Reference Information

Table of Contents

VHF Marine Radio Channels and Frequencies

Channel Number Frequency (MHz) Communication Purpose
Distress, Safety Calling
16 156.800 International Distress, Safety and Calling
70 156.525 Digital Selective Calling Only. NO VOICE
Intership Safety
06 156.300 Intership Safety Only
Coast Guard    
22A 157.100 U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard Liaison & Safety
83A 157.175 U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard Liaison
Non-Commercial - Pleasure Craft Working Frequencies
09 156.450 Intership/Ship to Shore
67 156.375 Intership (U.S. only)
68 156.425 Intership/Ship to Shore
69 156.475 Intership/Ship to Shore
71 156.625 Intership/Ship to Shore (U.S. only)
72 156.675 Intership (U.S. only)
78A 156.925 Intership/Ship to Shore, some U.S. marinas
Navigation/Port Operations – Use low power only
13 156.650 Vessel Bridge to Bridge (Mandatory for >100 tons)
U.S. only: Locks and Bridges
14 156.700 Vessel Traffic System (Puget Sound)
5A 156.250 Vessel Traffic System (Straits)
11 156.550 Vessel Traffic System (B. C.– Victoria)
12 156.600 Vessel Traffic System (B. C. – Vancouver)
66A 156.325 All Marinas in Puget Sound and Canada
73 156.575 Port Operations
74 156.725 Vessel Traffic System (B. C. – Fraser R. and Tofino)
  1. In B.C. Channel 66A is used to call all marinas. The FCC requests that all U.S, marinas use Channel 66A. Also in Canada, Channels 11, 12, 13, 71 & 74 are reserved for vessel traffic management. In Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca Channels 5A and 14 are reserved for vessel traffic use.
  2. A VHF Ship Station license and a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit are required if your VHF radio is used in foreign waters (including Canada and Mexico), for vessels over 20 meters in length. (
  3. Intership Channels 67 & 72 can now be used for communication between commercial and noncommercial vessels (same as Channel 9) in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and in British Columbia.
  4. The noncommercial (pleasure craft) intership frequencies are:   United States: 09, 67, 68, 69, 72, 73, 78A
      British Columbia: 09, 67, 68, 69, 72, 73

~ From the FCC and DOC (Canada) and provided by the North Pacific Marine Radio Council.

The Coast Guard does not advocate cellular phones as a substitute for the regular maritime radio distress and safety systems recognized by the Federal Communications Commission. However, cellular phones can have a place on board as an added measure of safety.

For more information, consult the pamphlet VHF-FM Frequencies for Pleasure Vessels published annually by the Recreation Boating Association of Washington ( and North Pacific Marine Radio Council. The FCC public information telephone number is 1-888-225-5322.

Power? Try one watt first if the station being called is within a few miles. If there is no answer you may switch to higher power.

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Important Phone Numbers

Agency Contact
Fire, Police, Harbor Patrol (For Emergency Only) 911
Harbor Patrol (Business Office) 206-684-4071
Red Tide Hotline 800-562-5632
Shellfish Regulation Hotline 360-796-3215
Hiram Chittenden Locks 206-783-7000
U.S. Marine Forecaster (8am to 3pm) 206-526-6087
U.S. Coast Guard (EMERGENCIES-24 HOURS) 206-217-6001
U.S. Customs
    Yachts reporting arrival in Seattle/Clearance
    Pin # and after hours (5 p.m. to 8 a.m.) clearance
    Customs and Border Crossing Information:

U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Information 800-375-5283
    CANPASS clearance
    NEXUS pass clearance


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Marine VHF Radio Procedure

(Supplied by the North Pacific Marine Radio Council and U.S. Coast Guard)

Guidelines for the use of Marine VHF Radio: VHF equipment should be used correctly and in accordance with FCC radio regulations. If you call on Channel 16, before speaking, find a clear working channel to switch to, and prepare remarks to ensure that no time is wasted on a busy channel. When calling, state the name of the ship or coast station you are addressing (twice in heavy traffic conditions or if the connection is weak) followed by the phrase, “this is…” and the ship’s name twice, followed by the call sign. In answering, reply using the ship’s name. If necessary to switch channels, so indicate and wait for acknowledgement before carrying out the change. If you understand a transmission say, “Message received.” The end of a communication is indicated by the word “out.”

