Last updated August 5, 2021
Here are some Tennessee boating regulations that might not be the same in all states:
#1 The Move Over law similar to the law on land will become effective on Tennessee waters. The law requires boaters to slow down to a no wake speed when they are within 100 feet of a law enforcement boat with flashing lights.
#2 There is No longer an exemption from boating education for renters or those vacationing. Tennessee residents and Out of State residents born after January 1, 1989 are required to pass a boater education exam administered by an approved representative of the TWRA or a National Association of State Boating Law Administrator approved boating safety course in order to operate any motorized vessel over 8.5 horse power. Testing locations and information can be found on the TWRA website. Courses are also offered by the USCG Auxiliary and America’s Boating Club.
#3 Alcoholic beverages are permitted on Norris Lake however the boat operator often referred to as the “Skipper” must be sober. Considering the effect of the sun, stress of a busy lake, wind, motor noise, level of hydration, and distractions from passengers, it is taught that each alcoholic beverage has double the effect than normal. Many laws now read: the boat operator may not operate or permit others to operate while Boating under the influence. The same applies to reckless operation, adherence to no wake zones, etc. Everyone should be careful who they allow to use their boat.
#4 Reckless operation of a boat or a Personal Watercraft (“PWC”) will attract the attention of law enforcement and other boaters due to the risk of personal injury and property damage. Make sure you review the Handbook of Tennessee Boating Laws and Responsibilities because there are specific rules relating to Personal Watercraft. Some of these are: the age of the PWC operator; restrictions on when a PWC can be operated - daytime only; and restrictions on wake jumping (wake jumping is not legal within 100 feet of another vessel).
#5 The age requirement for wearing life jackets is 12 and younger. Regardless of age, the life jacket must fit the activity and wearer. Each person aboard must have at least one USCG approved life jacket readily available to them. Boats 16’ in length and over must also have at least one USCG approved throwable device. It is common for children to outgrow their life jacket each year. Test fit them before heading to the lake. Short term loaner life jackets may be available from the SB Mariner’s Club or other boaters.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is a great resource. Their link is: TN.gov/TWRA
Other helpful links for information about boating: