Boating Safety

Boating Rules and Safety on Lake Havasu

Proper safety equipment is a legal requirement on all Arizona lakes.

Lake Havasu City is a great place to live, work, shop, and vacation, but when you’re out on the lake, it’s important to remember that there are laws governing the waterways and failing to know or follow the laws comes with consequences.

In 2013 there were 108 watercraft accidents in Arizona involving 158 vessels and 86 individuals reporting injuries. The leading causes for accidents over the last 18 years are operator inattention, operator inexperience, and passenger/skier behavior. Out of the overall Arizona statistics, Lake Havasu experienced 9 accidents (4 with injuries) and 2 deaths. Simple common sense can make the difference between a fantastic weekend or a potentially negative experience.

Just like driving a vehicle through other states, all boaters, whether from Arizona or coming from another state, are required to know Arizona state and local laws governing the lake. Not only is it the law, it’s vital to ensure the safety of all boaters and everyone enjoying the lake!

Links to More Tips

Boating Safety Classes | Required & Recommended Boating Equipment | Boating Safety Tips | Specifically for PWCs | Emergency Watercraft Towing | Designated Captain Program | Arizona Boating Laws | Bridgewater Channel City Ordinances | Operating Under the Influence (OUI)

The best way to begin your boating safety education is to download the following publications:

AZ Boating Laws & Regulations
Published by the
AZ Game & Fish Dept. (AZGFD)
Boater’s Guide to Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats
Published by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)

Additionally the AZGFD is a great place to start to gain important information about boating safety, laws, and regulations. Click here to go to their main Boating page for more information.

Please be aware that this section is very comprehensive, and for good reason. There are three agencies of law that all boaters in Arizona are regulated by:

Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 5 (“A.R.S.” and is state law),
Arizona Game & Fish Commission Rules (“AZGFD”), and
U.S. Coast Guard Federal Regulations (“CFR”)

This section breaks down down the very comprehensive law into laypersons’ terms. However, it is advised that if you don’t understand any law or statute that applies to you, to contact the appropriate agency for clarification.

Boat Safety Classes


If you’re a new or novice boater, it’s highly recommended taking a boating safety class to get you oriented with the basics of boating. “Boaters who have completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrator (NASBLA)-approved course, certified by the state in which they reside, are 70 percent less likely to be involved in a boating accident.” (excerpt from the AZGFD website). According to 2013 AZGFD statistics, 158 watercraft operators were involved in an accident. Of those, 108 people involved in an accident had no boating education.

The AZGFD’s Boating Safety Education courses include instruction on the basic skills required to safely operate a boat or PWC, trailering your vessel, navigational rules, buoys, anchoring, legal requirements, boating emergencies, watersports, and paddling (click here for more information). Most insurance companies offer a discount on your boat or PWC insurance rate for completing a boating safety course. Boating safety education classes are available year-round and statewide, either in a traditional classroom environment or online. Call 623-236-7235 or toll free 800-824-2456 for more information.

Online courses available: Boat Arizona/Boat Ed | BoatUS

Legally Required Equipment
(Federal, State, and Local Laws)

All watercraft vessels are legally required to carry or have installed on their vessel certain equipment. Details after each item link to the corresponding state law. The Arizona Revised Statutes are also supplemented by the AZGFD’s Commission Rules and the US Coast Guard Federal Regulations, so all resources should be utilized when reviewing the law. The list below pertains to most watercraft on Lake Havasu.

  • Wearable Personal Flotation Devices (Life Vests): Coast Guard-approved, Type I, II, III or V, and one for each occupant on board. The life vests must be easily accessible and in good working order (A.R.S. §5-331).
  • Throwable Personal Flotation Device: At least one Coast Guard-approved, Type IV (this would include a cushion or ring buoy), easily accessible and in good working order (AZGFD’s Commission Rules, Section R12-4-511). These devices are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble.
  • Fire Extinguisher: All watercraft under 26′ and using any volitale liquid (gas, diesel, etc.) shall have on board a Coast Guard-approved Type B-1 fire extinguisher in a condition available for immediate and effective use. Vessels 26′ to less than 40′ in length must have two Coast Guard-approved Type B-1 fire extinguishers (A.R.S. §5-332). Do not place fire extinguisher(s) near the engine compartment. For vessels 40′ and larger, please refer to the Arizona Boating Laws & Regulations Publication.
  • Navigation Lights: From sunset to sunrise, all watercraft shall display navigation lights – bright white on the aft (top) and a combination light at the bow (front) of the boat, green to starboard (right) and red to port (left) (A.R.S. §5-333).
  • Flame Arrestor: All watercraft using gasoline as fuel, except outboard motors, shall attach to the carburetor(s) a backfire flame arrestor approved for marine use and suitably secured to the air intake (A.R.S. §5-334).
  • Blower: All watercraft, except open boats, using gasoline or other flammable fuel, shall have a blower (fan) to evacuate any explosive or flammable gases from the engine compartment (A.R.S. §5-335).
  • Muffler: Watercraft must have mufflers to prevent excessive or unusual noise (A.R.S. §5-336).
  • Sound-Producing Device (horn): Arizona law does not require vessels to carry a sound-producing device, however, federal law does require vessels operating on federally-controlled waters (such as the Colorado River and lake system) be equipped with sound producing devices. Every vessel less than 65.6′ (including PWCs) must carry on board a whistle, horn, bell, or other device effective to create a sound signal audible for at least one-half mile (CFR Title 33 §83.33).
  • Visual Distress Signals (VDS): Vessels on federally-controlled waters (such as the Colorado River and lake system) must be quipped with Coast Guard-approved VDS equipment, readily accessible and in good working order. Exceptions to day signal requirements include: Vessels less than 16′ in length, non-motorized open sailboats less than 26′ in length, and manually-propelled vessels. All vessels, regardless of length or type, are required to carry night signals when operating between sunset to sunrise (this would include flares or smoke signal devices) (CFR Title 33 §175.101).
Equipment Paddlecraft PWC Boats <16′ Boats 16’+
Arizona Required Equipment Checklist
Max. Capacity Plate X X X
Registration Decals X X X
Life Jackets (PFDs) (Type I, II, III, V) X2 X1 X2 X2
Throwable PFD: Type IV X
Type B1 Fire Extinguisher X X X
Backfire Flame Arrestor X X3 X3
Ventilation System X X X
Muffler X X X
Horn, Whistle, or Bell X4 X4 X4 X4
Daytime Visual Distress Signals X4
Nighttime Visual Distress Signals X4 X4 X4
Navigation Lights X X5 X X


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