Example of proper calling:

    Blue Duck: “Mary Jane, this is Blue Duck, waz1234.”

    Mary Jane: “Blue Duck, Mary Jane.”

    Blue Duck: “Reply 68.”

(USCG website information:

Channel 16:  Used only for distress and urgency traffic, safety calls and contacting other stations. Listen first to ascertain that the channel is clear. Do not transmit if a SEELONCE MAYDAY or SEELONCE DISTRESS is declared. Keep communication short. Do not repeat a call to the same station more than once every two minutes and wait at least fifteen minutes after the third try. Do not call marinas for moorage on 16—use 66A. In US waters pleasure craft are authorized to use Channel 9 as a calling channel.

Channel 13 is designated “bridge to bridge” and is intended for use between the bridges of vessels over 20 meters in length to reduce the chance of accidents. Channel 13 may only be used to transmit information necessary for the safe navigation of vessels. It is the backup channel for the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service.

Channel 14 is the Vessel Traffic Service channel in Puget Sound. Channel 5A is used in the US waters of Admiralty Inlet, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands. These channels are used by vessels required to participate in the PSVTS, but all vessels operating in commercial traffic areas are encouraged to monitor them to become aware of major vessel movements and hazardous conditions. Emergency communication will be accepted from any vessel by the Seattle Traffic watch. Use low power (1 watt).

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W7SYC Amateur Radio References

The Amateur Radio Committee operates a web based discussion group, contact lists, links, and a self-service message board at in addition to the SYC website committee page which has general information. To subscribe to the yahoo site, send an email to with your name, boat name, email address, and call sign.

The following page lists members who have call signs. Members who are FCC/ARRL Volunteer Examiners are designated with a star. The Amateur Radio Committee is open to all members and guests who are interested in amateur radio. However, only licensed operators are listed so that they can be contacted by call sign.

Boater Nets – The following repeaters and HF frequencies in megahertz are available in the greater NW area.

Puget Sound Repeaters

Puget Sound Area Emergency Services

145.19 127.3 Sedro Woolley
146.78 103.5 Woodinville
146.82 103.5 Squak Mt., Issaquah
146.88 none Green Mt., Bremerton
146.92 123.0 Mount Pilchuck, Everett
147.34 none Woodinville
440.30 103.5 Shoreline
3.987   ARES HF Net


Vancouver Island Trunk Frequencies

Repeater Frequencies North to Pt. Hardy

147.24   Victoria
146.68 442.60 Chemainus
145.43 443.90 Nanaimo
147.15   Port Alberni
147.08   Parksville
443.70   Courtenay
146.82   Campbell River
146.70 224.62 Sayward
  448.95 Alert Bay
146.94   Port McNeil
146.88   W. of Campbell River


Evergreen Intertie

145.33 179.9 Tiger Mt., Issaquah

Links repeaters South to River, Portland, East to Spokane

Boating Nets

3.855 1800 Summer only West Coast Boaters Net (BC Area)
3.865 0830 All year Northwest Boaters Net (Calif to Alaska)
3.870 0800 Summer only Great Northern Boaters Net (BC & Alaska)
14.313 1800 All Year Pacific Maritime Net (Pacific Ocean ) – frequency can vary
146.88 0750 Scheduled Puget Sound Boaters Net – Practice Net, no access tone
146.68 1700 Summer only BC Boaters Net (BC Coast through Island Trunk System)
146.56 Anytime All Year Simplex frequency for general calling and boat to boat

To prepare for emergencies:

  • Make a list of the repeaters in your area
  • Program a list of emergency frequencies into your radio’s memory – remember offset and PL tones
  • Have extra batteries, general coverage radio, portable antennas, and a way to
  • Charge from 12 volts

