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As seen in the picture, this sail boat is sliding over ice rather than sailing through water.

If I were to try this ice sailing, would I need to follow boating regulations?

This might not be the same for all locations. I am in the United States, but really if anyone can just show a precedent that any areas have had to deal with this and has decided whether or not this counts as boating, that would let us know if we need to be careful of running afoul boating regulations in general.

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    Neither NY, PA, or MI states say anything specific about ice boats. chicagonow.com/sail-lake-michigan/2013/10/… suggests that a license is not required in Illinois, but it appears to be supposition. Your picture and others do have numbers on the sails, perhaps just for identification, but perhaps from licensing?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 23:24
  • What regulation might exist, that you might not want to follow? Launch permit, your going to need that. Life Jacket, your going to want that. People either follow these or not, without regard to ice. If it the boat is big enough to require a tossable life ring, it going to be too big for casual ice sailing. Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 16:51
  • @JamesJenkins I'm not sure. As evidenced by my boating questions, I'm not even well versed in boating regulations to begin with. But still, I'm just wondering if you would need to pay them any mind. Those are some good points you bring up, and they should be incorporated into any answer that is written. Launch permit though: that is the kind of thing one could trip over that is what this Q is about, so I ask - why do you assume one would be needed? You know that's how the regulations work? You're thinking "Ice or not, how does that change anything? Regs say 'on water' & you're on the water?"
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 18:20
  • @JonCuster Good point about the numbers. Perhaps the same sail is used during the summer? Perhaps the sail is reused between craft, or the craft itself is modified for the ice? I do not know.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 18:21
  • From other pictures, it would seem the "DN" is for the Detroit News, which was somehow involved in the design of an ice boat. The number may just be the hull number, not a state license number. The craft itself is specifically designed for ice sailing and will not work on water (nor will other ice boats I have seen - they are custom designed for ice only).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


Unlike driving, with boating there are not a lot of regulations that will get you in trouble with the authorities.

Number 1, would be a launch permit. This varies by body of water, but essentially this is permission to move your craft between the public road to the public body of water across a piece of land. Normally the land is owned by the State or local government, and the launch permit helps to pay for that facility. You probably need this.

Number 2, is things to keep you from dying, like a life jacket. This varies by state. I am not sure if a life jacket is going to help or hinder if you break through the ice (maybe a different question?). The people walking on the ice are probably not wearing them, it is going to come down to personal preference and historical local knowledge about enforcement.

The numbers on the sail are registration numbers, to my knowledge they are like the boats serial number. They have little or nothing to do with licensing. Kind of like every car has a serial number, but not every car has license plates or registration.

There is a whole bunch of rules that apply locally; no wake zones, speed limits, restricted area, etc. There is also a bunch of stuff designed to keep you and others alive; right of way, passing, safety equipment, etc. But the number of people on the water without a clue is so significant that in practice and the amount of enforcement is so low, that it really comes down to people just using common courtesy and good sense.

If I were to try this ice sailing, would I need to follow boating regulations?

Probably yes; the only things that really applies is paying for your access to the water/ice (Launch Permit) and things that keep you and others alive. They are all pretty reasonable, you want to do them not because they are regulations, but because they are the right thing to do.

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    The numbers on sails could be absolutely anything: There is nothing anywhere requiring anything whatsoever on sails. If they're "registration numbers", that's only within a particular organization like a class society, sporting club, or specific historical registry and are not unique numbers among all of the other sails out there. The numbers on sails have nothing to do with any governmental registry in the United States or any manufacturing, or inventorying body (like VINs). Boats do have registration numbers in the United States, but that's marked on the hull, not the sail.
    – Beanluc
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 0:59
  • @Beanluc you are correct. I was trying to minimize word count when I paraphrased the way I did. I have posted a new related question to explore that in more detail. What do the numbers a sail boats sail represent? Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 10:03
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    The registration numbers on sails are racing numbers. They are required to be unique in the race category/league.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 19:13

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