Kayak regulations have been a topic of discussion in our group for some time. specifically, what is the minimum requirement for kayakers. Many of us are operating on the assumption that the minimum requirement for kayakers is a PFD, light, and whistle. Maybe so, some say not. But to help get to the bottom of this I asked Jean Trapani. 'Jean is a part-time employee of the CT-DEP in their Boating division, she is also a member of the USCG Auxiliary fleet, and she is a core organizer of CT-AMC Flatwater. She wrote back to me on the topic.
Maritime rules are complex and in several different places so I can’t send you to just one place. In general, there are federal rules, state rules, and sometimes local/municipal rules. I am not an expert, and there has been considerable confusion and discussion about what is legally required, so I’ll try to help with the experience I have so far. I know this looks confusing. It is very frustrating for anyone to have to figure all this stuff out but I’ve been wanting to delve into this deeply so I enjoy the opportunity to work a bit in depth.
I look at the USCG Boating Safety website: http://www.uscgboatin...
And within it look at the red SAFETY tab, third from the left on the HOME screen.
Then click on Publications and Brochures
Then click on Federal Requirements
Then click on Equipment Requirements (on the left sidebar)
And you can choose what you want under the expanded items under Equipment Requirements, but the easiest thing is to choose the Quick Reference Chart. Look down the column labeled “Equipment” until you find “Life Jackets (PFD’s)”, “Visual Distress Signal (VDS)” and “Sound Producing Devices”. Then look at the length of the boat column and you’ll get a start on requirements.
Edited by Peter on Mar 5, 2009 12:23 PM
Visual Distress Signals:
Jean wrote the following in an e-mail to me:
For Visual Distress signals, you’ll also want to click separately on the left sidebar of the aforementioned website to see that it says this:
Visual Distress Signals
All vessels used on coastal waters, the Great Lakes, territorial seas, and those waters connected directly to them, up to a point where a body of water is less than two miles wide, must be equipped with U.S.C.G. Approved visual distress signals. Vessels owned in the United States operating on the high seas must be equiped with U.S.C.G. Approved visual distress signals.
These vessels are not required to carry day signals but must carry night signals when operating from sunset to sunrise:
Recreational boats less than 16 feet in length
Boats participating in organized events such as races, regattas, or marine parades.
Open sailboats less than 26 feet in length not equipped with propulsion machinery.
Manually propelled boats.
Then it talks about Pyrotechnic Devices, Non-pyrotechnic devices, Orange Distress flags, and Electric Distress Lights. Under electric distress lights, it says
Electric distress light
Accepted for night use only
Automatically flashes the international SOS distress signal: (... — — — ...)
Must be marked with an indication that it meets Coast Guard requirements in 46 CFR 161.013. [this means title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 161.013 . Here is the home page for the CFR if you need more explanation - http://www.gpoaccess.... . This section is under “Shipping” and goes into a tremendous amount of detail about the requirements for a light- Jean]
Under Inland Navigation Rules, a high intensity white light flashing at regular intervals from 50-70 times per minute is considered a distress signal. Such devices do NOT count toward meeting the visual distress signal requirement, however.
So I think it’s saying that you can have a white flashing light but it can’t be counted toward the legal requirement. They want you to have flares. And in the Navigation Rules (Nav Rules, these are also on this website in a different place) Number 37 says:
The distress signals for inland waters are the same as those displayed in the table above with the following additional signal:
Rule 37 - Inland only
A high intensity white light flashing at regular intervals from 50 to 70 times per minute
Yes this is confusing.
Edited by Peter on Mar 5, 2009 12:25 PM
Jean goes on to write:
I’m not sure exactly where your evening paddles are taking place, so please look at the illustration of a river, bay and open water and see if that explanation is helpful. Most of Long Island Sound is regarded as Inland not International. To figure out which waters are inland, get to the online website for Nav Rules within the US Coast Guard: http://www.navcen.usc... , scroll down until you see “COLREGS DEMARCATION LINES” and click on it. Then click on § 80.01 General basis and purpose of demarcation lines which will tell you:
(a) The regulations in this part establish the lines of demarcation delineating those waters upon which mariners shall comply with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (72 COLREGS) and those water upon which mariners shall comply with the Inland Navigation Rules.
