What is the legal age requirement to operate a vessel?
State regulations require that the operator of a personal watercraft must be 14 years of age or older. There is no other age requirement in state law, but several counties do have age restrictions for motorized vessels.
When is it legal to operate a personal watercraft?
Sunrise to sunset as published in local newspapers.
Am I required to wear my lifejacket when boating?
Wearing a lifejacket is required when:
- on a personal watercraft;
- being towed in a skiing-type activity behind a vessel; or
- 12 years of age or younger on a vessel under 19 feet long.
What is the age requirement for kids to wear lifejackets when boating?
Twelve years of age or younger.
As a boat operator, how many lifejackets am I required to have while recreationally boating with passengers, and what types?
One appropriately fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved type I, II or III personal flotation device for each person on board a vessel under 16 feet in length.
For vessels over 16 feet long, the requirements are the same PLUS a throwable cushion or ring buoy (Type IV) must also be carried on board.
What type of equipment is required to legally operate my boat?
- The boat must be registered unless exempt under state law and display the numbers and valid decal.
- A wearable-style U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device for each person on board, in good condition and the right size for the person who wears it.
- Sounding device such as a whistle, horn or bell.
- A fire extinguisher if the boat is powered by a gas engine and there are enclosed compartments anywhere on the boat.
- The muffler must be in good, continuous working order for a motorized vessel.
- Visual distress signals must be used on coastal waters and Puget Sound.
- The ventilation system for motorized vessels must work as designed.
- If operating at night, lights must be used from sunset to sunrise.
What boats are required to be registered and where do I register one?
All motorboats regardless of length, and sailboats 16 feet and over, are required to be
registered by state law unless specifically exempt. A vessel can be registered at a local
county auditor's office or any vehicle/vessel subagent location.
If I'm involved in a boating accident, when is it necessary to report it and to whom?
An operator must report to the local sheriff's office or police department any boating accident when:
- the damage to a vessel and/or property is $2,000 or more, or the vessel is a complete loss;
- there is an injury that requires medical treatment beyond first aid;
- there is a loss of life; or
- circumstances occur where the disappearance of any person engaged in recreational boating indicates injury or death.
I'm not a Washington state resident, but I will be visiting for about two months. Am I required to register my boat?
No. If you stay longer than 60 days, you must buy a $25 temporary permit that is valid for an additional 60 days.
Do I need to register my inflatable raft?
Only if a motor is installed on it.
Who do I contact if I have specific questions about boating rules and regulations?
Local police department or sheriff's office.
What types of boating safety materials do you have in other languages?
"Fotonovela," an English/Spanish booklet on the importance of wearing a personal flotation device while boating. "Fundamentos de la Embarcacion," a boating home-study course that includes a 50-question exam, which may be completed and returned to State Parks' boating programs for scoring.
Who do I contact to request boating safety materials, such as the "Adventures in Boating Washington Handbook" and "Adventures in Boating - A Course in Responsible Boating"?
You may order the handbook online, by calling (360) 902-8555 or write to:
Washington State Parks Boating Program
1111 Israel Road S.W.
P.O. Box 42650
Olympia, WA 98504-2650