Just the Basics Required Stuff to Have on Your Boat

Chris Riley by Chris Riley Updated on August 8, 2019. In

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1.gif (362 bytes)pfd.gif (1745 bytes)You need to have a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) for every person onboard the boat. PFDs must be approved by the United States Coast Guard. To see the kinds of PFDs available, look here .

In addition, if your boat is 16 feet or over, you need to have a throwable PFD onboard, and immediately available, in case someone falls overboard.

You already know that you should wear your PFD whenever you are underway. In many states, the law says you must wear your PFD when underway or when on a PWC or water skiing, etc. Don’t take a chance – wear your PFD.
2.gif (492 bytes)
reqequ2.gif (17124 bytes)Every boat needs a working whistle or horn to make sound. Boats over 30 feet have additional requirements you can find on the printable Required Equipment Chart .



You can attach a whistle to your PFD so that you always have a sound producing device within reach . Make sure it is a whistle that works when it gets wet. Remember – only use it in a real emergency.

3.gif (491 bytes)Visual Distress Signals should be carried on all boats operating on coastal waters (the ocean or waters that lead to the ocean), the Great Lakes and waters connected to them up to a point where the body of water is less than 2 miles wide. (Phewww!) To see a chart of visual distress signals, click here .


There are day signals and night signals. If you operate at night, you are required to carry night signals. Motor boats less than 16 feet and manually propelled boats are not required to carry signals if they only operate during daylight hours. More details are on the printable Required Equipment Chart .




Pyrotechnic distress signals, like flares, can be very dangerous to you and to your boat if not used properly.

4.gif (416 bytes)FeatureA U.S. Coast Guard approved, marine-type fire extinguisher should be carried on your boat in a place where you can get to it quickly and easily. Extinguishers are not required on boats that don’t have motors or on outboard motorboats less than 26 feet if there are no permanent fuel tanks installed. See details on the Required Equipment Chart .
Remember, a PWC (jet-ski or waverunner) is a boat and, in most cases, must carry an approved fire extinguisher.

See Required Equipment Chart for additional requirements
about ventilation and back-fire flame arrestors

canoe2.gif (882 bytes)Okay . . . let’s say you have a rowboat or a canoe, or a dinghy (under 16 feet with no engine) and you don’t think you are required to have anything. Think again! What should you take with you each and every time you go anywhere in your boat? Let’s find out.


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