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Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft (PWCs)

There are additional legal requirements that apply specifically to the operation of personal watercraft (PWCs) on Washington waters.

You must …

  • Every person on board a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jacket (PFD). Inflatable life jackets and most Type II Near-Shore life jackets are not approved for persons riding on PWCs.
  • If the PWC is equipped with an ignition safety switch, the lanyard must be attached to the person, clothing, or life jacket of the operator. It is unlawful to remove or disable an ignition safety switch that was installed by the PWC manufacturer.
  • PWCs may be operated only during the hours between sunrise and sunset.
PWC operator and passenger wearing life jackets

Every person on board a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jacket (PFD).

Age Requirements

  • You must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft legally.
  • It is illegal to lease, hire, or rent a personal watercraft to anyone under 16 years of age.

Remember—PWC owners are responsible …

As an owner of a PWC, you are legally responsible if you authorize or knowingly permit the PWC to be operated in violation of Washington law.

Reasonable and Prudent Operation

PWCs must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner. For example, it is illegal to:

  • Jump the wake of another vessel unreasonably close to that vessel or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed.
  • Weave your PWC recklessly through congested waterway traffic.
  • Swerve recklessly at the last possible moment to avoid a collision.
  • Operate a PWC while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Chase, harass, or disturb wildlife, birds, or marine mammals.
PWC lanyard

The PWC's lanyard must be attached to the person, clothing, or life jacket of the operator.

Loaning Your PWC … Safely!

Take special care when you loan your PWC to others. Before allowing anyone to operate your PWC:

  • Make sure that they meet the minimum age and education requirements for PWC operation.
  • Make sure that they know basic boating safety information and "rules of the road."
  • Let beginners take their first rides in a quiet area. While still on shore, show them the proper procedures for deep water starting and reboarding.
  • Explain the basic operating features of the PWC. Be sure to give instruction on how to steer and control the PWC. Remind the operator that power is required for steering control!
  • Make sure that the operator understands how to use the lanyard with the ignition safety switch.
  • Explain the importance of "slow, no wake" restrictions.
  • Emphasize the need for staying alert. Beginning riders may concentrate on riding and not on paying attention to the surrounding traffic in the area