Know the Rules on the Water
Unlawful and Dangerous Operation
Washington law states that the following dangerous operating practices are illegal: Negligent operation, reckless operations, overloading or overpowering a vessel, teak surfing, assault by watercraft, and homicide by watercraft. Learn more about unlawful practices on the water by visiting this page.
It is illegal to:
- Operate any vessel in a way that it will interfere with the safe navigation of other vessels
- Anchor a vessel in the traveled portion of a river or channel that will prevent or interfere with any other vessels passing through
- 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.
Homeland Security Restrictions
Violators of the following restrictions can expect a quick and severe response.
- U.S. Naval vessel. Do not approach within 100 yards and slow to minimum speed within 500 yards of any Navy ship
- 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.
- Do not stop or anchor beneath bridges or in the channel
Alcohol and Drugs
Washington law prohibits anyone from operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug. This Web page defines intoxication and penalties.
A boater who is involved in an accident must stop his or her vessel immediately at the scene of the accident and assist injured people or anyone in danger, unless doing so would endanger his or her own vessel or passengers. In some circumstances, the boater operating the vessel must submit a written accident report. Learn more about reporting requirements and how to submit a report. Accident report forms are available from Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and local law enforcement marine units.
Local Regulations and Enforcement
Beyond the rules covered in the Adventures in Boating Washington Handbook, waterways have additional equipment and operational restrictions. Before boating on a particular waterway, check in with the sheriff’s office or police department for local regulations. Local boating ordinances can be found at www.mrsc.org/Codes.aspx. Washington state parks rangers, Department of Fish and Wildlife agents, and local authorities (city police, sheriff deputies) enforce the boating laws of Washington. The U.S. Coast Guard enforces laws on federally controlled waters.
Know Proper Vessel Care to Protect the Environment
Discharge of Sewage, Waste, Oil, and Hazardous Substances
It is a boater’s legal responsibility to help protect Washington waters and aquatic wildlife. Make sure you dispose of your trash, sewage, and oil properly. It’s illegal to dump garbage or plastics or discharge oil and other hazardous substances into state or federally controlled waters.
To view a map of sewage pump stations throughout the state and locate a particular marina, visit http://www.parks.wa.gov/moorage/pumpout/locations/
Learn more about eco-friendly moorage by visiting the Green Boating page on this site.