Boating Safety information

Required Safety Gear

  • Personal Flotation Devices (correct type and number)
  • Visual Distress Signals (flags, flares, etc.)
  • Sound-producing Devices and/or Bell
  • Navigation Lights
  • Marine Sanitation Device(s) (with locks if required)

These items may also be required:

  • Fire Extinguishers (type and number may vary)
  • Ventilation Mechanism 
  • Backfire Flame Control 
  • Pollution Placard 
  • MARPOL Trash Placard 
  • Navigation Rules 

View brochure for complete details and boating safety tips:

A Boater’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats
  • Display of State-issued Boat Numbers
  • Registration/Documentation Paperwork
  • State and/or Local Requirements Compliance
  • Overall Vessel Condition

Safety Gear

Per United States Coast Guard requirements, a vessel must have a USCG-approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD), or life jacket, for each person on the boat. Although you’re not required to wear the life jacket, the Coast Guard strongly recommends it. If your boat is 16 feet or longer, you must also have at least one readily available Type IV throwable device.

Each life jacket must be in good condition, and must be the correct size for the person wearing it. Also, note that a close-fitting “float coat” can help you to survive in a cold-water emergency. At least once every year, test each life jacket for wear and buoyancy. If the life jacket is faded, overly worn, or leaky, throw it away.

Ensure that life jackets are immediately accessible, rather than storing them in a locker or under piles of boating gear. If the boat is sinking, or there’s a fire on board, you don’t want to be digging for the life jackets when time is of the essence. 

USCG-approved inflatable life jackets can be worn by recreational boaters at least 16 years old. If you choose that option, ensure that the device stays in good condition, and has a full cylinder. If the inflator doesn’t show “Green” status, the life jacket isn’t serviceable, and doesn’t satisfy the life jacket requirement.

Some states require that children wear life jackets whenever they’re aboard the boat. However, requirements may differ depending on the child’s age, boat size, and type of boating operation.


To provide adequate flotation, the life jacket must fit snugly, and not permit the child’s ears or chin to slip through the fastenings. Remember, adult life jackets are not designed for children. Always purchase a child’s life jacket from a reputable retailer.

To determine your boat’s compliance with the above requirements, request a Free Vessel Safety Check. Nearby volunteer examiners from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and/or United States Power Squadrons will respond

A trained, courteous vessel examiner will come to your boat at a convenient time. The Vessel Safety Check is free, and you won’t face any consequences if your boat doesn’t pass. Note: These Vessel Safety Checks are intended solely for personal pleasure craft (recreational boats), not commercial vessels.

You’re ready to head out for a day (or weekend, or longer) on the water. You’ve got the required gear, along with plenty of drinks, food, and sunscreen. Before you cast off the lines, though, file a digital float plan.

In a nutshell, a float plan records the essential details of your boat trip. You’ll note the date and time of your departure, number of people on board, your intended destination, and when you plan to return. The mobile-friendly float plan form is useful for any type and size of boat, and you can customize it for your specific needs:


U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Float Plan Template


After completing the form, email it to a family member, friend, or neighbor. If you don’t return or check in as scheduled, or any other aspect of the trip isn’t as planned, they’ll have the details at hand when they contact rescue personnel for assistance.

Safe and Secure

Your Boat Information is Securely Protected by
The National Registry


(Or someone else may claim it!)