Rules and Regulations

3311. Operation of vessels; prohibited acts.

  • (a) Careless and negligent operation. A person shall not operate any vessel or manipulate any water skis, surfboard, or similar device in a careless or negligent manner or in any manner to endanger or jeopardize the safety, life or property of another person.
  • (b) Permitting use by intoxicated person. The owner or person in charge or in control of a vessel shall not knowingly authorize or knowingly permit it to be propelled or operated by any person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic drugs or barbituates.
  • (c) Distance requirements.
    • (1) A person shall not operate any vessel, except a sailboard or a police or emergency vessel, within 200 feet of the shoreline, a person in the water, a canoe, rowboat or other vessel, an anchored or moored vessel containing any person, or anchorages or docks, except at a speed of less than five miles per hour which does not create a wake.
    • (2) Divers. A person shall not operate any vessel, except a nonmotorized canoe, a nonmotorized rowboat or a police or emergency vessel, within 200 feet of a divers-down flag.
    • (3) Nothing herein shall prohibit rendering assistance to another person, picking up a person in the water, necessary mooring or landing, or leaving shore, or operating in any other place where obstruction, other than the shoreline, would prevent abiding by this statute.
    • (4) A person shall not operate a vessel, except at speeds of less than five miles per hour, within 200 feet of a designated swimming area.
  • (d) Underwater historic preserve area. A vessel shall not be operated in an "underwater historic preserve area" except as provided in this subsection. These areas are historic and archaeological sites located on the bottomlands of the waters of the state and are designated as public recreational areas. The division for historic preservation may designate underwater historic preserve areas and they shall be identified by a floating special purpose yellow buoy marked "State of Vermont Underwater Historic Preserve." The following requirements shall govern the operation of vessels at the preserves:
    • (1) a vessel may secure to a yellow buoy only when diving at the preserve;
    • (2) only vessels 35 feet in length or less, and only those engaged in diving, may secure to a buoy;
    • (3) a divers-down flag shall be displayed whenever a vessel is secured to a buoy;
    • (4) on sites with multiple buoys, one vessel may be secured to each buoy;
    • (5) when a vessel is secured to the buoy, all other vessels shall remain at least 200 feet from the buoy; and
    • (6) anchoring is not permitted within 200 feet of the buoy.
  • (e) Overloaded vessel. A vessel shall not be loaded with passengers or cargo beyond its safe carrying capacity taking into consideration weather and other existing operating conditions.
  • (f) Attempting to elude a law enforcement officer. An operator of any vessel shall bring his or her vessel to a stop and not attempt to elude a law enforcement officer when signaled to do so by the officer wearing insignia identifying him or her as such or operating a law enforcement vessel sounding a siren and displaying a flashing blue or blue and white signal lamp. The officer may board the vessel.
  • (g) Residential vessels prohibited on certain waters. The use of vessels for residential purposes is prohibited on all lakes and ponds which are located wholly within Vermont and on which there are no boat sanitary waste pumpout facilities approved by the department of environmental conservation. For purposes of this subsection, "residential purposes" includes but is not limited to sleeping overnight on a vessel. Vessels operated by agencies, entities, authorities or instrumentalities of the state, including the state colleges and the University of Vermont, shall comply with this subsection, except when law enforcement, an emergency or the performance of official duties requires otherwise.
3312a. Operation of personal watercraft.
  • (a) A person under the age of 16 shall not operate a personal watercraft.
  • (b) All persons operating or riding on a personal watercraft shall wear a Type I, II or III United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation device.
  • (c) Personal watercraft shall not be operated at any time during the hours between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.
  • (d) Every person operating a personal watercraft equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard type engine cut-off switch shall attach the lanyard to his or her wrist, clothing, or personal flotation device as appropriate for the specific craft.
3315. Water skis and surfboards.
  • (a) A person shall not operate a vessel on any waters of this state for towing a person or persons on water skis, aquaplane, kite skis, surfboard or similar device unless the person being towed is wearing a United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation device and unless there is in the vessel a person who is at least 12 years old, in addition to the operator, in a position to observe the progress of the person or persons being towed. Persons engaged in barefoot water skiing may elect at their own risk to wear a non-Coast Guard approved barefoot wetsuit designed specifically for this activity.
  • (b) The provisions of subsection (a) of this section do not apply to a performer engaged in a professional exhibition nor to a person engaged in an activity authorized under section 3316 of this title.
  • (c) A person shall not operate or manipulate any vessel, tow rope or other device by which the direction or location of water skis, a surfboard, or similar device may be affected or controlled in such a way as to cause the water skis, surfboard, or similar device, or any person thereon to approach within 100 feet of a person swimming, or a canoe, rowboat, or other light craft conveying any person. This subsection does not prohibit necessary mooring or landing, or leaving shore.
  • (d) The commissioner may designate areas less than 200 feet from the shoreline of a body of water, other than a river, to allow for the operation of a motorboat used for the purpose of towing a person or persons on water skis, aquaplane, kite skis, surfboard or similar device. The commissioner shall adopt rules to establish criteria governing the designation of such areas and conditions which may be placed on the designated areas. The commissioner may consider safety, potential environmental damage, the impact on adjacent areas and uses and any other related concerns.
3323. Operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs; B.W.I.
  • (a) A person shall not operate, attempt to operate or be in actual physical control of a vessel on the waters of this state while:
    • (1) there is 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in his or her blood, as shown by analysis of his or her breath or blood; or
    • (2) under the influence of intoxicating liquor; or
    • (3) under the influence of any other drug or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug to a degree which renders the person incapable of operating safely.
  • (b) For purposes of this section, "intoxicating liquor" includes "alcohol," "malt beverages," "spirituous liquors" and "vinous beverages" as defined in section 2 of Title 7, and any beverage or liquid containing any of the foregoing.
  • (c) A person who is a habitual user of or under the influence of any narcotic drug or who is under the influence of any other drug, substance or inhalant other than intoxicating liquor to a degree which renders the person incapable of safely operating a vessel may not operate, attempt to operate or be in actual physical control of a vessel. The fact that a person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use such drug under the laws of this state shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this section.
  • (d) For the purposes of this section, "drug" means a regulated drug as defined in section 4201 of Title 18.
  • (e) A person may not be convicted of more than one offense under this section arising out of the same incident.
Burr Pond, Town of Sudbury
  • (a) No boat powered by motor shall be operated in excess of five miles per hour between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. local time.
  • (b) Any motorboat launched at the public Fish and Game Access is to be utilized solely for the purpose of fishing on Burr Pond and shall be limited to a speed of five miles per hour regardless of when or where operated on Burr Pond.

