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    Visual Distress Signals : BoatUS Foundation

    The BoatUS Foundation provides this study guide to not only help with passing our free online boating safety course, but to provide a knowledge base for anyone wanting to learn about boating.

    Visual Distress Signals

    The Regulations

    This information is directed primarily to recreational boaters, but the requirements discussed also apply to operators of vessels engaged in the carrying of six or fewer passengers. The Visual Distress Signal requirements for most commercial vessels are in Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The requirement to carry visual distress signals became effective on January 1, 1981. This regulation requires all boats when used on coastal waters, which includes the Great Lakes, the territorial seas and those waters directly connected to the Great Lakes and the territorial seas, up to a point where the waters are less than two miles wide, and boats owned in the United States when operating on the high seas to be equipped with visual distress signals.

    The only exceptions are during daytime (sunrise to sunset) for:

    Recreational boats less than 16 feet in length

    Boats participating in organized events such as races, regattas or marine parades

    Open sailboats not equipped with propulsion machinery and less than 26 feet in length

    Manually propelled boats

    These boats only need to carry night signals when used on these waters at night.

    Types of Visual Distress Signals

    A wide variety of signaling devices, both pyrotechnic and non-pyrotechnic, can be carried to meet the requirements of the regulation.

    Recreational boats less than 16' operating in coastal waters need only carry night signaling devices when operated at night. All other boats must carry both night and day signaling devices.

    Any combination can be carried as long as they add up to three signals for day use and three signals for night use. Three day/ night signaling devices meet both requirements.

    Note: If pyrotechnic devices are selected, a minimum of three must be carried. Pyrotechnic devices come with an expiration date, which is 42 months from the date of manufacture. To meet carriage requirements, you must have at least three un-expired flares aboard. You may carry expired flares as back up, but they will not count towards the legal requirement.

    The following details a combination of devices which can be carried in order to meet the requirements:

    Three hand-held red flares (day and night). Flares must be under 42 months of age.

    One electric distress light (night only).

    One hand-held red flare and two parachute flares (day and night). One hand-held orange smoke signal, two floating orange smoke signals (day) and one electric distress light (night only). Flares must be under 42 months of age.

    Pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signaling Devices

    Must be Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition and stowed to be readily accessible. If they are marked with a date showing the serviceable life, this date must not have passed. Launchers produced before Jan. 1, 1981, intended for use with approved signals are not required to be Coast Guard Approved.

    USCG Approved Pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signals and Associated Devices include:

    Pyrotechnic red flares, hand held or aerial

    Pyrotechnic orange smoke, hand held or floating

    Launchers for aerial red meteors or parachute flares

    The purpose of the regulation is to assure that boaters have a way of attracting attention and securing assistance should the need arise. Properly used visual distress signals will also help reduce the time it takes to locate a boat in difficulty when a search is underway. This will reduce the possibility of a minor emergency becoming a tragedy.

    Non-pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signaling Devices

    Must carry the manufacturer's certification that they meet Coast Guard requirements. They must be in serviceable condition and stowed to be readily accessible. This group includes:

    Orange distress flag

    Electric distress light

    No single signaling device is ideal under all conditions and for all purposes. Consideration should therefore be given to carrying several types. For example, an aerial flare can be seen over a long distance on a clear night, but for closer work, a hand-held flare may be more useful.

    SOS Distress Light

    The SOS Distress Light is an LED Visual Distress Signal Device that meets U.S. Coast Guard requirements to completely replace traditional pyrotechnic flares. Unlike traditional flares, this electronic flare never expires, which solves the challenge of flare disposal. The LED light flashes up to 60 hours, unlike traditional flares that last minutes or less. It flashes only the SOS sequence, per USCG requirements, and is visible up to 10 nautical miles.

    Day Use Only

    Hand Held Orange Smoke Distress Signals

    Hand held distress signals are very common. Make sure to hold the flare with a glove, and make sure to keep the smoke down-wind of your boat.

    Floating Orange Smoke Distress Signals

    These come in two varieties, one lasting approximately 5 minutes, one lasting 15 minutes.

    Orange Distress Signal Flag for Boats

    The distress flag must be at least 3 x 3 feet with a black square and ball on an orange background. It is accepted as a day signal only and is especially effective in bright sunlight. The flag is most distinctive when waved on something such as a paddle or a boat hook or flown from a mast.

    Source : www.boatus.org

    Boat Visual Distress Signals: Types & Uses

    Learn the differences in visual distress signal types and the regulations of each including pyrotechnic and non-pyrotechnic.

