Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of Boating
Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft (PWCs)
In addition to adhering to all boating laws, PWC operators have
requirements specific to their watercraft.
Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries PWC Safety Decal
operating a PWC, you must reduce speed to no
wake or idle speed when
within 50 feet of:
- Docks, piers, or boathouses
- Boat ramps
- Persons in the water (note this does not apply to your
- Another vessel other than a PWC
- PWCs must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner at
all times. It is illegal to:
- Weave your PWC through waterway traffic or anchored vessels.
- Steer toward another object or person in the water and
turn sharply to spray or attempt to spray them with water.
- Follow closely behind another vessel or skier.
- Jump the wake of another
vessel, or cross the path of another vessel, more closely
than is reasonable and prudent.
- Cut between a vessel and the person(s) being towed by that
- It is illegal to chase, harass, or disturb marine mammals or
birds with your PWC.
Towing a Person with a Vessel
In addition to adhering to boating laws as they apply to all vessels,
vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, aquaplane, or
other similar device must obey these laws.
- You may tow a water-skier only between the hours of one half-hour
before sunrise and one half-hour after sunset. PWCs are restricted
to sunrise to sunset.
- A vessel towing a person(s) on water skis or similar device
must have one of the following:
- A person, in addition to the vessel operator, on board
and observing the towed person(s) or ...
- Person(s) being towed are wearing a USCG-approved PFD.
Ski belts and inflatable PFDs are not approved.
- The operator of the towing vessel and the skier must not operate
in a manner which endangers the safety of persons or property.
It is illegal to cause the person being towed to collide with
any object or person.