Important Seattle Area Boating Information

Information to help you stay out of trouble with the Harbor Patrol and Coast Guard when boating in the Seattle area.

July 1, 2013 – Post Updated

The Seattle Harbor Patrol has published a very nice booklet (available from the Seattle Harbor Patrol and at Coast Guard Auxiliary events in the Seattle Area) (also available in PDF format for a free download) on how to avoid unwanted attention from the Seattle Harbor Patrol and other Law Enforcement Organizations

Avoiding the Seattle Harbor Patrol’s Attention

Rules of the Water:

All vessels operating on federally regulated waters, including those in the City of Seattle, shall be in compliance with all Federal, State and local equipment requirements.

Speed Limits (SMC 16.20.130)

7 Knots
In all the following bodies of water:

  • Lake Union (No Wake Zone)
  • Salmon Bay (No Wake Zone)
  • Union Bay (No Wake Zone)
  • Portage Bay (No Wake Zone)
  • Lake Washington Ship Canal (No Wake Zone)
  • Within 100 yards of any shoreline, pier, restricted area or shore installation in:
  • a: .Lake Washington
  • b: .Lake Washington Ship Canal
  • Adjacent waters east of the entrance buoys at Shilshole Bay to 100 yards east of Webster Point light entering Lake Washington.
  • Within 200 yards of any shoreline, pier, restricted area or shore installation in all other waters of the City (Puget Sound, Elliott Bay, etc.)

4 Knots
Western end of the west guide pier of the Locks to the eastern end of the east guide pier at the Locks.

3 Knots

  • Andrews Bay
  • Rainier Boat Launch
  • Inside the breakwater at Shilshole Bay Marina.
  • Elliott Bay Marina
  • Any established marina
  • Any established boat moorage area


Test Course in Lake Union

The use of the speed test area shall be subject to the following limits.

  • To be used during daylight hours only.
  • In no event shall any vessel or water sport craft operate at a speed in excess of 7 knots in said area immediately prior to making a U-turn.
  • No vessel or water sports craft shall enter the speed test area and exceed the 7-knot limit if any other vessel or water sport craft in presently using the speed test area at a speed in excess of 7 knots.
  • No vessel or water sports craft shall make more than 4 runs in or across the speed test area during a two-hour period.
  • The speed test area is intended for brief and limited use and shall be used ONLY for vessel testing by individuals maintaining or selling vessels.

Washington State Boaters Education Requirements

By January 1, 2010, boaters 30-years-old and younger must have their Boater’s Education Card. The Boaters Education law has a phased in period for compliance from 2008 until 2016 for various age groups.

Boaters born prior to January 01, 1955 are exempt from the education requirements , there are some other exemptions for Licensed Coast Guard Masters and a few other classes. However taking a Safe Boating class is still a safe idea, learn early avoid the rush.

Life Jackets

(SMC 16.20.030; WAC 352-60-030)

Children: Children 12 and under (as of July 25th, 1999) are required to wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets in Washington State when in a vessel less than 19 feet and underway, unless in a fully enclosed area.

Homeland Security Restriction

  • Violations of the restrictions below can expect a quick and stern response.
  • DO NOT approach within 100 yards, and slow to minimum speed within 500 yards of any U.S. Navy vessel.
  • If you need to pass within 100 yards of a U.S. Navy vessel for safe passage, you must contact the U.S. Navy vessel or the Coast Guard escort vessel on VHF-FM channel 16.
  • Observe and avoid all security zones. Seattle has a security zone at Todd Shipyard whenever a U.S. Navy vessel is in port. The 100-yard exclusion zone is enforced and you must slow to minimum speed within 500 yards.
  • Avoid commercial port areas, especially those that involve military, Washington DOT ferry terminals, cruise line or petroleum facilities.
  • DO NOT stop or anchor beneath bridges or in channels.

Enforcement (SMC 16.64.010)

Seattle Harbor Patrol, Washington State Park Rangers, Fish & Wildlife Agents, City Police Officers, Deputy Sheriffs and all other officers with law enforcement authorities enforce the boating laws of Washington. The U.S. Coast Guard has enforcement authority on federally controlled waters. Lake Washington, Portage Bay, Lake Union, Salmon Bay and all connecting waters are considered federally controlled.

Officers have the authority to stop and board your vessel and direct it to a suitable pier or anchorage in order to check for compliance with state and federal laws.

Anchorage In Seattle

Short-term anchorage is approved in Andrews Bay on Lake Washington. The approved area is defined by two buoys marked with “A” indicating the northwest and southwest corners of the anchorage zone. Shore markers note the northeast and southeast corners. Anchorage is limited ONLY to this area.

A 72-hour maximum stay within any seven-day period is permitted.

Lakewood Moorage, located northwest of the anchorage area, has a small store with marine supplies and snacks.

This area has a maximum speed of 3 knots noted by buoys. The City of Seattle has established a 7 Knot speed limit in other areas within 100 yards from shorelines, piers, fixed structures and restricted areas.

Two Page Formatted For Printing (pdf)

Take a Safe Boating Class:

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More Information:


This entry was posted in Navigation, Safety Thoughts, Sailing and Boating Skills and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Important Seattle Area Boating Information

  1. Brian Jones says:

    nice looking site. I spent some time reading different items
    thanks Capt. Mike

  2. Joe says:

    Wondering if you know if it’s ok to tie up a dingy at the waterfront park by the aquarium. There are a ton of ladders on the pier going to the water, and it seems like it’d be easy to tie up a dingy for a short visit, to use the head, or grab a quick bite to eat at Ivars.

  3. Pingback: Guerrilla Marketing for the Coast Guard Auxiliary Using | Boating Safety Tips, Tricks & Thoughts from Captnmike

  4. Pingback: Sailing Crew Class Resources–Fall 2011 | Boating Safety Tips, Tricks & Thoughts from Captnmike

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