Boating While Intoxicated

Is a criminal offense punishable by fine, imprisonment and loss of privilege to operate. The fine for a first offense is not less than $200.00 nor more than $750.00; for a second or subsequent offenses, not less than $250.00 nor more than $1,000.00. Effective July 1, 1997 no person under the age of 21 shall operate, attempt to operate or have physical control of a vessel on Vermont waters when the person's blood alcohol concentration is 0.02 or more. By operating on Vermont waterways, you are deemed to have given consent to be tested for alcohol if arrested for operating under the influence.

Boat Speed Limits

Within 200 feet of shore, dock, swim area, person in water and other vessels or anchorage, speed must be less than 5 miles per hour and must not create a wake.

Personal Watercraft

Operation of a personal watercraft is prohibited between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise. PWC operators and passengers must wear an approved Type I, II, or III PFD.

Water Skiing

An observer (who is not the boat operator) is required. The observer must be at least 12 years of age. Water skiers must remain at least 100 feet away from a person in the water or light craft.

Persons less than 12 years of age are restricted to motorboats of 6 hp or less.

Vermont has a mandatory education law. Anyone born after January 1, 1974 must complete a boating safety course before operating a motorboat. Boaters may complete a proctored or non-proctored boating safety course. A person under the age of 12 may not operate a motorboat powered by more than six horsepower. A person under the age of 16 is prohibited from operating "personal water craft" (PWC).


For more information on Vermont Boating Laws check out Vermont Boating Regulations
For local boating laws try here.
For boating safety information try here.