(b) The waters inside of the lines are Inland Rules waters. The waters outside the lines are COLREGS waters.
And you’ll ask me “what are COLREGS?”. COLREGS are from the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs), adopted in 1972, here is the website: http://www.imo.org/Co...
To get an exact idea of which waters in Long Island Sound are COLREGS, the precise line is drawn on many charts, and also verbally described back under “COLREGS DEMARCATION LINES” at this webpage http://www.navcen.usc... , click on 80.155 Watch Hill, RI to Montauk Point, NY for the exact points used. Anywhere on Long Island Sound along Connecticut’s coast which is open water west of these lines should be Inland rules. So unless you are in a bay or river which is less than 2 miles wide in Stamford, you are under the Inland rules.
I think it is important to distinguish between a DISTRESS signal and the NON-DISTRESS LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS.
The non-distress lighting requirements can be found if you go back to the home page of USCG Boating Safety website: http://www.uscgboatin... and click on the red “Regulations” tab which is just to the right of the “Safety “ tab, then click on “Navigation Rules”, then click on the link in this sentence “To download a copy of the U.S. Coast Guard's Navigation Rules, click on http://www.navcen.usc... it will take you to a different website, the Navigation Center website of the US Coast Guard. I already gave you a shortcut to this info above, but I wanted to demonstrate two ways of getting there.
Then click on “Navigation Rules Online - View the Navigation Rules text online” .
On the top left you’ll see a link to “NAVIGATION RULES FAQ”. Here is what it says:
NAVIGATION RULES FAQ
Where do Kayaks and Canoes fit into the Navigation Rules? Neither the International nor Inland Navigation Rules address "kayaks" or "canoes" per se, except in regards to "vessels under oars" in Rule 25 regarding lights. One could infer that a "vessel under oars" should be treated as a "sailing vessel" since it is permitted to display the same lights as one, but, ultimately the issue of whom "gives way" would fall to what would be "required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case" (Rule 2).
I’ve copied Rule 2 for you. It basically says and has been interpreted to mean that you must do everything you can, even break some of the other rules if necessary, in order to avoid a collision. I’ve heard this over and over again from many mariners. It’s important. Jean
(a) Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master, or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.
(b) In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.
Jean wraps up the discussion on Lights:
But I digress, let’s get back to LIGHTS. I found:
VISIBILITY OF LIGHTS
(d) In inconspicuous, partly submerged vessels or objects being towed;
a white all-round light; 3 miles [is needed – Jean]
RULE 25: SAILING VESSELS UNDERWAY AND VESSELS UNDER OARS
(a) A sailing vessel underway shall exhibit:
ii. a sternlight.
(b) In a sailing vessel of less than 20 meters in length the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule may be combined in one lantern carried at or near the top of the mast where it can best be seen.
(c) A sailing vessel underway may, in addition to the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule, exhibit at or near the top of the mast, where they can best be seen, two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being red and the lower Green, but these lights shall not be exhibited in conjunction with the combined lantern permitted by paragraph (b) of this Rule.
A sailing vessel of less than 7 meters in length shall, if practicable, exhibit the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) or (b) of this Rule, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.
A vessel under oars may exhibit the lights prescribed in this rule for sailing vessels, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision. [OK, I this sounds reasonable – Jean]
The Nav Rules are like a bible to mariners, extremely important.
OK, so I’ve introduced you to the Federal Requirements & Safety Tips for Recreational Boats and the US Coast Guard Navigation Rules. One more important source is the CT Dept of Environmental Protection Boating Division and it’s Boater’s Guide. These are the free little booklets updated annually you’ll find at the Coast Guard Auxiliary buildings and in many other places. Here is the online version: http://www.ct.gov/dep... I distribute these as part of my job and can get you several hundred if you need/want them, at no cost, delivered to your door by me in my wonderful DEP mini-van. Really!
