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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What life jackets are required to be carried on my recreational boat?
A: In general, Federal law requires that you must have a Coast Guard-approved, wearable life jacket that is in good and serviceable conditions and of the appropriate size for each person onboard your vessel. In addition, boats greater than 16 feet in length must carry a Coast Guard-approved throwable device (Type IV). A throwable device is not required on canoes or kayaks regardless of length. For more information on exemptions and the proper use of life jackets, see https://www.uscgboating.org/assets/1/AssetManager/Boaters-Guide-to-Federal-Requirements-for-Recreational-Boats.pdf
Q: When should I wear my Life Jacket?
A: The USCG recommends wearing your life jacket at all times when the boat is underway.
Q: What are the federal regulations for life jacket wear for children?
A: On a vessel that is underway, children under 13 years of age must wear an appropriate U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket unless they are below deck or within an enclosed cabin. If a state has established a child life jacket wear requirement that differs from the Coast Guard requirement, the state requirement will be applicable on waters subject to that state's jurisdiction. Contact your state boating authority for more information.
Q: Who can wear a Coast Guard-approved inflatable Life Jacket?
A: Inflatable life jackets are generally intended for persons over 80 lbs (39kg). To meet life jacket carriage requirements, the intended wearer must be over 16 years of age. See the life jacket’s label for more information.
Q: Am I required to carry a Life Jacket on my Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP).
A: Yes, when used beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area a SUP is considered a vessel under 46 U.S.C.
Q: If I lose my boating safety certificate, how do I obtain a replacement?
A: You should contact the organization that issued the certificate and request a replacement card. You may also contact your state boating agency’s boater education department for more details or visit https://www.ilostmycard.com
Q: Is my boating safety certificate valid to operate a boat in another state?
A: In most cases, yes. However, there are a few states that do not honor a certificate obtained outside of their state. Always check the laws of the state where you will be boating to ensure your current certificate will be accepted. Visit www.nasbla.org
Q: How do I dispose of expired pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signals (VDS) or marine flares?
A: The disposal of expired pyrotechnic devices should be done in accordance with local county and state hazardous waste regulations. Please check with these local authorities to obtain the correct disposal procedures.
Q: How do I register my Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or submit an updated registration form?
A: You may register online at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov. For more information visit the NOAA website at http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/beacon.html.
Q: What Visual Distress Signals must I carry on my boat?
A: Visual distress signals are required to be carried onboard vessels operating on the Great Lakes, High Seas, Territorial Seas and connecting waters seaward of a point where the width of the entrance exceeds 2 nautical miles, with certain exceptions. For more information on the types and quantities required and proper use of visual distress signals, see https://www.uscgboating.org/assets/1/AssetManager/Boaters-Guide-to-Federal-Requirements-for-Recreational-Boats.pdf
Q: What is a Vessel Safety Check?
A: A Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is a courtesy examination of your boat (vessel) to verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. The volunteer VSC examiner may also make recommendations and discuss safety issues that can make you a safer boater. No citations will be given if the boat does not pass. The examiner will supply you with a copy of the evaluation so that you may follow up with any recommendations. Vessels that pass the examination will be able to display the distinctive VSC decal. The decal does not exempt boaters from law enforcement boarding but indicates to boarding officers that the boat has been examined and found to be in compliance with safety equipment regulations.
Q: What agency is responsible for performing a Vessel Safety Check?
A: The volunteer Vessel Examiner is a trained specialist and a member of either the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons, or in some cases state volunteer examiners.
Q: How can I get my recreational vessel inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary?
A: "Visit the Vessel Safety Check website at: http://www.safetyseal.net. Click on the tab labeled ""I want a VSC."" Enter your 5-digit ZIP Code and the program will search the database to locate
Q: Does the Coast Guard approve boating safety courses?
A: No. Boating safety course are currently approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and approved by each individual state. Look for the NASBLA logo when researching for an approved boating safety course or contact your state boating agency.
Q: How can I find a boating safety course offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary?
Homeland Security Restrictions
Homeland Security Restrictions
Recreational boaters have a role in keeping our waterways safe and secure.
Violators of the restrictions below can expect a quick and severe response.
Do not approach within 100 yards and slow to minimum speed within 500 yards of any U.S. Naval vessel. If you need to pass within 100 yards of a U.S. Naval vessel for safe passage, you must contact the U.S. Naval vessel or the USCG escort vessel on VHF-FM channel 16.
Observe and avoid all security zones. Avoid commercial port operation areas, especially those that involve military, cruise line, or petroleum facilities.
Observe and avoid other restricted areas near dams, power plants, etc.
Do not stop or anchor beneath bridges or in the channel.
Keep a sharp eye out for anything that looks peculiar or out of the ordinary. Report all activities that seem suspicious to the local authorities, the USCG, or the port or marina security.
Operating Your Boat in accordance with Homeland Security Measures
In light of security measures brought about by the events of September 11, 2001, it is critical that all boaters be aware of and comply with homeland security measures set forth by federal, state and local governments. These should include, but are not limited to, keeping a safe prescribed distance…
Operating Your Boat in accordance with Homeland Security Measures
by Chris Riley Updated on May 9, 2021. In nauticalknowhow
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In light of security measures brought about by the events of September 11, 2001, it is critical that all boaters be aware of and comply with homeland security measures set forth by federal, state and local governments. These should include, but are not limited to,
keeping a safe prescribed distance from military and commercial ships
avoiding commercial port operations areas,
observing all security zones,
following guidelines for appropriate conduct such as not stopping or anchoring beneath bridges or in a channel, and
observing and reporting suspicious activity to proper authorities.
Do not approach within 100 yards of any U.S. naval vessel. If you need to pass within 100 yards of a U.S. naval vessel in order to ensure a safe passage in accordance with the Navigation Rules, you must contact the U.S. naval vessel or the Coast Guard escort vessel on VHF-FM channel 16.
You must operate at minimum speed within 500 yards of any U.S. naval vessel and proceed as directed by the Commanding Officer or the official patrol.
Violations of the Naval Vessel Protection Zone are a felony offense, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines.
Boaters Can Help Keep Our Waterways Safe and Secure…
Keep your distance from all military, cruise line, or commercial shipping! Do not approach within 100 yards, and slow to minimum speed within 500 yards of any U.S. naval vessel. Violators of the Naval Vessel Protection Zone face 6 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, not to mention a quick and severe response. Approaching certain other commercial vessels may result in an immediate boarding.
Observe and avoid all security zones. Avoid commercial port operation areas, especially those that involve military, cruise line or petroleum facilities. Observe and avoid other restricted areas near dams, power plants, etc. Violators will be perceived as a threat, and will face a quick, determined and severe response.
Do not stop or anchor beneath bridges or in the channel. If you do, expect to be boarded by law enforcement officials.
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Keep a sharp eye out for anything that looks peculiar or out of the ordinary . Report all activities that seem suspicious to the local authorities, the Coast Guard and the port or marina security. Do not approach or challenge those acting in a suspicious manner.
Safer boaters help reduce public demands by permitting Marine Patrols to focus their limited resources on Homeland Security.
For more information on security zones and how you can help, call the Coast Guard at 800-368-5647 or go to the USCG website at https://www.uscgboating.org
Outdoors, I’m in my element, especially in the water. I know the importance of being geared up for anything. I do the deep digital dive, researching gear, boats and knowhow and love keeping my readership at the helm of their passions.