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Regulations for Boating in Canada

Canada is in the process of making boater education a requirement for all boat operators. The Pleasure Craft Operator Proficiency Card is the equivalent of a driver’s license and will be required of all boaters operating power driven vessels. Canada recognizes boating education certificates issued for completion of Coast Guard and US Power Squadron courses that have been approved by the National Associating of Boating Law Administrators. The proof of education must be on board the operated boat. The requirement applies to all recreational motorboats, no matter how small the motor. Under the regulations, anyone born after April 1, 1983, who operates a recreational vessel fitted with a motor and all operators of vessels fitted with a motor and less than four meters in length, are required to have proof of competency on board at all times. All other persons who operate pleasure craft fitted with a motor of any size will have to carry proof of competency as of September 15, 2009. Proof of age must be exhibited to qualify for the 2009 date. A different type of qualification applies to persons operating rented boats.

Under age 12, the operator of a boat with a motor over 10 horsepower must be accompanied or supervised by a person 16 or older. Operators age 12-16 may not operate a motor over 40 horsepower unless accompanied or supervised by a person 16 or over. Age 16 is the minimum age for operating personal watercraft.

Exemption: Non-resident boaters are currently waived from the operator competency requirement for stays of under 45 consecutive days subject only to licensing requirements from their home jurisdictions. Proof of residency must be exhibited in order to come within the exemption.

US boaters who wish to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card must pass an accredited boating safety test. Tests are accredited by Transport Canada and administered by private organizations, called course providers. The card is valid for life. The Canadian PCOC regulation is available at Select “competency of operators” to get up-to-date information.

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Flag Etiquette of the Seattle Yacht Club

Flag etiquette is defined here by two tables. The first table lists the flags in numerical order of precedence. Many members will have occasion to fly only the first three of these flags. Others may on occasion fly them all. The second table lists the locations in order of precedence annotated alphabetically.

To determine the correct location for each flag:

  1. Identify the flags that will be flown and their order of precedence from the first table.
  2. Determine the correct location for these flags from the second table

Flags in Order of Precedence

Precedence Description When Flown
1 U.S. Ensigni 8 am to sunsetii
  U.S.Yacht Ensigniii 8 am to sunsetii

Courtesy Flag
(Host Country National Flag)

In accordance with local customs
only when in the waters of the country whose
flag is being flown

3 Seattle Yacht Club Burgeeiv Day and night
4 Cheechako Flagv Day and night, while aboardvi
5 Seattle Yacht Club Officers Flagvii Day and night, while aboardvi
6 Amateur Radio Pennant Day and night, while aboardvi
7 Other Official Seattle Yacht Club Flagsviii Day and night, while aboardvi
8 Private Signalsix Day and night
9 Other Flagsx Day and night, while aboardvi


Locations in Order of Precedence

Precedence Condition Powerboat Sailboat
a Moored, anchored or under power Stern staffxi Stern staffxi
  Under sail   Stern staff. Alternatively, if gaff rigged,
peak of aft gaff. If Marconi rigged, 2/3 up
aftmost backstay or aftmost leachxi
b All Fore truck Main starboard spreaderxii
c All Bow staff Main port spreader
d All Main starbord spreader If there is no port spreader halyard,
below the burgee and other flags of
higher precedence on the starboard
e All Main port spreader  

Members with sailboats are strongly encouraged but not required to have both port and starboard flag halyards. For flag etiquette or protocol issues not covered here, please refer to the section on proper display of flags in Chapman’s Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling.In the event of a conflict with Chapman’s, the Seattle Yacht Club Flag Etiquette shall control. Example: You are sailing your sloop and want to fly the club burgee and a registered private signal, in addition to the ensign. You have flag halyards on port and starboard spreaders. The ensign (flag precedence 1) would fly from the stern staff, the burgee (precedence 2) from the main starboard spreader, and your private signal from the main port spreader. If you crossed the border into Canada, after crossing into Canadian waters, you would fly the Canadian national ensign as a courtesy flag from the main starboard spreader and move the burgee to the main port spreader above your private signal.

