Comments due by January 25 on complete repeal and replacement of Maine’s boating rules

boats at Acadia National ParkIf you enjoy boating in Maine, you better check out proposed new boating rules – all 25 pages of them.

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is proposing “a complete repeal and replace of the current boating rules” to bring them into compliance with the Code of Federal Regulations regarding the safe operation of boats.

Perhaps you think you are already operating your boat safely. Maybe not!

DIF&W and the Department of Marine Resources are working together to adopt these new rules under the Federal Boating Safety Act administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. It is comforting to know that our federal officials are looking out for us.

I strongly recommend that you read the proposal here. Comments must be submitted by January 23 to Becky Orff, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, 284 State Street, #41 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333;

Maine’s boating rules haven’t been rewritten since the 1980s. After perusing the proposed rules, you will be forgiven if you are confused. Consider this definition of one of several required lights:

Masthead Light: means a white light placed over the fore and aft center line of the watercraft showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 225 degrees and so fixed as to show the light from right ahead 22.5 degrees abaft the beam on either side of the watercraft, except that on a watercraft of less than 40 feet in length the masthead light shall be placed as nearly practical to the fore and aft center line of the watercraft.

From fire extinguishers to life preservers to sound devices, everything is covered here. Illustrations are also available, and are actually quite helpful in figuring out where to place your lights.

But I was confused by the requirement for a sound device, an “efficient whistle and/or other sound producing device.” I can whistle pretty loudly, but apparently that is not sufficient.

My boat is only 16 feet long, so it’s in the category of boats less than 40 feet in length. We are required only to have “some means of making efficient sound signals.” I’m hoping a loud yell will be sufficient!

The proposed rules include lists of waters that prohibit motorboats or have a horsepower limit. But please don’t think you can boat there and ignore all these rules. You can’t!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.