Two individuals use Michigan's boating safety practices to safely enjoy Lake Leelanau

Lake Leelanau Boating Safety Update

Sometimes it is easy to forget about key boating safety practices while you’re having fun on the lake. While the buoys are great reminders, it is beneficial to remind yourself of Lake Leelanau boating safety best practices. The Lake Leelanau Lake Association (LLLA) created a guide to help boaters easily familiarize themselves with Michigan boating laws, including speed and distance regulations and age and operator restrictions.

Boating Speed, Distance, and Safety Regulations

  • "SLOW ‐ NO WAKE!" means operating at a slow speed to minimize the wake created by your vessel. 
  • Motorboats shall maintain a 150-foot distance away from non-motorized vessels (i.e., kayaks, paddleboards, surf skis, swimmers, SCUBA divers, etc.). Motorboats must always give way to non-motorized vessels. 
  • Please operate slowly (no wake) within 100 feet of the shoreline.
  • Maintain a 100-foot distance from any dock, boat, raft, buoy, or occupied swimming area while driving at other than slow, no-wake speed. 
  • DO NOT tow people thru the Lake Leelanau Narrows — this is a significant risk of severe injury.
  • Sailboats have the right-of-way to motorboats while they are under sail power.
  • All vessels are required to provide at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) per passenger. Each child under the age of six in an open deck area is required, by law, to wear a Type I or Type II PFD at all times!
A buoy with "Slow No Wake" sign to remind boaters to practice Lake Leelanau boating safety

Wake Boat Operators' Best Practices

  • Reduce speed within 500 feet of the shoreline.
  • Always have a forward-looking spotter to observe obstacles, paddlers, swimmers, boats, etc.
  • Do not add ballast weight to increase displacement.
  • Do not operate wake boats near sandy areas, natural shorelines, wetlands, or lakefront residences.
  • Avoid turning wake boats in tight circles, as doing so will increase wave height and frequency.
  • Avoid operating in shallow water and near natural shorelines.

Children Operating Motorboats & Personal Watercrafts (PWC) Rules and Restrictions

  • Persons under 12 years old operating motorboats must: 
    • Have been issued a boating safety certificate and have it on board while operating the vessel.
    • Be under the direct supervision of a person 16 years of age or older, and the boat must have no more than 35 horsepower (HP). 
  • Persons born on or after July 1, 1996, shall not operate a motorboat unless they have been issued a boating safety certificate.
  • Any person less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a PWC under any circumstances
"Do not anchor invasive species work" LLLA graphic

Other Flags

If you see the flag pictured above, please keep your distance! The red flag with a diagonal stripe is the universal SCUBA dive flag—this means that SCUBA divers are below and a warning to stay at least 100 feet away from the dive flag. Our divers work diligently to protect our lake from invasive species, so please keep them safe!

You may also see buoys with red and white flags and “DO NOT ANCHOR” signs below the flag, as seen in the image above. These flags indicate that burlap barriers are below, working to kill an infestation of Eurasian watermilfoil. Please do not anchor near these areas, as your anchor could damage the barriers or move them off of the infestation. 

If you have any incidents with our burlap barriers, please inform our remediation team by calling the emergency hotline at 231-409-2582.

Liquor and Controlled Substances

  • An intoxicated person (as defined in the same way as driving a car) may not operate or be in control of any vessel. 
  • Michigan's Implied Consent Law applies to boat operator intoxication testing. 
  • Severe fines and/or jail time await those observed operating a watercraft while intoxicated on alcohol or drugs (legal or illegal).

Michigan Boating Safety Resources

As a reminder, the Leelanau County sheriff will be enforcing the Michigan boating laws mentioned above. Please, know and follow these key Lake Leelanau boating safety practices while you enjoy and share our lake safely this summer. 

Should you have questions about Lake Leelanau boating safety practices, please, contact the LLLA at [email protected] or submit a message via our contact form.

Originally published on June 29, 2022.

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