstream from Hatchery Creek (approx. RM 12).  
  • Chetco Below the head of tide.   
  • Clackamas From the river mouth to Clackamette Lake (RM 0.7).  
  • Columbia Entire river.  
  • Coos Below its confluence with the Millicoma River. 
  • Coquille Downstream from the Hwy 42 S bridge at the City of Coquille.  
  • Deschutes Between Heritage Landing boat ramp (RM 0.5) and the Columbia River.  
  • John Day (Sherman/Gilliam County) below Tumwater Falls (RM 10).  
  • Kilchis Downstream from the Parks boat ramp at Hwy 101 bridge. Speed limit.  
  • Miami Downstream from the Hwy 101 bridge. Speed limit.  
  • Millicoma Below Allegany.  
  • Necanicum Entire river, subject to slow-no wake. Speed limit.  
  • N. Fork Nehalem Below Aldervale.  
  • Rogue Between Gold Ray Dam (former site) and the Applegate River; below the mouth of Snout Creek (near Agness) 
  • S. Fork Nehalem From the mouth of Peterson Creek (RM 10.3) to Nehalem River Falls (RM 15.7), closed September 1 through March 30.  
  • Salmon Downstream of RM 3  
  • Siletz Downstream from the Morgan’s Park boat ramp. 
  • Siuslaw Downstream from the Hwy 126 bridge at Mapleton.  
  • Snake Above Hells Canyon Dam.  
  • Trask Downstream from the Hwy 101 bridge. Speed limit.  
  • Umpqua Downstream from Scottsburg Park.  
  • Wilson Downstream from Sollie Smith boat ramp. Speed limit.  
  • Willamette (main stem) Downstream from the Beltline Road overpass at RM 178 in Eugene. (Note: The McKenzie, Molalla, Santiam, Tualatin, Yamhill and all other Willamette tributaries are closed to PWC.) 
  • Yaquina Downstream from the Toledo Airport boat ramp (RM 9). Boating Waterway Regulations 20 – Motors prohibited – Boat speed rest.  

Owners/operators of personal watercraft must: (OAR 250-021-0030)  

  • Wear, and have passengers wear, U.S. Coast Guard-approved, inherently buoyant life jacket approved for the activity.  
  • Attach lanyard-type cutoff switch, if equipped by manufacturer, to person, clothing, or life jacket. 
  • Effectively muffle the sound on the PWC.  
  • Equip PWC with required lights to operate between sunset and sunrise.  
  • Operate PWC in reasonable, prudent manner. Unsafe or reckless maneuvers endangering people/property include weaving through congested boat traffic, jumping wake unreasonably close to another boat, or when its operator’s vision is obstructed, swerving to avoid a collision at the last moment. Allowances made for participants in professional exhibitions and officially sanctioned events.  
  • Operate PWC no closer than 200’ behind water skier or other towed devices.  
  • Not tow a water skier or any floating device with PWC unless another person on the PWC continuously observes the person being towed, and PWC is large enough to carry operator, observer, and person being towed.  
  • Observe slow-no wake: 
    • within 200’ of a swimmer, surfer, diving flag, bank or wading angler; dock, swim float, ramp, pier, marina, floating home, or boathouse; 
    • within 100’ of any anchored or non-motorized vessel; 
    • within 200’ of shoreline on all lakes, reservoirs, and bays, “safe” take-off excepted. 
  • Not operate in excess of 10 MPH when approaching within 100’ of a motorized or sail vessel underway.
  • Not chase, harass or disturb wildlife with PWC. This is strictly prohibited.

Operation of a PWC by persons under the age of 16, unless accompanied by a boater education card-holding person 18 or over on board, or rental to persons under 18 is prohibited. Inflatable PFD’s are not approved for PWC operator use. 

Nonmotorized Boating and Paddling 

Waterway Access Permits are required for boats 10 feet and longer:  
Permits can be purchased through ODFW’s eLicensing system and one and two-year permits through the Marine Board’s Boat Oregon Store.  

Purchasing options are:  

  • One week (valid for 7-consecutive days of your choice) for $7 (includes $2 transaction fee) available only through ODFW)  
  • One calendar year for $17 (plus $1.50 portal provider fee). Permit expires on December 31 of the year purchased) and; 
  • Two calendar years for $30 (plus $1.50 portal provider fee). Permit expires on December 31 of the year after purchase).   