Flag Size

Ensigns flown at the stern staff should be one inch on the fly for every foot of overall length. All other flags, including courtesy flags, are sized on the fly in accordance with mast height for sailboats (1/2” per foot) or overall length for powerboats (5/8” per foot). On Sundays and holidays, when anchored or moored, a boat may fly its National Ensign one size larger than described here (holiday colors).

Seattle Yacht Club Burgee

The burgee may be flown on a boat only when a Seattle Yacht Club member is aboard or when the member’s boat is unattended at a dock, mooring or at anchor. The burgee is not to be flown on a commercial vessel. The burgee must be flown at all Seattle Yacht Club outstations from arrival until departure. (It should not be struck for temporary absences of the member). Members in good standing who fail to display the Seattle Yacht Club burgee properly will not be allowed to stay at a Seattle Yacht Club outstation.

Courtesy Flag (Host Country National Flag)

Strict protocol and flag etiquette require that when a foreign national flag is flown as a courtesy flag, it be flown unencumbered (alone). However, recent custom allows that sailing vessels having only one flag halyard, may fly the courtesy flag at the top of that halyard, with the remaining flags in order of precedence below it. The courtesy flag is sized in accordance with the instructions above. It is raised on crossing into the host country’s waters and flown until leaving those waters.

Private Signals

Club By-Law 13.10 permits members to adopt a private signal to be registered with the Club Secretary. Design your signal, using either a rectangular or swallowtail and confirm your design with the Club Secretary. Then have your signal and plaque made to Club specifications, preferably using an approved vendor. The plaque will be hung in the Club and the design shown in the registration log. Fly your private signal properly and proudly!

  1. An ensign need not be flown while racing, or on the high seas, unless required for national identification or flag salutes. USPS members should see USPS directives for flying the USPS flag. USCGA members should see USCGA directives for flying the USCGA flag.
  2. An ensign may be flown after sunset if properly illuminated.
  3. May be flown in lieu of U.S. Ensign (in U.S. waters only).
  4. In the case of a sailboat with port and starboard flag halyards, the burgee must be flown on the starboard spreader halyard with only a Seattle Yacht Club Officer’s Flag (see footnote 7) beneath, with all other flags then being flown from the port spreader. The SYC burgee is not to be flown on the starboard halyard with “Other Flags” as described in footnote 10.
  5. The Cheechako flag signifying a new member is always flown, if possible, immediately beneath the Seattle Yacht Club burgee. If this location is not possible, then choose the next location in order of precedence. The Cheechako flag is flown for the first twelve months of membership.
  6. “While aboard” means the SYC member or spouse is either aboard or temporarily ashore, intending to return to the boat that same day.
  7. Refers to current officers but also includes Past Commodore, Honorary Life Commodore flags, current and past Opening Day Admiral, Vice Admiral and Admiralette flags. The flag of the highest ranking officer aboard shall be flown. If other officers are aboard, their flags should be displayed below the flag of the highest ranking officer aboard in descending order of precedence.
  8. Flags including but not limited to Grand 14, Sailboat of the Year, Powerboat of the Year, Women’s Group, Eight Ball, Half Vast, Commodore’s Cruise, NORPAC and official Seattle Yacht Club event and honorary flags.
  9. As registered with the Club Secretary pursuant to Section 13.10 of the By-Laws
  10. “Other Flags” include but are not limited to those flags authorized by naval, military or recognized yachting organizations, including other yacht clubs of which the skipper is a member. They may be displayed at the option of the skipper in accordance with their respective regulations. If a skipper has flags in this category to be displayed, they must be flown from a port spreader halyard. No flag from this category may be flown from the starboard halyard with the Seattle Yacht Club burgee.
  11. No other flag but an ensign may be flown from these locations.
  12. As an alternate, the burgee may be flown at the masthead. In that case, all other flags below the burgee move up one location in order of precedence.

