Title: Equipment Requirements for Operating on Federally Controlled Waters

When Operating on Federally Controlled Waters (Including Lake Erie) You Must Have Specific Equipment on Board

When operating on federally controlled waters (including Lake Erie), you are required to have specific equipment on board. This includes visual distress signals and sound producing devices that can produce a signal audible for one-half mile.

VDSs are available in pyrotechnic and non-pyrotechnic varieties. All boats operating on federally controlled waters must carry day and night VDSs.

Personal Flotation Device

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) are worn or thrown to keep people afloat and help them recover from drowning. PFDs are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs, such as vests, jackets and full-body suits. They typically consist of tough synthetic fabric encapsulating a source of buoyancy such as foam or an air chamber and are often brightly colored to maximize visibility for rescuers. Retroreflective “SOLAS” tape may also be sewn to them to facilitate spotting in darkness.

Each person on a boat must have a wearable PFD that is appropriate for their activities and the conditions. Boats must also carry at least one Type IV throwable PFD.

The Coast Guard recognizes that the term lifejacket is more familiar to the public and will continue to use it in media and other outreach materials, but the terms PFD is preferred in regulatory and standard terminology because it appropriately captures both wearable devices (e.g., life vests and buoyancy aids) and devices that are thrown to a person in the water, such as ring buoys or buoyant cushions.

Visual Distress Signals

The use of VDS is an important tool in assisting boaters who may be in distress on the water. Using the proper type and number of VDS is critical in providing emergency response personnel with enough information to find your location and get you help quickly.

Federal law requires that boats operating on U.S. coastal waters, the Great Lakes and waters directly connected to those bodies of water up to a point two miles wide be equipped with visual distress signals. This includes both pyrotechnic and non-pyrotechnic devices, such as mirrors, flags and lights. These can be either day or night signals and must be CG-approved.

Make sure that you and your crew are familiar with the operation of any pyrotechnic distress signal you carry, even if you can’t actually discharge them (that’s against the law in non-emergency situations). Attending a demonstration from local Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas or U.S. Power Squadrons is an excellent way to learn. Be sure your VDS are in good working condition and kept in a convenient location where they can be easily retrieved during an emergency.

Sound Devices

Having sound-producing devices is important for boaters to communicate with one another when visibility is limited. Typically, these are whistles and horns. Some states require the use of a bell. These are small and inexpensive, making them a necessity in your boating tool kit.

All vessels less than 65.6 feet in length, including paddlecraft, are required to carry an efficient sound signal capable of being heard for one-half mile. Check with your state’s boating agency for specific requirements.

In literary works, a sound device is a poetic tool used to amplify certain sounds. This can be done by repetition of chosen vowel or consonant sounds, units of rhythm or mimicking natural sounds that occur outside of the text. This is done to add depth and emphasis to the overall work. It can also be used to create a mood or emotion. Some examples of sound devices are assonance, cacophony and euphony.

Life Jackets

Many boating accidents result in drowning and almost all of these victims were not wearing life jackets. National statistics show that if you wear a life jacket, your chances of survival increase dramatically. Most states require a minimum number of Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices for each passenger onboard a vessel. Wearable life jackets should be easily accessible in case of an emergency and must not be stowed in plastic bags, locked or closed compartments or have other gear stacked on top of them. West Marine carries a wide variety of traditional foam and new inflatable life jackets that are designed for different boating activities and water conditions.

Make sure your life jacket is the correct fit for you, with the right level of buoyancy for the activity you’ll be doing. Also, check the life jacket labels for the new harmonized labeling that will eventually be used in the United States. This will simplify the coding and make selecting the proper life jacket easier for consumers.

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