Know the law

To ensure your safety on the water as well as others, it is important that boaters be familiar with the Regulations of Recreational Vessel operation. Take the time to learn the regulations related to vessel length, capacity, proper fueling, and how to secure a boat to a trailer. Learn the right way to launch a boat into the water, and familiarize yourself with the navigational rules and steps for handling bad weather and boating emergencies. Prepare a float plan, one that includes your contact information and the logistical details of your route. Remember to leave the plan with family or friends as well as the marina.

Alcohol & drugs

Washington law prohibits anyone from operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.

Homeland security restrictions

Violators of the following restrictions can expect a quick and severe response:

  • Do not stop or anchor beneath bridges or in the channel
  • Observe and avoid all security zones. Avoid commercial port operation areas, especially those that involve military, cruise-line, or petroleum facilities
  • Observe and avoid other restricted areas near dams, power plants, etc.
  • U.S. Naval vessel. Do not approach within 100 yards and slow to minimum speed within 500 yards of any Navy ship

Navigating on Washington waters

Safe navigation is the responsibility of all boaters. Even though no vessel will have absolute right-of-way over other boats, there are rules that every operator should know and follow. To avoid collisions on the water, boaters should follow there basic rules:

  • Practice good seamanship
  • Maintain a safe speed and distance
  • Keep a sharp lookout

Another excellent resource is the U.S. Coast Guard's Navigation Center.

Obstructing navigation

It is illegal to:

  • Anchor a vessel in the traveled portion of a river or channel that will prevent or interfere with any other vessels passing through
  • Operate any vessel in a way that it will interfere with the safe navigation of other vessels
  • Moor or attach a vessel to a buoy (other than a mooring buoy), beacon, light, or any other navigational aid placed by authorities on public waters
  • Move, displace, tamper with, damage, or destroy any navigational aid

Prevent pollution

Spilling oil or a hazardous substance to state waters is illegal. Polluters can be fined up to $10,000 per violation or $100,000 for each day the oil poses a risk to the environment, or even more if the spill was intentional. Visit Washington Department of Ecology to learn more.

Unlawful & dangerous operation

Washington law states that the following dangerous operating practices are illegal:

  • Assault by watercraft
  • Homicide by watercraft
  • Negligent operation
  • Overloading or overpowering a vessel
  • Reckless operations
  • Teak surfing