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Small Craft Advisory, Gale, and Storm Warning

Explanation of Display Signals:

Small Craft Advisory: One red pennant displayed by day and a red light over a white light at night to indicate winds up to 33 knots and/or sea conditions dangerous to small craft operations are forecast for the area.

Gale Warning: Two red pennants displayed by day and a white light above a red light at night to indicate winds ranging from 34 to 47 knots are forecast for the area.

Storm Warning: A single square red flag with a black center displayed during daytime and two red lights at night to indicate winds ranging from 48 knots or higher are forecast for the area.


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Marine Environmental Code of Ethics


As members of the Seattle Yacht Club who cherish the waters we cruise, it is our goal to protect the marine environment for generations to come. Our objectives are:

  • To protect the sea from senseless and harmful dumping by returning bottles, cans, paper and other waste to shore for proper disposal or recycling. When possible, we will clean up after others who are less thoughtful.
  • To achieve and maintain our water quality by using holding tanks or marine waste treatment systems. It is our goal to discharge no waste into sensitive waters. We will encourage the use of shoreside facilities and pumpout stations where available.We will encourage the provision of additional pumpout systems by marinas and public agencies.
  • To be aware of the effect of noise, smoke, and odors generated by our vessels and our activities on those around us.
  • To avoid contaminating waterways with harmful pollutants, such as fuel and oil. We encourage the use of environmentally compatible products in operation and maintenance of our vessels.
  • To use our best efforts to educate our fellow boaters to support the restoration and protection of our marine environment.

As responsible citizens and boaters, we should be community leaders by aggressively pursuing opportunities to protect our marine environment, and by example, encourage others to do the same.

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Seattle Bridge Information

Lake Washington Ship Canal, Lake Washington, and Duwamish River

Whistle signals prescribed by U.S. Coast Guard for openings.

  • Prolonged blast, four seconds: 
  • Short blast, less than one second:

Five or more short blasts Danger or no opening. New Coast Guard regulations have established one long and one short as the standard bridge signal.

The following bridges are in order as encountered from seaward:

Bridge Notes Signal
Burlington-Northern RR Bridge: 206-784-2976 Clearance 42 feet at high tide.   
Canal Locks: 206-783-7000

Vessels without tows
Vessels with tows
Vessels needing half lock
Vessels needing full lock

Ballard Bridge: 206-282-9525 Clearance 44 feet  
Fremont Bridge: 206-386-4234 Clearance 30 feet  
University Bridge: 206-684-4765 Clearance 42 feet, 6 inches  
Montlake Bridge: 206-720-3048 Clearance 46 feet
Now under State mgt. 24-hr. on duty
Evergreen Bridge 206-440-4490

(Opened by appointment)
Clearance east 55 feet, west 45 feet

Mercer Island Bridge Minimum clearance for both east and
west fixed spans is 28 feet.
East Channel Bridge (east side of Mercer Island)
fixed span has a clearance of 65 feet.

The following bridges are for the Duwamish River, in order from Elliot Bay:

Bridge Notes Signal
West Spokane Street Swing Bridge: 206-684-7443 Clearance 55 feet MHW     
West Seattle High Rise Bridge (new fixed span) Clearance 140 feet MLLW  
Burlington-Northern RR Bridge: 206-935-1130 (RR Bridge only)
Clearance 18 feet MLLW
First Avenue South Bridges: 206-764-4160 Clearance 50 feet MLLW   
Sixteenth Avenue South Bridge: 206-762-2530 Clearance 45 feet MLLW   

The above information furnished by the Seattle Department of Transportation, November 2006.


Open-studded steel decking creates traffic noise directly under the bridge towers, making it difficult to hear boat signals.Wait to sound until you are a few hundred yards from the bridge. One long and one short blast is the signal to open all the Ship Canal bridges. The bridge tender will return this signal if the bridge is soon to open. In case of delay the tender will signal with five short blasts. When a boat is following others under an open bridge, it is not necessary for all to whistle.

