Leave a comment

Coast Guard Requirements for Paddlers

So, you’ve got a shiny new canoe or kayak, and you’re ready to head out on the water, right?  Wait a sec.

Let’s make sure you’ve got everything you need to stay safe, stay sane, and most importantly, stay legal.  The United States Coast Guard and homeland Security have rules in place for everyone navigating a water vessel (yes, that includes your little kayak).

The Coast Guard requires the following things for you to be legal on the water:

  • PDF (personal flotation device) : The Coast Guard requires you to have one readily accessible life jacket per person on your boat at all times.  For kids 13 and under, they’ve got to have them on at all times out on the water.  Make sure your PDF is a Type I, II, or III and in good condition. Also, if your dog is joining you out on the water, you should get them a life jacket as well. Note: If your boat is 16 feet long or longer, you’ve got to have a Type IV PDF on board as an extra precaution.  There are a ton of options as far as PDF’s go, so the choice is yours!
  • Sound Producing Device: You’ve got to have a readily available sound producing device that is audible from a half mile away, and it’s got to be waterproof.  A simple whistle works well, but some choose to go with a horn.

  • Navigational Lights: For times you’re on the water between sunset and sunrise, you have to have a waterproof light source.  For smaller boats (under 20 feet) it is recommended that you have a white stern light that is visible for up to a mile, as well green and red sidelights.
  • Visual Distress Signals: The Coast Guard requires every vessel out on the water between sunset and
    sunrise to have at least 3 flares for emergencies.  These should be aerial, meaning they go up into the air, and it’s a good idea to have a watertight box to
    leave them in.  Hopefully, these are never used, but you don’t want to be stuck on the water in an emergency without them.
  • Registration: If you’ve got a motor on your boat, then you have to have your boat registered.  If you’ve got sails on your boat, then you’ve got to have your boat registered.  If you’re going fishing on your boat, you’ve got to have a fishing license.  Click here for some frequently asked questions about boat registration.

Speaking of boating, Dick’s Sporting Goods is having an enormous sale right now that you should check out.

Got more questions?  See this comprehensive list from the Great Outdoor Provision Co.  Have fun out on the water this weekend!


(featured image courtesy of Wonderopolis)


Leave a Reply