Failure to show the permit is a Class D violation with a $115 fine.  Boat measurement is based on the maximum length of the boat when measured along its longest axis. 

Trip Planning and Preparation 

Prepare for your paddling adventure by doing the following:  

  1. Always wear a properly fitting life jacket and know how to swim in a river current.  
  2. Carry a sound-producing device, like a whistle and other communication devices
  3. Print a Float Plan to leave with family or friends, so they know when you’ll return and call for help if you don’t return when expected. 
  4. Never boat under the influence of alcohol, drugs, marijuana, or inhalants.  
  5. Never paddle on an outgoing tide.  
  6. Never paddle alone. Bring along at least one other boater. When paddling, two boats with two operators each, are recommended. Three boats with two paddlers each are even better. If unfamiliar with the waterway, paddle with someone knowledgeable. Stay in groups and don’t spread out. Think of rivers like a highway, and the main channel is where motorboats are confined to operate.  
  7. Never overload the boat.  Tie down the gear and distribute weight evenly.   
  8. Never overestimate your skill with the conditions. If you’re new to paddling, start out on calm, flat water with minimal wind. Learn self-rescue and reboarding skills, and continually practice.   
  9. Maintain a low center of gravity and three points of contact. Keep your weight balanced over the center of the boat. 
    • Standing up or moving around in a small boat can cause it to capsize –a leading cause of fatalities among paddlers. 
    • Leaning a shoulder over the edge of the boat can also destabilize it enough to capsize. 
  10. Stay alert at all times and be aware of your surroundings, including nearby powerboats.  Be prepared to react when dangerous situations arise.  
  11. Dress properly for the water temperature, not the air temperature and the type of boating. Remember, you’re on the water, so expect to get wet and dress for immersion.  
  12. Check your boat or paddleboard for leaks.  
  13. Map a general route and timetable when embarking on a long trip.  Arrange for your vehicles to be shuttled to the takeout.  
  14. Know the weather conditions before you head out.  While paddling, watch the weather and stay close to shore.  Head for shore if the waves or wind increase. 
  15. Check for reported obstructions or other navigation alerts. 
  16. STAND UP PADDLEBOARDING: There are special considerations for paddleboarders. Paddleboards are defined as boats and therefore, have equipment requirements and safety considerations. 
    • Have a properly-fitted life jacket, sound-producing device such as a whistle, and a Waterway Access Permit if the SUP is 10 feet or longer. 
    • Use a leash to prevent the board from getting away from you. If paddleboarding in swift-moving water (rivers) wear a waist or life jacket attachable leash with a quick-release accessible by both hands. A coiled leash attaching to the ankle is appropriate for flatwater, and a straight leash for the ocean surf zone. 

 See and Be Seen 

 Wear bright, noticeable clothing. 

  • Use reflective tape on your paddle blades. 
  • Keep your whistle handy. 
  • Any boat less than 20 meters should not impede the passage of a larger ship, whether under power or not. 
  • Monitor channels 13 & 16 on your VHF radio. 
  • At night and during restricted visibility, a white light must be shown toward on-coming traffic. 
  • Mark It! The US Coast Guard and local marine patrols treat every unoccupied craft as a rescue mission. 

Towed Watersports Education Program 

Do you want to wakeboard, wake surf, waterski, or tow tubers in the Newberg Pool?  

The “Newberg Pool” is an area of deep water on the Willamette River from the mouth of the Yamhill River at river mile 55 to Willamette Falls at river mile 26.6. This stretch is in Clackamas County. 
Per ORS 830.649, boat operators must: 

  • Complete an online education course
  • Carry a Towed Watersports Education Card  

Boat owners must also: 

  • Apply for Towed Watersports decals and verify the boat meets weight requirements set by the Oregon Legislature in the statute. Decals must be displayed on the bow of the boat. 

This is proof for law enforcement that the boat operator is knowledgeable in towed watersports safety, wave management techniques, and operator responsibilities for accident prevention. 

Life jackets are comfortable, lightweight, and more stylish than old, bulky-orange life jackets. Inflatable life jackets keep the wearer cool and comfortable. The key is to find a life jacket you like and to Wear It! 

