Water Safety

Rules and Regulations for Boat Operation on North Lake

 We have prepared a summary of the important requirements for safe and legal boat operations as stated in the ordinances/law of Town of Merton, Village of Chenequa, and the State of Wisconsin.  Please take some time and read it carefully, save, and be sure that those in your family and others who actually use your watercraft abide by the guidelines and rules.

Part One…Law Enforcement

There are three law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction over boat operations on North Lake.  These agencies are:

  • The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • The Village of Chenequa Police Department (Boat Patrol)
  • The Town of Merton (Boat Patrol)

All of these agencies have arrest powers relative to safe boat operations, and they enforce state and local laws regarding boat operations.

Part Two…Proper Boat Registration

  • All motorized vessels and sailboats larger than 12 feet in length must be registered with the State of Wisconsin. The registration number and a decal of registration must be displayed on your boat.
  • A certificate of registration must be available on board to be presented to a law enforcement officer if you are stopped for inspection or violation.
  • The correct placement of registration numbers on your boat is detailed in the Wisconsin Boater Safety Regulation 2018 (see a link on the North Lake Management District website—NLMD.org)

Part Three…Required Equipment

 All vessels (including PWC, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards) must have at least one approved USCG life vest for each person on board.

  • An approved USCG Type IV throwable device is required on motor boats, 16 feet and longer.
  • Proper Fire extinguishers are required on inboard and outboard motorboats greater than 16 feet in length or boats with built-in fuel tanks.
  • Motorboats with battery systems must safely secure the battery with proper straps and terminal nonconductive covers.
  • Motorboats and motor powered sailboats must have navigation lights on the bow and stern. The navigation lights must be used from sunset to sunrise.
  • Vessels of any size, moored on North Lake after sunset, must have a white, illuminated light (“anchor light”) if more than 200’ from shore.
  • Additional details regarding equipment are available for review in the Wisconsin Boater Safety Regulations 2018

Part Four…Legal Boat Operators

  • Motorboats – Children under 10 years of age cannot operate a motorboat.
  • Motorboats – Children between 10-11 years of age may operate with a parent, guardian or designate on board the vessel and closely supervising the operation.
  • Motorboats – Children between 12-15 years of age may operate with either a parent, guardian or designate or alone if they have completed an approved boater safety class.
  • Motorboats – Persons at least 16 years of age and born before January 1,

1989 can operate motorboats alone.  Persons 16 years of age born after January 1, 1989 must have completed a boater safety class.

  • Personal Water Craft (PWC) – Children less than 12 years of age cannot operate a PWC.
  • Personal Water Craft (PWC) – Children between 12-15 years of age must have completed an approved boater safety class.
  • Personal Water Craft (PWC) – Persons at least 16 years of age born after January 1,1989 must have completed an approved boater safety class.
  • Persons less than 16 years of age cannot rent or least a PWC.

Part Five…Vessels who Declare Distress

Any boat operator is required to stop and render aid to another vessel which declares a distress situation by signal (flare, flag or arm signals) or call for help.

Part Six…How to Assure a Ticket or Arrest from the DNR, Chenequa PD or Merton Boat Patrol Officer on North Lake

  • Reckless operation of the vessel
  • Having a passenger ride on the bow, gunwale or stern while in operation
  • Exceeding speed limits on North Lake (35 mph)
  • Circling other vessels within 200 feet at high speeds
  • Operating at greater than “slow, no wake” speeds within 100 feet of shoreline, pier, raft, or other boats
  • Operating beyond “no wake” speeds during one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise of the next day
  • Operating while intoxicated
  • Tubing, water skiing, etc. before 9:00 am or after sunset.
  • Too many persons on board (beyond the certified maximum)
  • Any boat towing a skier, tuber, etc. must travel in a counter clockwise direction.

Part Seven…Courtesy Recommendations for our Neighbors, Friends, and Yourselves on North Lake

  • Water skiing, tubing, etc. wear a wearable life vest. (Recommended)
  • When towing a water skier, tubing, etc. have a spotter.(Recommended)
  • It is recommended that all vessels travel in a counter clockwise direction on North Lake
  • Avoid the sailboat race course area immediately before and during races.
  • When operating a powered vessel, avoid travel between swim rafts and piers.
  • Found objects should be placed on the end of the nearest pier until claimed.
  • Be aware of wake and wash when operating wake board boats and other vessels to avoid damaging people’s property or endangering lives or injury. Pay attention to the effect of large waves to shorelines, piers, and other boats.
  • Music on your boat should be played at a level for the enjoyment of your passengers and not shared with others on the lake. Noise on water travels a long distance at high volumes.  Excessive volume is a ticketable offense.


To ensure a safe summer for all, review the boater safety regulations published by the WDNR (see North Lake Management District link—NLMD.org or go to DNR.wi.gov).

Have a great and safe summer!

North Lake Management District



The entire rules and regulation are contained in the Town of Merton Ordinance;

20.04 – NORTH LAKE AND OCONOMOWOC RIVER. (Am. 4/24/90; Am. 6/22/16; Rep. & recr. 3/26/18(2)) shown in detail in the link below.