Vessel Safety Checks
What You Must Have Aboard Your Boat
to Avoid a Ticket or Fine from Sheriff or Coast Guard
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EQUIPMENT
Boat Less Than 16 Feet
Greater Than 16 Feet
Life Jackets / PFDs
Personal Flotation Devices
One Type I, II, III or Type V
wearable PFD for each
person.  Readily accessible.
In good condition, sized for
each person.  Not in original
packaging.  Child under 6
must wear when on deck.
Same as for Boat Less Than
16 feet,
plus one Type IV throwable
cushion or life ring.  
Visual Distress Signals  
VDS for coastal waters
or  Great Lakes

Inland see  recommended
Same VDS as larger boats
(right) required only when
operating between sunset &
sunrise in waters that
connect to Great Lakes,
ocean or wider than 2
miles.  
Recommended
Inland:
bright LED flashlight
and 3 Day/Night red hand
held flares.
Day: Orange flag with black
square and ball or 3 orange
smoke signals. Recommend
signal mirror or CD
Night: an auto S-O-S
electric light, 3 flares of  
handheld, parachute or
meteor type.
Check expiration date.  
Owner keep old, but must
carry unexpired flares
Navigation Lights
Sailboat under 23’ minimum bright flashlight. All others –
Side lights: green on starboard, red on port/left  OR  
combined green/red on bow.  
White stern or mast light.  
Must display nav. lights between sunset and sunrise or in
fog, rain or haze.  Night anchor: display all around white.
Fire Extinguishers
At least one B-1 U.S. Coast Guard approved hand-held
portable fire extinguisher.  Pop-up stem or indicator dial in
green zone. Not required for outboard motorboats under
26 feet if no entrapment of flammable gases or vapors
and gas tank is not  enclosed within hull.  26-40’ 2 B-I or 1
B-II (see also Fixed system)
Ventilation
Boats with enclosed gas tanks must have blowers.
Run blower minimum 4 minutes before starting engine.
Flame Arrestor
One  USCG. SAE or UL approved device on each
carburetor of all gasoline engines,  except outboards
Sound Devices
Any device capable of making an “efficient sound signal”
audible for one-half mile  (whistle or horn).  Recommend
attaching whistle to PFD (life vest).
Electrical
Electrical system protected by fuses or manual reset
circuit breakers. Switches and fuse panels must be
protected from rain or water spray. Wiring must be in good
condition, properly installed with no exposed areas, or
deteriorated insulation. Batteries must be secured and
terminals covered to prevent accidental arcing. If installed,
self-circling or kill-switch mechanism must be in proper
working order. All PWCs require an operating self-circling
or kill-switch mechanism (test this).
Registration
Must be on board, 4" block numbers properly affixed.
Placards and
Federal Navigation Rules
Over 26’ must display Marpol Trash Placard (near galley)
and Pollution Discharge placard (oil & fuel) near or in
engine compartment.  
Over 40’ written trash disposal plan
on board.   
Over 39.4’ copy of Federal Navigation rules.
Recommended Items
First Aid Kit, anchor and lines, bailer, water, hat,
sunglasses, sunscreen. Give a
Float Plan to on-shore
relative/ friend with following info to aid in search: boat
numbers /name,  boat description /type, your name and
number of passengers, where you’ll be (lake name/area)
when you plan to be back. Be sure to Call to let them know
you are staying out longer and Call when you get back.