Important Reminders & Oregon’s Life Jacket Laws 

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved.  
  • Double-check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite boating activities.  
  • Children should wear the right fitted life jacket for them. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.” Remember snug fit!  
  • Children 12 and under must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when the boat is underway. They do not need to wear one if they are below decks or in an enclosed cabin. Life jackets are mandatory to wear in Class III or higher whitewater rapids.  
  • Life Jacket laws: OAR 250-010-0154  

Life jacket styles are available for any boating activity:

  •  Cruising in an open motorboat: Comfort is key – choose a life jacket you will want to wear. For ages 16 and older, inflatable life jackets are a great option 
  • Hunting and cold weather: Full coats and suits are available in camouflage colors for waterfowl hunting and for those who boat when air and water temperatures are cool.
  • Fishing: Designed with the angler’s needs in mind; vest-style life jackets have features such as pockets and clips to replace the fishing vest and keep the angler safe, while allowing for the needed full range of motion and mobility. 
  • Paddling: Special jackets are designed with large openings for arms to allow ease of movement.
  • Personal watercraft and water sports: Inherently buoyant lighter-weight life jackets are rugged, with multiple buckles and clasps to keep them secure after impact with the water. 
  • Children: Virtually all styles available are sized especially for children – some with cartoon characters or other high-visibility themes, and may include additional safety features such as straps for pulling children from the water. 
  • Pets: Life jackets are even available for our four-legged friends. It is helpful to purchase one with a handle on top to easily pull your pet out of the water, if needed. 

How to Choose the Right Life Jacket 

Today’s life jackets come in various shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. The life jacket you choose, be sure it’s right for YOU, your planned activities, and the water conditions. 

  • Life jackets that are too big will cause the flotation device to push up around your face and can be dangerous. 
  • Life jackets that are too small will not be able to keep your head above the water.  

Try It On 

  • Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight to get started.  
  • Make sure you zip and/or buckle your life jacket.  
  • When you raise your arms straight up, the life jacket should not come more than one inch off your shoulder. Test by grabbing the shoulders and pulling up. If the life jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does NOT fit right. Life jackets should always be snug, but comfortable.  
  • If the life jacket doesn’t fit right, change sizes, or pull the straps to have more of a snug fit.  

Be sure the life jacket you wear is US Coast Guard-approved for the activity you’re doing 

Inflatable Life Jackets   

Inflatable life jackets use compressed air cartridges (CO2) when deployed. The gas fills the life jacket chamber. Inflatables provide 45% more buoyancy when inflated. This causes a person to float higher and be more visible when the life jacket inflates. Always read the owner’s manual for maintenance care, instructions, and manufacturer contact information. 

Inflatable life jackets need routine maintenance and regular testing. Please read the label and follow the instructions for maintenance and testing. If you have an inflatable life jacket, test the inflation mechanism every year. Also, test the manual inflation to know if the bladder holds air. Test it. Deploy your inflatable life jacket in a pool to understand how it fits, feels, and inflates. Try swimming in it. Make sure the harness isn’t too tight. Get comfortable blowing air into and releasing air, using the inflation tube. Know how to fine-tune adjustments for comfort. Inflatable jackets do fail to deploy or show tampering with the inflation mechanism. Remember Regular maintenance! 

IMPORTANT: Not all inflatable life jackets come with a CO2 cartridge. Make sure you arm your inflatable with the correct manufacturer’s CO2 cylinder.  

There are two primary types: 

  • Manual inflation – inflates with the quick jerk of a cord 
  • Automatic – inflates when submerged in water. 

Both types are also inflated by breathing into an inflation tube/mouthpiece. This is a backup method to inflate the life jacket in case the inflation mechanism fails. Use the inflation tube to adjust the comfort of the jacket after its inflated. The inflation tube is also how to DEFLATE the life jacket to repack it. 

Buy re-arming kits through the life jacket manufacturer or at outdoor retail stores. Replace cylinders when expired and if you have inflated the life jacket. If you have an expired cartridge, you can use it to test your life jacket for fit and function! 

Automatic Inflatables: 

An automatic inflatable will go off when the life jacket is, at least, four inches under the water. It’s triggered by a small tablet that dissolves or a pressure gauge that starts the inflation. There is also a manual “jerk to inflate” cord.  

