Federal Requirements for Power Boats

You must register your vessel and properly display your registration numbers, as well as stock your boat with the required safety equipment, including: U.S. Coast Guard approved fire extinguishers (how many will depend on the size of your vessel); a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for every person on board – each in good condition, easy to access and in the appropriate size for each intended user; a throwable flotation device if your vessel is 16 feet or larger; a stocked and up to date first aid kit; a signaling device including a whistle, bell or horn; and, if you are operating a vessel in a coastal area, you must also store day and nighttime flares in a dry location. Navigation lights are required if you are operating your vessel between sunset and sunrise or during periods of restricted visibility.

Natural ventilation (a supply from outside air or exhaust opening into a ventilated compartment or duct) is also required on vessels with permanently installed gas engines and fuel tanks. A vessel safety check is recommended. You can learn more about this free public service provided on a volunteer basis by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary at safetyseal.net

Boat navigation is regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard as well. Maintain a safe speed, always obey posted signs and navigational markers and give-way to vessels not under power and those with limited turning capacity such as tankers and ships; and boating under the influence is subject to fines and imprisonment. A complete copy of the U.S. Coast Guard “Rules of the Road” may be downloaded at uscgboating.org.

Additionally, if you are ever involved in a boating accident, you are required by law to file an accident report. There are also federal pollution regulations. You are prohibited from throwing, discharging or depositing refuse of any kind into U.S. waters.

In addition to the federal boating requirements enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard, each state has its own specific boating regulations which pertain to boater education, operator age, boat registration and titling, boating under the influence and liability insurance.

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