The warmer summer months are almost here in Washington; which means there will be a lot of water activities that you and your family can enjoy. In order to ensure that everyone is a safe boater here are some guidelines from The Official Boating Handbook of the Washington State Parks and a list of the most frequently violated water laws:
REGISTRATION: All Personal Watercraft must be registered with the State of Washington and the operator must have available for inspection the vessel registration (similar to a car registration).
SPEEDING: Vessels are limited to a maximum speed of 7 nautical miles per hour (8mph): within 100 yards of any shoreline, pier, shore installation or restricted area in Lake Washington. Within 200 yards of any shoreline upon Puget Sound. Upon all the waters of Lake Union, Portage Bay, Union Bay and the Lake Washington Ship Canal from Shilshole Bay to Webster Point.
PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICE (PFD): Operators and passengers must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device or life vest.
VESSEL NUMBERING: All Personal Watercraft must have registration numbers, in contrasting colors, displayed on both sides of the forward section of the hull. (A yearly decal must be displayed in conjunction with the numbers).
AGE LIMITS: The operator of a Personal Watercraft must be at least 14 years of age. It is unlawful for a person to lease, hire or rent a Personal Watercraft to any person under 16 years of age.
FIRE EXTINGUISHER: Every Personal Watercraft must be equipped with a Fire Extinguisher (usually carried in a compartment at the rear of the machine).
NEGLIGENT OPERATION: Operating a vessel in a manner so as to endanger or likely endanger any person or property or operate at a rate of speed greater than will permit him/her to exercise reasonable care or control of the vessel. (Such as wake jumping too close to boats, speeding too close to other vessels, the shoreline, swimming beaches or launch ramps).
MUFFLER: It is unlawful to operate any engine on the waters of the city of Seattle without a muffler or silencer of sufficient size to prevent excessive or unusual noise from the exhaust of the engine.
HOURS OF OPERATION: Personal Watercraft may be operated from sunrise to sunset.
RULES OF THE ROAD: On Seattle waters, all vessels must comply with the International Rules for Preventing Collisions at Sea
- Use protective equipment: Wear your PFD but also use eye protection, gloves and deck shoes. A wet suit will help protect against hypothermia.
- Use care when wake jumping. Stay well clear of other vessels. Wake jumping produces a large percentage of the complaints of negligence directed at personal watercraft operators. It also accounts for a number of injuries incurred by personal watercraft operators.
- Don’t Drink and Ride: Alcohol and drugs affect your judgment. The added affect of sun and physical exertion compounds the effects of alcohol and increases your risk of being involved in an accident.
- Whistle: Carry a whistle for signaling and warning.
- Tow Rope: Store a long rope in good condition on the vessel.
- Lanyard: Wear the kill-switch safety Lanyard when operating your personal watercraft (PWC). The Lanyard attaches to the operator and the vessel to automatically shut off the engine if the operator is separated from the craft.
- Take a boating safety course offered by organizations such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron.
Irresponsible acts by a few operators and careless operation by new or uninformed riders and owners have resulted in numerous boating accidents throughout Washington State. Most of these accidents involve injuries and some have resulted in death. Accidents involving Personal Watercraft have almost doubled in the last few years.