Closed Periods

All of the bridges across Lake Washington Ship Canal remain closed during periods of heavy auto traffic. The Ballard and Fremont bridges are closed from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday except holidays. The University bridge remains closed to boaters weekdays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., except national holidays. The Montlake bridge is closed from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. from May through August. From October through April it is closed from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. as well as 3:30 to 7:00 p.m. On Husky football game days, the Montlake bridge has special closed periods (see Notice to Mariners). The Montlake bridge opens only on the hour and half hour on weekdays year round.

The Ballard, Fremont and University bridges open upon request but do not have operators on duty between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. seven days a week. A single bridge tender, stationed at the Fremont Bridge Shop (206-386-4251), must drive from bridge to bridge. One hour’s notice is required.


At night, between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., radio may be used for communication with the bridge operator providing that the regulations pertaining to the use of Channel 13 are observed. (See Radio Procedures on page 121). If you are with several other boats, one radio call should suffice for the group. Call the bridge operator an hour before you need the bridge opened either on the radio or by telephone at 206-286-4251.

The Locks

All vessels using the Locks must have at least two lines 50 feet long with a loop spliced in one end. The loop end should be given to the attendant. Rig fenders on both sides of the boat. While waiting outside the locks keep well clear of exiting vessels or tie up in the waiting area. The current always flows out to the Sound from the Locks and can be turbulent close to the gates. Observe the red and green traffic lights mounted at the ends of the large and small locks and listen for instructions on the public address system. Inside the locks proceed as directed by the lock attendant. Precedence is given to government vessels, scheduled passenger vessels, and commercial vessels over pleasure craft, except those with tows. Monitor Channel 13, which also may be used, if absolutely necessary, to call the lock attendants.

For detailed instructions visit the Locks website:

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Seattle Harbor Code Excerpts

The complete version of the Seattle Harbor Code can be read on the city’s website:

Speed Regulations

Within the harbor limits of the city it shall be unlawful for any person to operate any watercraft or vessel at a speed in excess of the following maximum limits:

  1. Seven nautical miles per hour within one hundred yards of any shoreline, pier, restricted area or shore installation in Lake Washington, or upon the Lake Washington Ship Canal and adjacent waters east of the entrance buoy at Shilshole Bay to 100 yards east of Webster Point light entering the lake and within two hundred yards of any shoreline, pier, restricted area or shore installation in all other waters of the city.
  2. Seven nautical miles per hour in Lake Union provided that during daylight hours the seven-knot speed limit shall not apply in a speed test area one hundred yards wide and four hundred yards long, marked by buoys except that in no event shall any watercraft or vessel operate at a speed in excess of seven knots in said area prior to making a U-turn.
  3. Four nautical miles per hour from the western end of the west guide pier of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks of the Lake Washington Ship Canal to the eastern end of the east guide pier at said Locks; or
  4. Three nautical miles per hour south of the outermost headlands of Andrews Bay (a line drawn due west from the north tangent of Bailey Peninsula).
  5. Three nautical miles per hour within one hundred yards of the shoreline of Lake Washington in an area marked by buoys and bounded on the north by a line which is an extension of the center line south Henderson Street and bounded on the south by a line which is an extension of the center line of South Carver Street.
  6. Three nautical miles per hour inside of the breakwater at Shilshole Bay Marina, Elliott Bay Marina, or within the confines of any established marina or boat moorage area.
  7. Three nautical miles per hour south of the outermost headlands of Wetmore Cove (a line drawn west from the north tangent of Sayres Park).

Vessels operated by only human power are exempt from this section provided they are not operated in a negligent or reckless manner.


Accidents, Assistance, and Reports

The operator of any vessel involved in an accident resulting in damage to property who knows or should know of the accident shall immediately stop such vessel at the scene of such accident and shall give his name, address, the name and/or number of his vessel, and the name and address of the owner, to the person struck or the operator or occupants of the vessel collided with or property damaged, and shall render to any person injured in such an accident reasonable assistance.

