Iron County, Michigan Sheriff
Marine Patrol

(906) 875-0650

The Marine Patrol program was created by Public Act 451 of 1994 as amended. The Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol shares the responsibility with the Department of Natural Resources to patrol the waters of the county. If an emergency should arise on any waterway, boaters are urged to contact 911. Any other marine-related questions should be directed to the Sheriff’s Office at 906-875-0650.

The Marine Patrol program is funded 100% by flow-through funds from Federal-United States Coast guard and operates from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The Sheriff’s Office provides marine patrol on the lakes within Iron County and provides an intense educational program in our schools.

~ Boating Safety Information ~

Safety equipment for your boat.

Life Preservers (Personal Flotation Devices)

All boats 16’ or larger must have a “wearable” (a Type I, Type II, or Type III PFD designed to be worn) for each person on board. The vessel must also be equipped with a Type IV “throw-able” PFD (a device to be thrown to a person overboard). U.S.C.G. approved Type IV PFD’s are the “ring” or “seat cushion” varieties.

By law, PFD’s must be “readily accessible” and “immediately available”. They may not be stored in plastic bags or zippered pouches (They are of little value if you cannot get to them!) Hand a PFD to each crew member as they board your vessel.

PFD’s must be “serviceable” (if they do not work, they will not save your life). Ensure that all straps, labels, seams and flotation pieces are in good working order. Children six (6) or younger must wear U.S.C. G. Type I or II while on open deck. Look at the label and make sure that the PFD is sized for the intended wearer. Remember one “throw-able” Flotation device must also be on board in addition to the PFD’s.

Fire Extinguishers

If a vessel of any length is constructed as to trap gasoline vapors, it must be equipped with a U.S.C.G approved fire extinguisher. Boats less than 26 feet need only one BI fire extinguisher. Boats longer than 26 feet need more BI of BII fire extinguishers. Be safe; you can get a larger one for extra safety. Be sure it is serviceable and accessible.

Most boat fires happen after refueling. Run the blower and do a sniff test before you re-start the engine. Keep the backfire flame arrester clean.

Registration Numbers

Motorists are given ready-made license plates. We skippers must make our own, which can result in a vessel being improperly numbered.

Any boat that has an electric or gas motor, or any other type of propulsion machinery must be registered. Sailboats 12 feet or over in length must also be registered. Read carefully the list below.

MC 1234 AA

  • The letters must be block letters at least 3″ high. The letters must read from left to right. The characters must be of a contrasting color to the hull.
  • 3″ spaces must separate prefixes, suffixes, numbers and the registration decal (at the far right).
  • The characters must be on the forward half of the vessel as high above the water line as practical
  • Think of the decal as the “period at the end of the sentence”.

Lights and Horns

Lights are required on motorboats between sunset and sunrise and during periods of low visibility. Anchorred motorboats need only display a white aft light. Anchored rowboats need only display a white lantern to prevent a collision.

Horns or approved whistles are required on vessels 16 feet or longer

Operating your vessel safely

Skiing – Towing anyone on skis or sleds, or any similar contrivance, is fun and requires a team effort. An observer must be on board the tow vessel. The term observer is somewhat misleading. The observer’s real duty is to render aid in case of an emergency.

Capacity Plates are located in the vessel for your safety. Remember, each passenger weighs 150 pounds according to law. You may not exceed either number. Failure to do so might be viewed as “careless operation”.

Slow No Wake Speed is a speed of a vessel which makes a wake or wash that is minimal. Go no faster than this when within 100 feet of any dock, raft, anchored vessel, any bathing beaches or any buoys. Some local laws require this speed in congested areas.

High Speed Boating is a speed where the boat reaches a “planing” condition. Make sure you are in open water to avoid collision. For the fast boats, inland lakes have a 55 MPH speed limit. Violation of this law is reckless operation of a vessel. We have radar!

Personal Watercraft/Jet Skis are relatively new in the waters and are a lot of fun. Some new laws have been recently enacted to make these boats a more safe experience.

  1. PFD’s must be worn.
  2. The kill switch must be connected to the operator
  3. Do not cross closer than 150 feet behind another boat when jumping its wake.
  4. An operator must be 14 or older. Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1978, must possess a Boating Safety Certificate in order to operate a PWC Jet Ski.
  5. A PWC Jet Ski cannot be operated between one hour before sunset and 8:00 A.M.
  6. As with all watercraft, PWC’s Jet Skis must abide by all “No Wake” restrictions. This includes our harbors and entrances to same. This will be strictly enforced.

Believe it or not, according to the law…

  • PFD’s cannot be stored in plastic bags.
  • Vessels must go “counterclockwise” around the lake.
  • All boats must stay 200 feet from a diving flag (a red flag with a diagonal white stripe).
  • The operator of a vessel must have the registration on board.
  • “Rubber rafts” must have PFD’s on board.
  • Intoxicated vessel operators go to jail in Iron County
  • You are liable for damage caused by your wake.
  • It is illegal to swim within 100 feet beyond the swim buoys lining a public bathing beach.
  • It is illegal to ride on the side (gunwale) or covered bow of a boat (unless the manufacturer designed the boat for that use.)
  • Children 12 to 16 years old must have a boating safety certificate to operate a motorboat of 6 HP or more.

Do you know…

Some insurance companies give lower rates to skippers who complete safety courses.

“Non-use” of PFD’s is found in over 80% of drownings.

Wearing PFD’s increases your survival changes in a water accident.

If a water or boating accident or emergency happens…

If a person is injured, or more than $100.00 in damages is suspected, the appropriate water accident report or a boating accident report must be completed within 48 hours.

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