New Mexico's State Boating Laws

Reckless Boat Operation

Reckless boat operation is illegal in the state of New Mexico. This includes operating any type of boat or to manipulating any waterskis, surfboard or similar device in a careless, reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person.

Reckless boat operation

Examples of careless, negligent and reckless boat operation include:

  • Maneuvering a passenger being towed so as to pass the towline over another boat or the towed passenger of another boat.
  • Creating a dangerous wake or jumping the wake of another boat in a way that is dangerous.
  • Anchoring your boat less than 150 feet from a courtesy dock, marina or boat launch.
  • Chasing or harassing wildlife with your boat.
  • Navigating toward another boat and swerving at the last possible moment.
  • Operating a motorized boat in a restricted area.
  • Fishing from a boat that is drifting or trolling within 150 feet of any marina, boat ramp, or courtesy dock.

In New Mexico, it is unlawful to:

  • Operate at any speed greater than is reasonable or proper according to conditions prevailing at the time.
  • Operate at a speed that would not allow you to avoid swamping or colliding with another watercraft or person.
  • Operate at greater than ‘No Wake Speed’ when within 150 feet of launch ramps, docks, mooring lines, beached or anchored boats that are within 150 feet of shore, swimmers, fishermen and areas designated for ‘No Wake’ boating.
    • Exception: Under adverse weather conditions, a boat may maintain the minimum speed necessary to maintain a safe course.
  • Operate a boat in any restricted or zoned area.
  • Waterski within 150 feet of a public dock (other than a ski dock), mooring line, launching ramp, boat, fisherman, swimmer or a person not also engaged in waterskiing.


It is illegal to carry more people on board than the number stated on your boat’s capacity plate or as computed by multiplying your boat’s length times its width and dividing the number by 15.

Riding on the Bow, Deck and/or Gunwales

Except when your boat is casting off, mooring or when otherwise necessary, it is illegal to allow a person to ride or sit on the gunwales or on the bow of a boat when the boat is underway, unless the boat is equipped with adequate guardrails designed to prevent a person from slipping under or rolling over the rail. Additionally, it is illegal for your passengers to sit on a seat back while the boat is underway or to hang their legs overboard at any time.