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Unlawful and Dangerous Operation

In addition to the laws mentioned previously, here are other Washington regulations that apply when vessel operators are on the water.

Washington law states that these dangerous operating practices are illegal.

Negligent Operation is operating a vessel in disregard of careful and prudent operation, or in disregard of careful and prudent rates of speed in a manner that unduly or unreasonably endangers the life, limb, property, or other rights of any person. This includes:

  • Not paying attention to the operation of the vessel
  • Failing to keep a proper lookout
  • Failing to follow the navigation rules
  • Causing danger from the effects of the vessel's wake
  • Allowing passengers to ride on the bow, gunwales, or transom of a vessel not equipped with adequate railings to prevent falls overboard

Reckless Operation is operating carelessly in a willful and wanton disregard of the rights, safety, or property of another person. It includes:

  • Weaving in and out of other vessels, docks, or buoys
  • Playing "chicken" with another vessel
  • Operating in a marked "No Boats" area such as a swimming or dam spillway area

Assault by Watercraft is operating a vessel in a reckless manner or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and injuring another person with serious disfigurement or the loss of a body part or organ.

Homicide by Watercraft is operating a vessel in a reckless manner or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causing the death of another person.

Overloading or Overpowering a Vessel is putting too much equipment on a vessel or equipping it with an engine that is too large and powerful, either of which can cause the vessel to capsize or swamp and put people into cold water.

  • Remember that it is unsafe and a violation to:
    • Load your vessel with passengers or cargo beyond its safe carrying ability or to carry passengers in an unsafe manner, taking into consideration the weather and other existing conditions at the time of operation, such as traffic or tides.
    • Operate a vessel equipped with a motor that is overpowered beyond the vessel's ability to be operated safely. Safe operation includes factors such as the type and construction of the vessel, your boating activity, and other conditions like the weather.
  • If it appears to an enforcement officer that the vessel is clearly overloaded or overpowered beyond safe operation and is in a hazardous condition, the officer may direct the operator to return to shore and correct the condition before continuing the voyage. For more information, see RCW 79A.60.180.

Teak Surfing, Platform Dragging, or Bodysurfing is holding onto any portion of the exterior of the transom of a power-driven vessel (including the swim platform, swim deck, swim step, or swim ladder), or swimming or floating on or in the wake directly behind the vessel, while the vessel is underway or the engine is idling.

  • This law does not apply to persons on a platform, step, or ladder briefly while exiting or entering a vessel.
  • This law has been passed to aid in the prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Washington law requires that all new and used power-driven vessels sold within Washington (other than PWC) display an approved carbon monoxide warning sticker on the interior of the vessel where it will be visible to passengers.