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Boating Safety

The lake is fun, but any body of water can be dangerous without the proper precautions. Here are a few top safety tips to help you make your time at the lake safe and enjoyable.

Age Restriction
No person under the age of 14 may operate a PWC. Those operators 14 and 15 MUST show proof of completing an approved and accepted boating safety course either in a classroom or online. The challenge exam or other provisions of the Virginia Education Compliance Requirement do not meet the requirements of the age restriction law.

Boating Safety Course
Since July 1, 2016, all PWC operators age 14 and older and all motorboat operators regardless of age need to take a boating safety course (available in person or online). A full listing of boating safety courses near you is available at

Motorized vehicles must have a valid registration card onboard and a validation decal.

Horn, Whistle, or Bell
Navigation rules require sound signals to be made under certain circumstances. A 4-second blast audible for 1/2 mile is required. If you do not have a horn, a whistle or air horn is acceptable.

Life Jackets
There must be a readily accessible, properly fitting, wearable (Type I, II, III, or V) USCG approved life jacket for each person on the boat. Any child under the age of 13 is required by federal law to wear a life jacket.

Fire Extinguisher
Boats over 26 feet and boats under 26 feet that meet certain conditions must have USCG approved, adequately charged fire extinguishers aboard.

Navigation Lights
Recreational boats, while underway, are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility.

Top Tip

Avoid pulling passengers on water skis, wakeboards or inflatables on Smith Mountain Lake’s main channel. With more than 500 miles of shoreline, SML offers abundant coves, usually with little boat traffic, that provide a much safer experience for your water sports fun.

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