    Boat Visual Distress Signal Types & Uses

    Boat Visual Distress Signal Types & Uses Visual Distress Signals (VDS)

    A Visual Distress Signal (VDS) is any device you can use to help others locate your boat quickly in the case of an emergency. Visual distress signals include day signals that are visible in sunlight, night signals that are visible in the dark, and anytime signals that can be used both day and night. VDS are either pyrotechnic, which use smoke and flame, or non-pyrotechnic, which are non-combustible. There are a wide variety of signals that can be carried to meet federal boating regulations.

    The law states that no person may use a distress signal under any circumstances unless assistance is needed because of immediate or potential danger to the persons onboard.

    In other words, never use a VDS unless it's an emergency. Breaking the law can come with serious penalties!

    All recreational boats operating in U.S. Coastal Waters or the Great Lakes, or bodies of water directly connected to U.S. Coastal Waters or the Great Lakes - up to a point where those waters are less than 2 miles wide---are required by law to be equipped with visual distress signals.

    U.S. owned boats must also carry visual distress signals when operating in international waters.

    There are some exceptions. During daytime hours the following boats are not required to carry visual distress signals:

    Boats less than 16 feet in length;

    Boats participating in organized events, such as regattas;

    Open sailboats that are less than 26 feet in length and not equipped with an engine;

    And manually propelled boats, such as canoes.

    These boats are only required to carry visual distress signals approved for nighttime use when operating at night in the above listed waters.

    Visual Distress Signals: Pyrotechnic

    One of the most common types of visual distress signals are pyrotechnic signals such as flares. Federal regulations require that all pyrotechnic distress signals be Coast Guard approved, in good condition, unexpired and readily accessible in case of an emergency. Launchers for visual distress signals that were produced before 1981 do not need to be Coast Guard approved.

    U.S. Coast Guard-approved pyrotechnic VDS include:

    Hand-held or aerial red flares;

    Hand-held or aerial orange smoke flares;

    Parachute flares or red meteor flares;

    And any associated launchers of these signals.

    Non-Pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signals

    To meet federal regulations, non-pyrotechnic visual distress signals must carry a manufacturer's certification that they meet Coast Guard requirements.

    Like other types of emergency equipment, they must be kept in good condition and be stored in a readily accessible location.

    VDS Handling and Storage

    The best way to keep these devices in good condition is to store them in a watertight container, like a surplus ammunition box. If possible, paint the box red or orange and mark it with the label “Distress Signals”.

    If there will be young children on board, make sure to store your pyrotechnic distress signals in a safe place where they won't be tampered with.

    Acceptable Combinations of Visual Distress Signals

    You may be wondering how many pyrotechnic visual distress signals you should carry on your boat. When selecting what visual distress signals to carry on board your boat, it's important to make sure that you have a minimum of 3 devices that can be used in either daytime or nighttime.

    That means you can combine any type of pyrotechnic VDS's as long as they add up to three that can be used in the day and three that can be used at night.

    Some acceptable combinations include:

    Three hand held red flares;

    One electric distress light, and three hand held orange smoke distress signals;

    One handheld red flare and two parachute flares; or

    One handheld orange smoke signal and two floating orange smoke signals, and one electric distress light.

    Sound confusing? Just remember that you need a minimum of three visual distress signals that you can use in either day or night. That may mean you need to carry more than three signals in total.

    Unpowered Boat Navigation Lights

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    Marine Distress Signals

    Source : www.boaterexam.com

    Page 2 Flashcards

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    Page 2

    The operator of a boat towing a skier in Maryland must be at least what age?

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    12 with a valid boating safety certificate

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    Which statement is true concerning visual distress signal?

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    Flares are rated for day, night or combined day/night use

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    1/8 Created by shel449

    Terms in this set (8)

    The operator of a boat towing a skier in Maryland must be at least what age?

    12 with a valid boating safety certificate

    Which statement is true concerning visual distress signal?

    Flares are rated for day, night or combined day/night use

    Which of the following indicates an emergency situation aboard

    Orange smoke billowing from a boat

    On Maryland waters all children under what age must wear a u.s coastguard approved PFD while underway in a recreational vessel under 21 feet in length

    13

    Which type of power boat engine must have a backfire flame arrester

    Gasoline inboard

    Which of the following is a feature of a type IV PFD

    It is designed to be thrown

    Where is the best place to store PFDs on a boat

    A location that makes them readily accessible

    When operating on Maryland waters at what depth must a PWC operate at minimum wake speed

    18 inches

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