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Massachusetts Boating Regulations

The Massachusetts Environmental Police is the primary enforcement agency of the Commonwealth’s boating and recreational vehicle laws and regulations. The Office of Law Enforcement is responsible for registering boats, all terrain vehicles and snowmobiles in Massachusetts. Boating safety enforcement and recreational vehicle enforcement are an every day part of an Environmental Police Officer’s patrol. With an enforcement fleet of over fifty vessels the Environmental Police patrol all waters of the Commonwealth, both Inland and Coastal.

This boater safety handbook is designed to give Massachusetts boaters the information needed to be a safe and responsible boater. You'll also find Massachusetts law information including registration information, registration fees, display of numbers, legal operating age, required equipment, unlawful operation, boating under the influence, reporting accidents, enforcement, environmental restrictions, and laws governing PWC and vessels towing skiers.

Summary of Massachusetts Boating Laws
Summary of Massachusetts Personal Watercraft (PWC) Safety Laws

Alcohol and Drugs

Massachusetts has one of the strongest Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws in the nation. Massachusetts law prohibits anyone from operating any vessel while under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance.

  • Massachusetts law states that a person is considered to be boating under the influence (BUI) if he or she has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater.
  • Massachusetts law establishes the following penalties for BUI:
    • Those convicted for the first time of BUI may be imprisoned for up to 30 months, and fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned and fined. Offenders may also have his or her motor vehicle license and vessel's registration revoked for up to one year.
    • Repeat offenders will receive more severe penalties.
    • Offenders convicted of BUI and causing serious bodily injury to another person may be imprisoned for up to 10 years and fined up to $5,000.
  • By operating a vessel on Massachusetts' waters, you have given “implied” consent to alcohol testing if arrested for boating under the influence. Anyone who refuses to submit to a blood alcohol level test is subject to having their motor vehicle license and vessel's registration revoked for 180 days.
  • It is illegal for the owner or operator of a vessel to knowingly permit it to be operated by someone under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance.

Don't drink and boat!Why drinking and boating can be lethal...

The effect of alcohol is increased by the natural stressors (wind, sun, vibration) placed on your body while boating. Also, the dehydration of your body caused by the natural stressors causes alcohol to be absorbed more quickly into your system.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and affects judgment and slows reaction time. Most people become slightly intoxicated after only one drink.

Just remember this simple rule: Don't drink and boat!

Boat Safe
Boat Sober

The Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) has several Chapters which pertain to boating and marine interests:

The Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) also has several regulations which pertain to boating and marine interests (Regulations have the force and effect of law like statutes):





Massachusetts Harbormasters Association, Inc.