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U.S. COAST GUARD MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR RECREATIONAL BOATS
EQUIPMENT Boats less than 16ft/4.9m 16 to less than 26 ft/7.9m 26 to less than 40 ft/12.2m 40 to not more than 65 ft/19.8m
Personal Flotation
Devices

(PFDs)
One approved Type I, II, III or V (must be worn) PFD for each person on board or being towed on water skis, tubes, etc. One approved Type I, II or III PFD for each person on board or being towed on water skis, etc.; and one throwable Type IV device. ( A type V PFD may be used in lieu of any wearable PFD if approved for the activity in which the boat is being used. A TYPE V HYBRID MUST be worn to be legal.)
Check state laws for PFD wearing requirements for children and for certain water craft and sports. Federal Regulations mandate that states without child life jacket laws require that youths under 13 wear an approved PFD whenever a recreational boat is underway, unless below decks or in a closed cabin. States with existing regulations are not required to alter their status. Make sure you check your state regulations before getting underway with children onboard.

Bell, Whistle

 

Every vessel less than 65.6 ft. (20 meters) in length must carry an efficient sound producing device. On Federally controlled waters, every vessel 65.6 ft. (20 meters) or larger in length must carry a whistle and a bell. They must be audible for 1 nautical mile.
Visual Distress Signals
(Coastal Waters, the Great Lakes &
U.S. owned boats on the high seas)
Required to carry approved visual distress signals for night-time use. Must carry approved visual distress signals for both daytime and night-time use.
Fire Extinguisher
(Must be Coast Guard approved)
One B-I type approved hand portable fire extinguisher. (Not required on outboard motorboats less than 26 ft in length if the construction of the motorboat is such that it does not permit the entrapment of explosive or flammable gases or vapors, and if fuel tanks are not permanently installed.) Two B-I type OR one B-II type approved portable fire extinguishers. Three B-I type OR one B-I type PLUS one B-II type approved portable fire extinguishers.

When a fixed fire extinguishing system is installed in machinery spaces it will replace one B-I portable fire extinguisher.

Ventilation
(Boats built
on or after
8/1/80)
At least two ventilation ducts capable of efficiently ventilating every closed compartment that contains a gasoline engine and/or tank, except those having permanently installed tanks that vent outside of the boat and which contain no unprotected electrical devices. Engine compartments containing a gasoline engine with a cranking motor are additionally required to contain power operated exhaust blowers that can be controlled from the instrument panel.
Ventilation
(Boats built
before
8/1/80)
At least two ventilation ducts fitted with cowls (or their equivalent) for the purpose of efficiently and properly ventilating the bilges of every closed engine and fuel tank compartment using gasoline as fuel or other fuels having a flashpoint of 110 degrees or less. Applies to boats constructed or decked over after April 25, 1940.
Back-fire Flame Arrestor One approved device on each carburetor of all gasoline engines installed after April 25, 1940, except outboard motors.

Note: Some states have requirements in addition to the federal requirements. Check your state's boating laws for additional requirements.

Related Articles:
What kind of PFD do I need?
How to Read PFD labels
Care and maintenance of PFDs
BoatSafe Kids - Stuff you should always have onboard no matter how small your boat

 

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