Virginia is one of the most popular boating destinations in all of North America. Like most states and provinces, Virginia has many rules, regulations and requirements. With that in mind, we’ve compiled the following list that includes the 10 most crucial items that you should know before embarking on your Virginia boating adventure.
1. Virginia requires all boat operators to take and pass a safety course. The Virginia boater safety course is available online, in classrooms locally in Virginia, and even through home study completed via mail. Per Virginia law, prices for the Virginia boater safety course range from free to $29.95 and all course providers must do so on a no pass, no pay basis. Note that materials may increase cost beyond $29.95.
2. Virginia does allow equivalents for its course requirement. Virginia accepts all non-grandfathered NASBLA approved boating safety courses. That covers all U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary courses, most U.S. state courses, and the boater safety course required by Canada. You do not need to convert the license, but you will need documentation on hand while driving the boat.
3. As of July 2009, Virginia requires a boater safety course for all personal watercraft (PWC). PWCs include Ski-Doo, Waverunner, JET SKI and so forth. The minimum age to drive a PWC in Virginia legally is 14. A younger person can be on the vehicle legally if the vehicle is suitable for passengers.
4. Virginia regulates required equipment on all boats. The most important piece of equipment is the life jacket. There must be one life vest per person on the boat. Note that each personal flotation device (PFD) must be in proper condition and applicable for the person it is intended for. If you have two adults and a child and three type 1 life preserves, you have not met the requirement. Likewise, if a preserver is in poor condition, you have not met the requirement.
5. Virginia requires that all boats longer than 26 feet have a USCG approved fire extinguisher aboard that is adequately charged. Note that some boats smaller than 26 feet require a fire extinguisher as well, so you should verify whether your boat applies to one of those exceptions.
6. Virginia offers a wide range of public boating access points. It is illegal to use a private or commercial access point with proper permission or authorization. Use the Virginia.gov website to find a public access point that is most convenient for you.
7. Virginia laws, rules, regulations and requirements apply to all bodies of water, including the ocean, lakes and rivers. Note that Virginia has rules and regulations that are specific to lakes and rivers. Therefore, you should read the regulations for all areas that apply to your boating trip.
8. Virginia has more than 150 natural and manmade lakes. It also has more than 50 major rivers and streams. Virginia is a diverse ecosystem with many different opportunities. In order to find the spot perfect for you and your family, take some time to research the various areas available.
9. Virginia is also home to some of the continents’ best whitewater. Areas like Summer Gauley and the Lower New River are perfect for adults. The Upper New River is perfect for the tikes, a real adventure for them that won’t stress mom out too much.
10. Note that wildlife is an important aspect of Virginia, and you can even take guided wildlife boat trips. Also, note that there are wildlife-viewing regulations, many of which apply to boaters. If you plan to view wildlife from the boat or will be in an area where this activity is common, you should be aware of those regulations ahead of time.
Planning Your Next Virginia Boating Adventure
The Virginia government website has entire sections dedicated to boating and wildlife. The site does a great job of making the information accessible, and you can even search it extensively. If you still have questions after reading this article, make sure to check it out.