Virginia Jet Ski Laws: A Simple Cheat Sheet With All You Need to Know

Jet skiing in the summertime is a great way to make some cherished memories with family and friends. To make sure you do not come across any bumps with law enforcement while on the water you will need to know the rules and regulations for jet skiing in the state of Virginia. These rules can vary from state to state but it is a need-to-know in order to enjoy your time.

All PWC or vessel operators of horsepower of 10 or greater, regardless of the age of the operators, and those 14 years of age or older must take a boating safety course provided by the state of Virginia. Anyone under the age of 14 is not allowed to operate a PWC. If one is 14 to 15 years of age they must show proof their completion of the boating education course.

It is important to be aware of the following regulations and laws for riding a jet ski on the water within the state of Virginia. By doing so you are responsibly following the law and that will guarantee you have an adventurous and stress-free time on your jet ski with family and friends.

Registering your PWC

Virginia Registration Fees

Duplicate Title $2.00$7.00
Supplemental Lien/Transfer Lien$7.00$10.00
Change of Motor$2.00$7.00
Registration of boat less than 16 feet in length$27.00$32.00
Registration of boat 16 to less than 20 feet in length$31.00$36.00
Registration of boat 20 to less than 40 in length$37.00$42.00
Registration of boat 40 feet in length of longer$45.00$50.00
Duplicate Registration and decals (all length)$9.00$14.00

Numbers and Stickers

Once you receive your registration number and the validation stickers you must display these items in the following ways:

  • there cannot be any other numbers shown on the bow of your vessel
  • the letters have to be separated from the numbers with a hyphen or space
  • each number has to be painted, applied onto your vessel as a decal, or place to be shown on both sides of the bow
  • the numbers must be read from left to right on both sides
  • each number must be in block letters and three inches high
  • the color of your numbers must also be in contrast to the color of your vessel

Hull Identification Number

A Hull Identification Number (HIN) is a 12-digit number that is assigned by the manufacturer to vessels built after the year 1972. HIN helps be able to determine the differences between multiple vessels.

In case your vessel is stolen you should write down your HIN and place it somewhere safe and secure.

The Basics

PWC Rules and Regulations

  • you cannot operate a PWC within 500 feet of a designated swimming area
  • reckless operation of a PWC is not allowed. Examples of this are:
    • jumping a wake too close to another vessel
    • last minute avoidance of a collision
    • weaving carelessly through traffic
    • carrying more passengers on your PWC than is recommended
    • if you maneuver your PWC in such a way that it can cause unreasonable harm to you or your passengers
  • it is illegal to operate a PWC between the hours of sunset and sunrise especially when your vision is a bit restricted during the late hours
  • you cannot remove any backfire flame arrestor or ventilator if it is installed by your manufacturer
  • you must have a whistle or horn on board your PWC that is U.S. Coast Guard approved
  • the safety ignition switch must be fully functional and have a lanyard attached to it to ensure it does not get lost or misplaced
  • each person on the PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved type 1,2, or 3 personal flotation device.

Reckless Operation of a Vessel

Failure to Regulate Your Speed

When you operate your vessel at a faster speed than recommended you are putting those around you and yourself at risk for getting hurt. Especially during vessel traffic, poor weather conditions, and closeness to shore you will need to follow the speed regulations.

Examples of this are:

  • Operating your vessel at extreme speed in the close vicinity of another vessel, PWCs, or dangerous waters
  • Operating at a greater speed than “slow, no wake speed” that is posted in a “no wake” zone
  • Going faster than the speed limit posted near the body of water you are operating on
  • Going at a speed that can be harmful to your vessel

Improper Distance Between Others

If you are operating your vessel faster than 5 mph while operating within 100 feet of the shore, dock, pier, raft, float, or any anchored or moored vessel you are operating your vessel improperly and putting others around you at risk.

Riding on the Bow, Deck or Gunwale of a Vessel

Riding on anything that is not equipped with fixed seating can lead to the potential of falling overboard. Do not allow your passengers or yourself to sit on the seat back, transom, gunwale or on seats on raised decks or a bow.

Reckless Operation Specifics

This is when your weave through traffic, swerve last minute to avoid a head-on collision with another vessel or overload your vessel beyond the capacity it states on the plate.

Unsafe Conditions

Not having enough personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers, backfire flame arrestors, ventilation systems, or navigational lights are putting yourself and others abroad your vessel at risk.

You also put yourself and others in danger when you overload or overpower your boat or when you are operating the vehicle while intoxicated.

Alcohol and Drugs

In the state of Virginia you are considered to be under the influence if:

  • You are 21 years of age or older and have a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher, or if you are under the influence of drugs to a degree that it impairs your ability to operate safely
  • You are under the age of 21 and have a blood alcohol content of 0.02% or higher, or if you are under the influence of drugs to a degree where it impairs your ability to operate safely.
  • If you are convicted of operating BUI you can receive a fine of up to $2,500 and be imprisoned for up to 12 months.

Required Equipment

Personal Flotation Devices

Type 1Offshore Life Jackets This vest can turn an unconscious person in the water to face up in the water. It was made for rough waters and for situations where rescue might take a long time.
Type 2Near-Shore VestsThis vest is fit for calmer waters and faster rescues. If you were to wear this while unconscious it may not be able to turn your face up in the water.
Type 3Flotation AidsThis vest can also be a full-sleeved jacket and it is great for calm waters and fast rescues. This will definitely not turn your face up in rough waters. This is generally worn for water sports.
Type 4Throw able DevicesThis type of flotation device is a cushion or ring buoys and are typically used to throw at someone in trouble. They are not made to last for long hours in the waters, or non-swimmers, or the unconscious.
Type 5Special-Use DevicesThis type of flotation device was made for activities like kayaking, water-skiing These typically look like white water vests, deck suits, and personal flotation device hybrids.

Requirements for PFDs

  • a type 4 PFD, that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, must be on board a vessel that is 16 feet or longer and it must also be easily accessible for emergency use
  • vessels have to have 1 of the 5 PFDs on board and they also must be a wearable size for any passenger or operator
  • any person that is on board a PWC or vessel (no matter the age) must wear a PFD

Fire Extinguishers

You can classify your fire extinguishers by letter and number symbol. The number helps you decipher the size of the extinguishers, and the letter indicated the type of fire that is extinguishers as well.

TYPE A FIRESThese types of fires are combustible solids such as wood
TYPE B FIRESThese types of fires are flammable liquids like gasoline or oil
TYPE C FIRESThis type of fire is mainly electrical fires

These fire extinguishers must stay in a usable condition. You need to regularly check up on the extinguishers to ensure they are in the best condition:

  • seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing
  • pressure gauges or indicators read in the operable range
  • there is no physical damage, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzle

What To Do in an Accident

In the terrible event of an accident occurring while you or another person is using a vessel or PWC. The operator must submit a written casualty or accident report if…

  • a person dies
  • a person is unable to perform normal or usual activities
  • there is damage to the vessel or other property damage and it totals to more than $2,000 or if there is a complete loss of the vessel
  • a person disappears from the vessel and it may indicate possible death or injury

Law Enforcement

  • The boating laws of Virginia are enforced by the Conservation Police Officers employed by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard has also the authority to enforce laws on federally controlled waters

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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