The master, owner or operator of any vessel shall file a report within forty-eight hours with the Chief of Police of any accident involving death or personal injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid in which such vessel shall have been involved in Seattle Harbor. The master or owner of any vessel shall file a report within ten days of any accident if damage to the vessel and other property totals more than five hundred dollars or there is a complete loss of the vessel.

16.24.010 and 16.24.020


  1. It shall be unlawful for any person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or narcotic or habit-forming drugs to operate or be in actual physical control of any vessel or watercraft.
  2. It shall be unlawful for the owner of any vessel or watercraft or any person having such in charge or in control to authorize or knowingly permit the same to be operated by any person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic or habit-forming drugs.
  3. Whenever it appears reasonably certain to any police or harbor officer that any person under the influence of, or affected by the use, of intoxicating liquor or of any narcotic drug is about to operate a watercraft or vessel in violation of subsection A of this section, the officer may take reasonable measures to prevent any such person from so doing, either by taking from him the keys of such watercraft or vessel and locking the same, or by some other appropriate means. In any such case, the officer shall immediately report the facts to his Commanding Officer of the Harbor Department, and shall, as soon as possible, deposit the keys or other articles, if any, taken from the watercraft or vessel or person with the Commanding Officer. Such keys or other articles may be returned to any person upon his demand and proper identification of himself when it appears that he is no longer under the influence of intoxicating liquor or narcotic.


Negligent Operation

A person shall not operate a vessel or aircraft on the water in a negligent manner. For the purposes of this section, to “operate in a negligent manner” means operating a vessel or aircraft on the water in disregard of careful and prudent operation, or in disregard of careful and prudent speed that are no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of traffic, size of the lake or body of water, freedom from obstruction to view ahead, effects of vessel wake, and so as not to unduly or unreasonably endanger life, limb, property, or other rights of any person entitled to the use of such waters.



Swimming in the harbor shall be prohibited except:

  1. In designated swimming areas; or
  2. To within a distance of fifty feet from the shore or a pier unless the swimmer is accompanied by a swimming shall be permitted in the US Government Locks, Montlake Cut, Freemont Cut, under any bridge, within the confines of any guidewall or within three hundred feet of a ferry slip or boat launch ramp.


Skin Diving or SCUBA

Skin diving or scuba diving permit – Areas required.

  1. It shall be unlawful to engage in skin diving or scuba diving in the following areas of the harbor without a written permit issued by the Chief of Police therefor:
    1. To the east of a line from the northwest corner of Harbor Island to the westernmost corner of the U.S. Naval property located in Smith Cove, in the waters of the Lake Washington Ship Canal from the mid-channel buoy in Shilshole Bay to Webster Point light, including the waters of Lake Union and Portage Bay, all of the inner moorage area of the Port of Seattle moorings at Shilshole Bay Marina, Elliott Bay Marina or any established marina moorage area other than within the confines of the individual slip while working on a specific vessel and within three hundred feet of the perimeter of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility at Sand Point.


Water Skiing

  1. No watercraft which shall have in tow or shall be otherwise assisting a person on waterskis, aquaplane, surfboard or similar contrivances shall be operated or propelled in the harbor unless such watercraft shall be occupied by at least two competent persons; provided, that this subsection shall not apply to watercraft used in duly authorized waterski tournaments…
  2. It shall be unlawful to water-ski or to tow or otherwise assist anyone on water skis, aquaplane, surfboard or similar contrivance upon the following waters:
    1. Within two hundred yards of or on the waters of the Lake Washington Ship Canal or within 200 yards of any shoreline, pier, restricted area or shore installation on Lake Union;
    2. Upon the waters of Salmon Bay, Portage Bay, or Shilshole Bay; or to ski parallel within one hundred yards of shore installations on Lake Washington and adjacent waters. Water skiers may start at a shore installation but must head away from shore to a point at least one hundred yards, or two hundred yards, as set forth above, before skiing parallel with the shore. The return to shore must be on a ninety-degree angle to the shoreline.
  3. No watercraft shall have in tow or shall otherwise be assisting a person on water skis, aquaplane, surfboard or similar contrivance from sunset to sunrise; provided, that this subsection shall not apply to watercraft used in duly authorized water-ski tournaments, competitions, expositions, or trials thereof.
  4. All watercraft having in tow or otherwise assisting a person on water skis, aquaplane, surfboard or similar contrivance, shall be operated in a careful and prudent manner and shall remain at all times at a reasonable and prudent distance from the person and property of others.
  5. Any person on water skis, aquaplane, surfboard or similar contrivance shall conduct himself upon the same in a careful and prudent manner and shall remain at all times a reasonable and prudent distance from the person and property of others.