Hybrid Inflatables: 

Intended for certain boating activities. Hybrids have 7.5 lbs. of inherent buoyancy when deflated and inflates up to 22 lbs. Wearing a traditional life jacket, you will also have extra buoyancy when inflated.

Wearable Offshore Use  

Intended for offshore or on rough seas where quick rescue may not be likely. They have greater flotation and are able to turn an unconscious person face up. This type of life jacket is available in two sizes, adult (90 lbs. or more) and child (less than 90 lbs.) 

Wearable Inland Use 

Intended for general boating activities and is suitable for protected areas. These are for activities where quick rescue is available. They are not suitable for extended survival in rougher cold water. It also has less buoyancy and will turn a person that is unconscious into a vertical or face-up position. These life jackets are available in several sizes.  

Wearable General Use/Impact Activities  

 Intended for general boating or specialized activities such as canoeing, waterskiing, or fishing. They are better for protected areas where rough water is unlikely and for a quick rescue. They have moderate buoyancy that keeps a conscious person in an upright position in the water. It is not intended to turn or maintain an unconscious wearer, face-up. They are available in many sizes, styles, and colors, and for varying activities.  

Throwable Device (float cushion) 

You do as the name intends -throw it! Also known as a float cushion, someone on board throws the cushion to a person who has fallen overboard. Intended for the person to grab and hold until rescued. The person should never have the straps around the arms and worn on the back. This will force the person’s face underwater. Instead, the person should put their arms through the straps and hold the cushion to their chest. This will keep their head out of the water and help them swim. A throwable is not suitable for rough or cold-water survival. They are not recommended for non-swimmers or children. 

Wearable Special Use Devices 

 Intended and approved for restricted uses or activities such as:  

  • sailboarding 
  • commercial whitewater rafting 
  • advanced whitewater kayakers 

Read the label for restrictions, limitations that apply and its performance type.  

New Life Jacket Labels 

Newer life jackets on the market will have different Coast Guard labels. The label on the life jacket indicates the restrictions or limitations that apply and its performance type. Be sure to check the label and ensure that the life jacket is approved for the activity for which it is designed. Types I-V (legacy) life jackets are still approved and accepted for carriage requirements.  

New life jacket labels 

Statewide and Local Regulations – Boat Numbering  

All Motorboats and Sailboats 12′ and Longer 
Operators must carry a valid boat registration card (Certificate of Number) on Board. The boat registration number (e.g. OR 123 ABC) and registration stickers belong on the right and left sides of the front of the boat.   

Mooring Requirement 
Current registration is required on all motorboats and sailboats 12′ and longer on Oregon’s waterways (OAR 830-700, OAR 250-010-0051).  


Responsibilities of a boat operator at an accident scene: (ORS 830.475, 830.480, OAR 250-010-0110) 

  • Anyone involved in a boat accident must give the name, address, other required information, and aid to the injured person(s), including transportation to a hospital if the treatment appears necessary or is requested by the injured person(s).  
  • Leaving a boat accident scene before performing the duties of a boat operator is a Class C felony punishable by five years in jail and/or a $100,000 fine.  
  • Boat operators involved in an accident resulting in death, injury or property damage exceeding $2000 must report the accident to the State Marine Board on a Marine Board Accident Report Form 
  • within 48 hours of an accident resulting in death or injury 
  • within 10 days of accident causing property/equipment damage only. 

Occupants are responsible for making an accident report when the operator is physically incapable of doing so. 

Marine Patrols 

A boat approaching or being approached by a marine law enforcement vessel with a flashing blue light or siren must immediately slow and alter its course so as not to interfere with the operation of the law enforcement vessel (OAR 250-011-0005(6)).  A peace officer may ask to stop any boat and direct it to a suitable pier or anchorage for boarding. No person shall knowingly flee or attempt to elude any law enforcement officer after having received a signal from a law enforcement officer to bring the boat to a stop. (ORS 830.035). 


Operators must know the following rules governing boat operation: 

Unsafe operation (ORS 830.305) 

Unsafe operation is operating a boat in a manner that endangers or would likely endanger a person or property. Example of violation: Your boat wake causes a canoe to nearly capsize. 

