Skagit County Sheriff

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Skagit County Sheriff

"Committed To Your Safety"



Boating Rules and Regulations

  • All boats must meet the requirements of applicable State and Federal law and U.S. Coast Guard (U.S.C.G.) regulations.
  • Motor Boats and Personal Watercraft (Less than 26' in length):

    Registration for vessels 16' and over, must be carried on board. Registration numbers must be permanently attached to each side of the hull in 3" contrasting letters/numbers. Vessels under 16' with 10hp or less not used on waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction are exempt.

Safety Equipment Requirements

1) Personal Floatation Devices (PFD's) for each person on board must be carried. All PFD's must be the appropriate size for the intended occupant. Vessels 16' or longer must carry a throwable floatation device on board.

2) Sound Signals- one whistle, horn or device capable of producing whistle blasts

3) Fire Extinguisher- Required, if fuel tanks are permanently installed or in closed compartments.

4) Visual Distress Signals- Coastal Waters Only. Vessels less than 16' in length must carry night signals if operating in hours of darkness. Vessels over 16' must carry day and night signals at all times.

5) Navigation Lights- Required for night operation and must conform to U.S.C.G. regulation.

6) Ventilation- Closed fuel compartments must be adequately ventilated.

7) Backfire Flame Arrestor- Gasoline engines, other than outboards must have a backfire flame arrestor on the carburetor.

Water-skiing Regulations

1) Water-skiing is allowed only on Big Lake, Clear Lake, Lake Campbell and Lake Cavanaugh.

2) All water-skiing shall be in a counter-clockwise direction and at least 150' away from shore, docks, etc.

3) When moving from shore, dock or float, the skier will travel at an angle between 45-60 degrees from the shoreline on the right hand side of the skier.

4) Recreational vessels towing a person(s) on waterskis or similar devices shall be occupied by an operator and observer. The observer must be at least ten (10) years of age.

5) The observer must continuously observe the person(s) being towed and shall display a "skier down flag" whenever the person(s) are in the water. A "skier down flag" should be a bright red flag and visible from all directions.

6) All water-skiers must wear a U.S.C.G. approved PFD.

7) Water-skiing is prohibited ½ hour after sunset until ½ hour after sunrise.

8) No person engaged in water-skiing shall conduct themselves in a negligent manner that endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property.

Vessel Operation Requirements

1) The speed limit is 40 mph on Big Lake, Campbell Lake and Lake Cavanaugh. There is a 25 mph limit on Clear Lake with no personal watercraft (pwc) allowed. There is a 5 mph speed limit on Lake McMurray and Lake Sixteen. Swinomish Slough is a "no wake zone."

2) No vessel shall be operated closer than 150' to any shoreline, dock, float or other vessel, except at idle or "no wake" speed.

3) No vessel shall be operated in a negligent or reckless manner that would endanger persons or property. Riding on bow, gunwales, or cabin top is prohibited.

4) Operation of a vessel under the influence of intoxicating liquor and/or drugs is illegal.

5) The minimum age to operate a motorboat powered by a motor of 10hp or more is fourteen (14) years of age, unless accompanied by a person legally capable of operating such a vessel. No minor of ten (10) years of age or younger shall operate any vessel.

6) No vessel shall be equipped with any motor beyond its safe power capacity. The vessels exhaust shall be equipped with a muffler in proper working condition.

7) Swimming activities beyond 150' of the shoreline shall be accompanied by an attendant in a boat.

8) Scuba divers must mark their area of activity with a red/white dive flag. Vessels must keep at least 150' from a displayed diver's flag.

9) The operator of every vessel involved in an accident is required by law to file a report in writing whenever a boating accident results in loss of life, injury which requires medical treatment beyond first aid, property damage over $500 or the disappearance of a person.

10) It is illegal to throw litter overboard in any waterway. Recreational vessels must carry a litterbag.