Water Sport Craft

No person shall engage in the operation of or ride upon a water sport craft that is over fifty feet from shore or a pier without wearing a personal flotation device. No person shall engage in the operation of or ride upon a water sport craft upon the waters of the United States Government Locks, Montlake Cut, Fremont Cut or under any bridge or within the confines of any guidewall or similar structure.



It shall be unlawful to use or operate any engine in or on Seattle Harbor that is not in compliance with the Seattle Municipal Code Section 25.08.485.


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Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service

The United States Coast Guard, by authority of the Ports and Waterways Act of 1972, maintains numerous Vessel Traffic Services throughout the United States. One such is the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service (PSVTS). The mission of PSVTS is to prevent collisions and groundings and to protect life, property, and the environment on and around the navigable waters of the PSVTS area. PSVTS is comprised of three major components: Vessel Movement Reporting System (VMRS), Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) and Surveillance systems including radar and closed circuit television.

PSVTS covers most of the waters from Olympia to the Canadian border and westward through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and participation is mandatory. However, participation requirements refer only to the vessel movement reporting system and to the following types of vessels:

  1. Power-driven vessels of 20 meters or more in length
  2. Vessels of 100 gross tons or more carrying passengers for hire
  3. Commercial vessels 8 meters or more in length and engaged in towing
  4. Dredges and floating plants

Any vessel underway within the Traffic Separation Scheme must abide by the TSS. Anchoring in the TSS is prohibited. Vessels required to participate in the Vessel Movement Reporting System use VHF-FM Channel 14 for communications in the area South of Bush Point, and Channel 5A for the area North of Bush Point, including the Strait of Juan de Fuca. These frequencies are solely for the use of PSVTS and are quite busy.Vessels not required to participate in the VMRS, such as recreational vessels, can maintain a listening watch on Channel 14 or 5A, but should not transmit on that frequency unless an emergency concerning PSVTS arises. Routine broadcasts on Channel 14 and 5A contain much good information about vessel movements, menaces to navigation, aids to navigation discrepancies, regattas, etc. Channel 13 is used as Seattle’s secondary frequency when 5A or 14 are temporarily unavailable.

The one-way traffic lanes, 1,000 yards wide with 500 yard-wide separation zones between the lanes are the basic elements of the traffic separation scheme. Precautionary areas are located at critical junctures, turning point and terminals of the traffic lanes. It is important to note that all vessels, when in the TSS, must follow the TSS rules. Power driven vessels under 20 meters are not, however, required to use the TSS.

The radar surveillance of the PSVTS is conducted from 12 radar sites throughout the area and is monitored at the Vessel Traffic Center at Pier 36 in Seattle. Radar coverage extends from Cape Flattery all the way through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, North through Rosario Strait, and South in Puget Sound to Three Tree Point.

The Rules of the Road, and all other navigation laws, rules, and regulations apply as usual in the PSVTS area. Note that Navigation Rule 10 has been modified to provide that a vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the safe passage of a power driven vessel following a traffic lane. Pleasure boats must also observe a security zone of 100 yards from any US military vessel, tanker or ferry.

Notes: When submitting for a yacht racing or regatta permit, make sure the phone number listed on the form is the phone number of the committee boat.

More information on Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service is available in the United States Coast Guard’s Puget Sound VTS Users Manual, a copy of which may be obtained at the Federal Building or on the web at:

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