Reckless Operation (ORS 830.315(1)) 

It is a crime to operate a boat carelessly in willful disregard of others. Example of violation: Pulling a skier through an area where swimmers are present in spite of the boat exclusion buoys. 

Reckless Operation-Speed (ORS 830.315(2))  

A violation occurs if, due to a boat’s speed, it cannot be stopped by reasonable means in the clear distance ahead. Example of violation: Your boat runs over, or into, an object because you are traveling too fast to stop in time. 

Maintaining a proper lookout. (ORS 830.335)  

The operator of a boat shall keep a proper lookout at all times while underway. Example of violation: Pulling and watching the skier, not the water ahead.  

Overloading a boat beyond safe carrying capacity is prohibited (ORS 830.355, OAR 250-010-0085)  

If your boat has a capacity plate, follow that recommendation for capacity; otherwise, use the formula on page 9. State law conforms to federal law requiring capacity plates on vessels.  

Basic proximity rule for Slow –No Wake (OAR 250-010-0025)  

Operators of boats must observe Slow -No Wake, within 200’ of a boat ramp, marina or moorage with a capacity for six or more vessels; a floating home moorage with six or more structures; or people working at water level. The operator may be liable for damage caused by the wake. This rule does not apply to commercial vessels or river navigation when more speed is needed to ensure safe passage. 

Dockside Rental Safety Checklist (OAR 250-018-0060)    

All persons operating a rented watercraft greater than 10 hp must carry a signed copy of the “Watercraft Rental Safety Checklist” unless they are carrying a boater education card. All other provisions of the Mandatory Boater Education Program apply, including minimum operator ages and supervision of youth.   

Riding on bows, decks, gunwales or transoms of a motorboat (ORS 830.360, OAR 830.362) 

  • Riding on bow, transom or gunwale railings while underway is prohibited.  No person operating a motorboat shall allow any person to ride or sit on the deck over the bow of the boat while underway unless the motorboat is provided with adequate guards or railing.  No person operating a motorboat shall allow a person to ride or sit on the starboard or port gunwales or on the transom of the boat while underway at a speed in excess of 5 MPH unless the motorboat is provided with adequate guards or railings.  
  • Standing on decking over the bow is allowed for mooring or casting off.  This also applies to a boat rigged and equipped as a sailboat when operating under sail power. [Formerly 488.140]. 

Prohibited actions when water skiing or using other towed devices (ORS 830.365)  

  • Reckless, negligent riding of towed devices endangering persons or property.  
  • Water skiing or towing devices from sunset to sunrise.  
  • Operation of towing boat or other devices that may lead to potential collision of water skier with a person or object.  
  • Water skiing while under the influence of intoxicants.  
  • Towing skier (including on a PWC) without continuous observation of skier by an observer.  
  • Operating without a “skier down” flag. 

Operation of a boat, including non-motorized boats, while under the influence of intoxicants is prohibited on all waterways. (ORS 830.325)    

Boaters should be aware that:  

  • by operating a boat, you have consented to submit to field sobriety tests;  
  • a blood alcohol level of .08 or more is considered “under the influence”;  
  • bail schedules for the alleged offense range from $3,500 to $6,250;  
  • operating under the influence is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, a boater faces a maximum penalty of $6,250 and/or 1 year in jail;  
  • a conviction for Boating Under the Influence is equivalent and counts toward any of first three arrests for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants.  
  • upon conviction, offending operators have all boat registrations in their name suspended for up to 3 years, are not allowed to operate a boat for 1 year, and are required to complete a boating safety course;  
  • a person who knowingly operates a boat in violation of a court order for a conviction of ORS 830.325 commits a Class A misdemeanor.  

Especially Hazardous Condition (ORS 830.380, 830.383) 

Peace officers observing a boat being operated on Oregon waters in an especially hazardous condition may order the operator to move to the nearest safe moorage and remain there until the condition is remedied.  An especially hazardous condition is: 

  • Improper or insufficient personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers, backfire arresting devices on carburetors, or navigation lights between sunset and sunrise.   
  • Overloading.  
  • Overpowering.  
  • Leakage of fuel from the boat engine, fuel system or fuel in the bilge. 

For Additional Information  

Oregon State Marine Board 
435 Commercial St. NE., Ste 400 
Salem, OR 97301 

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