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Marine Safety

Sheriff Rick Fuller would like to remind all who enjoy the wonderful resource of water in  Kalamazoo County when recreating to be safe and mindful of others by adhering to Boating Laws. Marine Safety Officers are on the lookout for dangerous, careless and reckless operation of boats including personal watercraft. 

Common examples of unlawful operation:

  • Weaving your vessel through congested waterway traffic or swerving at the last moment to avoid a collision.
  • Jumping the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to another vessel.
  • Chasing, harassing or disturbing wildlife with your vessel.


  • Failure to operate in a COUNTERCLOCKWISE DIRECTION except in areas marked by well-defined channels or rivers.


  • Unlawful to endanger life or property by operating at a speed that would not permit your vessel to come to a safe stop.
  • Speed must be reasonable and prudent under the conditions ie: weather, vessel traffic etc.
  • SLOW NO WAKE speed means the slowest speed at which it is still possible to maintainsteering and which does not create a wake.


  • PWCs may not cross within 150 feet behind another vessel, other than another PWC, unless at slow, no wake speed. 


  • Stay out of areas marked by buoys, beacons, diver down flags, swim areas.


  • While underway, persons on a vessel may not sit, stand or walk on any portion of a vessel not designed for that purpose.
  • Bow riding is illegal if the vessel is not equipped with bow seating and the vessel is operating at greater than slow, no wake speed.


  • Operating a vessel that is not carrying, storing, maintaining, and using marine safety equipment on board theVessel as required by law. 


  •  If operating and/or towing a person at greater than slow, no wake speed, the operator must stay at least 100’ away from
    • a dock or raft,
    • marked swimming areas
    • swimmers in water
    • any moored or anchored vessel
    • a shoreline if operating in water less than three feet deep.


  • Michigan law prohibits anyone from boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Alcohol and drugs affect judgment and vision, and increase likelihood of an accident by 50%.


Top 10 Tips from the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office for a safe boating season:

Wear your life jackets

If you don’t wear one, it won’t work!  
It must be the correct size to fit the occupant.  
Check for rot or other damage that may affect flotation.


Don’t drink and boat

More than 50% of boating fatalities are alcohol related.


Operate at a safe speed

Excessive speed is another leading cause of death and injury in accidents.


Learn boating rules and laws

Take a boaters safety course.
Know the rules of waterway.


Boat maintenance & required equipment

Use a pre-departure checklist

Check for the presence of required equipment for safe boating and your vessel.

Be familiar with your equipment before an emergency

Regularly check the condition of your boat, engine, and equipment and repair as needed


Learn to swim / Know your limitations.


Be weather wise

Be observant to sudden weather changes and take all necessary precautions.


Use common sense

Don’t take chances,

Stay alert

Operate defensively; you may know the rules but another may not.


Emergency plan

If you’re the skipper and you suddenly become incapacitated, will one of your passengers know what to do?

Prepare for the unexpected now, while you have time. This could save lives. Show them what to do.


Safe boating is no accident!

Kalamazoo County
Sheriff's Office
1500 Lamont
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
(269) 383-8821

    Richard C Fuller
    Paul G Matyas


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