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Safe Boat Operations – Minimum Legal Requirements

Source: Mariners Learning System, By Capt. Bob Figular

All vessels operating must meet the following minimum Coast Guard requirements:

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs): All vessels must have at least one USCG-approved Type I, II, or III PFD for each person onboard. All vessels 16 feet or longer, except canoes and kayaks, also must carry at least one USCG-approved Type IV throwable device. Before leaving the dock you should ensure that the PFDs are properly fitted for each family member, and children should wear PFDs whenever they are down on the docks or in the boat. Take your family to the pool or shore at least once a year to practice getting into and floating around in the life preservers, float coats, or survival suits. Replace your PFDs when they are worn and have lost their buoyancy, or when they no longer fit your growing child.

Fire Extinguishers: Approved types of fire extinguishers are identified by the following marking on the label – “Mariner Type USCG Approved” followed by the size and type symbols and the approval number. Make sure you have the proper type of fire extinguisher and that it is properly maintained. Every person on board should know its location and review how to use it prior to your trip.

Visual Distress Signals (VDS): All VDS must be in serviceable condition, readily accessible and certified as complying with USCG requirements. Signals are required by the Coast Guard and are essential to rescue. Inspect your signals annually, and replace those that are outdated. Make sure each member is familiar with using them.

Navigational Lights: Vessel operators must make sure that their vessels are equipped with the proper navigation lights when operating away from the dock from sunset to sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility.

Sound Producing Devices: A sound producing device is essential in periods of reduced visibility or wherever a vessel operator needs to signal their intentions or position.

Backfire Flame Arrestor: Gasoline engines installed in a motorized vessel after April 25, 1940, except outboard motors, must have a USCG approved flame arrestor fitted to the carburetor.

Ventilation Systems: The importance of ventilation is crucial. The purpose of ventilation systems is to avoid explosions by removing flammable gasses.

Muffler and Noise Level Limits: Excessive noise can prevent a vessel operator from hearing signals and voices.

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