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Which boats require registration?

NVA, you must have a certificate of number (registration) and validation decals to operate your vessel legally on the public waters of VA. The only exceptions are: Nonmotorized vessels, vessels properly registered in another state and on Virginia waters for 90 or fewer consecutive days, vessels documented with the USCG, Vessels operating under valid temporary registration


Certificate of number (Registration card)

You must sign the original certificate of number upon receipt and carry it on board whenever the vessel is operated


The registration number and validation decals must be displayed as follows

Number must be painted, applied as a decal, or otherwise affixed to both sides of the bow. Number must be read from left to right on both sides of the bow. Number must be in at least 3 inch high vertical block letters. Numbers color must contrast with its background. Letters must be separated from the numbers by a space or hyphen; for example, VA 4696 AF or VA-4696-AF. No other numbers may be displayed on either side of the bow. Decals must be affixed to each side of the vessel within six inches of, and in line with, the registration number. Expired decals must be removed. PWC's are also required to display the registration number and validation decals


Other facts about titling and registering your boat

Vessels propelled by a motor and sail powered vessels over 18 feet in length must be titled. A certificate of number expires every three years, the registration number assigned to your vessel remains the same. If you change your address, sell, abandon, destroy your vessel, if your vessel is stolen, contact VDGIF within 15 days. if you lose or destroy your certificate of number or decal, you must apply to the VDGIF for a duplicate and submit a processing fee


Hull identification numbers

Unique 12 digit number of signed by the manufacturer to vessels built after 1972. Distinguish one vessel from another, are engraved in the fiberglass or on a metal plate permanently attached to the transom.
Example: ABC 67689 B6 06 (manufacturers id code, hull serial number, date of manufacturer, model year)


No Wake or Idle Speed

The slowest speed at which it is still possible to maintain steering and headway; your vessel should not produce a wake at this speed



Upper edge of boat's side (generally pronounced "gunnel")


Bolos alcohol concentration (BAC)

Because you can drink faster than your system can burn off the alcohol, there is an increasing level of alcohol in your blood



To keep a boat in place by setting anchor or tying the boat to a fixed object or buoy


Americas Waterway Watch

Anyone who spots anything is asked to call the National Response Center's 24-hour hotline, 1-800-424-8802 or 1-877-24WATCH


PFD Requirements

Right size, good condition, readily accessible


PFD sizing

Based on body weight and size


Offshore life jackets

For rough or remote waters where rescue may take a while. Will turn most persons unconscious face up in the water. Excellent flotation, provide most bouyancy.


Near shore vests

For calm waters when assistance or rescue is likely. Will turn unconscious person face up in the water


Type 3: Flotation aids

Calm waters when assistance or rescue is likely. Not recommended for rough waters bc it will not turn a person face up. Used for water sports, some inflate when you enter the water


Type 4: throwable devices

Designed to be thrown to someone. Not for rough waters or persons unable to hang onto it


Type 6: special use devices

Designed for specific activities (windsurfing, kayaking, water-skiing). Some inflate when you enter the water. Must be worn and used in accordance to their label


Types of fire extinguishers

Classified by a letter and number symbol. Number indicates size of extinguisher, letter indicates type of fire it will extinguish


Types A-C fire extinguishers

Type A- fires are of combustible solids like wood
Type B- fires are of flammable liquids like gasoline or oil
Type C- fires are electrical fires


All vessels are required to have a type B on board if

Powered by an inboard or stern drive gasoline engine. Vessel length of 26 feet or more. Closed compartments where portable fuel tanks can be stored or in which flammable or combustible materials may be stored. Closed living spaces. Permanently installed fuel tanks. Double-bottoms not sealed to the hull or are not completely filled with flotation material


Number and type of required fire extinguishers on less than 26 feet vessel

Without fixed system: one B-1
With fixed system: none


Number and type of required fire extinguishers on vessels 26 feet to less than 40 feet

Without fixed system: Two B-1 or one B-2
With fixed system: one B-1


Number and type of required fire extinguishers on vessels 40 feet to less than 65 feet

Without fixed system: three B-1 or one B-2 and one B-1
With fixed system: two B-1 or one B-2


Fire extinguisher charger indicators

Check the charge level regularly, replace immediately if not fully charged.



Explosion or prematurely ignited fuel or of unburned exhaust gases in an internal combustion engine


Ventilation systems

Are crucial. Purpose it to avoid explosions by removing flammable gases. Properly installed systems greatly reduce the chance of a life threatening explosion


How ventilation systems work

As the boat moves, an air intake scoops up fresh air and forces it down the air duct into the engine compartment. The exhaust sucks out the explosive fumes from the lowest part of the engine and fuel compartments


Mufflers and noise level limits

All vessels must have a permanently installed muffling system and be used to muffle the noise of the exhaust in a reasonable manner


Navigation lights law

All vessels must have proper navigation lights and use when away from dock between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility such as fog or heavy rain.


Lights required for power driven vessels less than 65.6 feet (20 meters) when underway

Red and green sidelights visible of at least 2 miles away (if less than 39.4 feet [12 meters] at least one mile away on a dark clear night) all around white or a masthead and sternlight if less than 39.4 feet. Must be visible for two miles away. The all around white light must be at least 1 meter higher than the sidelights.