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Virginia Watercraft Owner's Guide

Speed Laws

"No Wake"

  1. "No wake" is defined as the slowest possible speed required to maintain steerage and headway.
  2. It shall be unlawful to operate any motorboat greater than no wake speed in areas marked with regulatory "No Wake" buoys.
  3. It shall be unlawful to operate any motorboat greater that no wake speed when within 50 feet or less of docks, piers, boathouses, boat ramps, and people in the water. This definition does not prohibit the pulling of a skier with a rope of less than 50 feet, nor a person accompanying the motorboat (wake surfing) provided the motorboat is propelled by an inboard motor.

Slacken Speed

Operators shall reduce speed to avoid endangering persons or property by the effect of the motorboat's wake when approaching or passing vessels under way, lying to, at anchor, or made fast to the shore; or, when approaching or passing piers, docks, or boathouses; or when approaching or passing persons in the water or using water skis or surfboards.

Safe Speed

A safe speed is a speed less than the maximum at which the operator can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and stop within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.

In establishing a safe operating speed, the operator shall take into account: visibility, traffic density, ability to maneuver the vessel (stopping distance and turning ability), background light at night, proximity of navigational hazards, draft of the vessel, limitations of radar equipment, and the state of wind, sea, and current.