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A boat on a lake with a pretty sunset in the background
Float Safely
Boating Safety Tips  

“Crowded waterways create a need for increased safety awareness from all boaters,” said Lt Rodney Rochon of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Marine Services Unit. “We encourage people to have fun but to pay extra attention to others on the water and as always, wear your life jacket, and know and follow the boating laws.” 

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, US Coast Guard Boating Safety Division, Washington State Parks and Safe Kids Snohomish County suggest the following tips to be stay safe on the water:
  • Know your waterway: "Get familiar with your surroundings before starting out," said Rochon. "Stumps, deadheads and sand and gravel bars can appear out of nowhere with water depth changes."
  • File a float plan: Map out where you’re going and let others know when to expect you to return.  Should you not return on time and searchers are called to find you, the float plan will narrow down the search area and can expedite your rescue.
  • Wear a life jacket: Each boat must have a properly fitting life jacket for each person on board. Life jackets need to be in good shape and readily accessible - not under a hatch or in its packaging. Youth 12 years and younger must wear a life jacket when in a boat less than 19 feet in length while the boat is in motion. For non-motorized watercraft, the same rules apply to however, it is recommended that those operators wear a life jacket at all times while operating non-motorized vessels such as canoes, kayaks, sailboats, stand up paddleboards (SUP), and inflatable rafts. Personal watercraft (PWC) such as Jet Skis must wear their life jackets at all times and follow PWC specific requirements for operation of those vessels. For detailed information on life jackets and other requirements, download or view the Washington State Parks Adventures in Boating Handbook.
  • Take a seat: It is illegal to ride on the bow, decks, gunwales or transoms of a motorboat when the boat is under way. Having all passengers seated in the boat while underway will prevent falls overboard and injuries.
  • Take a course and carry your boater education card: All boaters operating boats over 15 hp need to have a boater education card. All boaters under age 40 need to carry a boater safety card if they operate a vessel of 15 hp or greater. If you haven’t taken a boater safety course, consider doing so even if you aren’t required to have the boater card. Visit for more information.
  • Don't drink and boat: Intoxicated boat operators on the water and at the boat ramps can be arrested for boating under the influence (BUI), facing a fine of $2,000 and even jail time.  The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and State Parks Boating Program encourages boaters and floaters to leave the alcohol at home. It's safer for everybody sharing the waterways.
Marine Patrol Officers will be on the water to assist boaters and help keep the waterways safe. The top violations last summer were not having life jackets for everyone onboard, not carrying a boater education card, and not having current boat registration decals.

For information on boating laws in Washington, the Boater Education Card requirement and how to register your boat, visit or call (360) 902-8555.

Washington Boat Accident Report form (links to PDF from Washington State Parks & Recreation)

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