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Coast Guard Requirements

Gear required by the United States Coast Guard

The following gear is required by the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

Life Jacket

  • Good and serviceable condition.
  • Readily accessible, which means you are able to put the PFD on quickly in an emergency.
  • Of the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.
  • All recreational vessels must have at least one Type I, II, III, or V (with restrictions) personal flotation device (life jacket) that is U.S. Coast Guard-approved per person.
  • No person may use a personal vessel 16 feet in length or more in length unless one Type IV PFD is on board in addition to the total number of PFDs required (one per person).
  • Reference:
    • Title 33 CFR 175.15 Equipment Requirements.
    • Title 33 CFR 175.21 Condition, size and fit, approval marking.
    • Title 33 CFR 175.23 Serviceable condition.
    • Exemptions for Kayaks, Canoes, and SUPs over 16 feet.
      • Canoes, kayaks, and SUPs 16 feet in length and over are exempted from the requirements to carry an additional type IV PFD.
      • Reference:
        • Title 33 CFR 175.17 Exemptions

Sound Producing Devices

  • All vessels are required to carry an efficient sound-producing device, such as a whistle or horn that is audible for at least one-half mile.
  • Reference:
    • Title 33 CFR 83.33 Equipment for sound signals

Navigational Lights

  • The required navigation lights must be displayed between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility.
  • A sailing vessel, or one under oars, of less than 7 meters in length shall if practical exhibit red and green sidelights, and a stern light visible from at least one mile away. However if she does not, she can have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.
  • Reference:
    • Title 33 CFR 83.25 Sailing vessels and vessels under oars.

Visual Distress Signals

  • Vessels, specifically kayaks, canoes, and SUPs, operating between sunset and sunrise on coastal waters must carry one of the following:
    • Flares (a.k.a. Pyrotechnics). Must have at least 3 Night, 3 day/night, or a combination.
    • Electronic Distress Light for Boats. Must have one (1).
    • Reference:
      • Title 33 CFR 175.110 Requirements
      • Title 33 CFR 175.115 Exemptions
      • Title 33 CFR 175.130 Accepted Signals
        • Title 46 CFR 161.013 Electronic Distress Light For Boats
        • Title 46 CFR 160.072 Distress Signals For Boats, Orange Flag
        • Pyrotechnics Table 175.150 – Quantity 3 Night or 3 Day/Night combination flares

Coastal Waters – Defined

  • Vessels must observe the VDS (Visual Distress Signsls) requirements when on Florida’s coastal waters (coastal waters are the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and all bays, sounds, harbors, rivers, inlets, etc., where any entrance is over two miles wide to the first point where the distance between shorelines narrows to two miles).
  • Reference:

Just for completeness (as of 2/20/2012), according to the 2011 Florida Statutes Title XXIV Chapter 327.50 Vessel safety regulations; equipment and lighting requirements, section (1)(a).

“The owner and operator of every vessel on the waters of this state shall carry, store, maintain, and use safety equipment in accordance with current United States Coast Guard safety equipment requirements as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations [CFR], unless expressly exempted by the department.”