It says on page 22 in the section on Safety Equipment: “The following boats must carry nighttime signals when operating between sunset and sunrise on Long Island Sound, Fisher’s Island Sound and the lower Thames River - …. Manually propelled boats. ….Visual distress signals must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition and stowed to be readily accessible.” It’s important to read all the paragraphs which I’ve omitted here. On page 23 it shows an automatically flashing signal light which looks like a big flashlight to me.
On page 94 in the section on Rules & Navigation, it says “Navigation Lights (Underway). Recreational boats must display their required navigation lights at all times between sunset and sunrise, and during daylight periods of reduced visibility. Shown below are the lights required.” Then it shows a picture of a canoe under the heading “Non-powered vessels” and a person in the canoe is holding a flashlight. The caption to the side says “The lighting arrangements shown in the figures here have been taken from the US Coast Guard Navigation Rules, International-Inland.”
In the CT DEP Boating class which all powerboaters and persons in sailboats over 19.5 feet long have to take, the discussion says that “rowboats, canoes and sailboats less than 23 feet (under sail alone) must display a single white light. This light will not be on constantly, the vessel should display it when there are others in the vicinity”. My personal opinion is that anyone in a small boat should display lights all the time at night, not doing so is inviting an accident.
So it’s important to know that the vessel is recreational, manually propelled (or if there is no distinction for a manually propelled vessel, then one should know the length) and where it will be used, and whether one is discussing visibility or using lights as a distress signal.
Speaking as a kayaker and not as a DEP employee, here is my summary of the above and also my observations of current practice:
Summary: You most certainly do need at least one white light at night. Best if it’s an all-around white light but since some illustrations show a flashlight, then that would be a minimum. And three visual distress signals for use at night would be necessary in my interpretation of all this. Most kayakers paddling in groups would certainly resist complying with the 3 visual distress signals although they should all agree that having a big white light which can be seen in all directions is obviously a good thing to have. ANY kayaker paddling alone at night would be really ill-equipped if s/he didn’t have at least 3 flares, and more would be better. Most kayakers don’t have a white light which can be seen in all directions. It’s hard to find a place to put it. The light sold for bigger boats in marine stores has to be attached by drilling holes into a boat, and what kayaker wants to do that? Also, the metal holding arm for the white light is in the way on the front of a kayak and destroys night vision, and may interfere with a re-entry if placed in the back of a boat. So many kayakers use more than one light. Some also use the red and green lights on the bow which bigger vessels use, while others disagree with this because they think the red/green lights will indicate to other boaters that the vessel is a sailboat or power boat instead of a manually propelled vessel. They think that if a power boat thinks a kayaker is really a motorboat, then they’ll expect the kayaker to move quickly like a power boat and this might cause an accident.
I hope I haven’t confused you to horribly!
Hi Peter, this e-mail is much easier to read and is about SOUND. Jean
The Quick Reference Chart for Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats http://www.uscgboatin... says that for a vessel whose length is <16 feet, or 16 to <26 feet or 26 to <40 feet should have a Sound Producing Device. The requirement says “a vessel 39.4 feet must, at a minimum, have some means of making an ‘efficient’ sound signal – (ie handheld air horn, athletic whistle – Human voice/sound not acceptable). I’ve pasted the section below, not sure if you can see the entire thing on your computer.
Vessel Length (in feet)
Sound Producing Devices
(a) A vessel 39.4 ft must, at a minimum, have some means of making an "efficient" sound signal - (i.e. handheld air horn, athletic whistle - Human voice/ sound not acceptable).
This section in Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats http://www.uscgboatin... says:
Sound Producing Devices
The navigation rules require sound signals to be made under certain circumstances. Meeting, crossing and overtaking situations described in the Navigation Rules section are examples of when sound signals are required. Recreational vessels are also required to sound signals during periods of reduced visibility.
When operating on Inland Waters of the United States, vessels 39.4 feet/12 meters or more in length are required to carry on board a whistle or horn, and a bell.
Note: The requirement to carry a bell on board no longer applies to vessels operating on International Waters.
Any vessel less than 39.4 feet/12 meters in length may carry a whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound signal to signal your intentions and to signal your position in periods of reduced visibility.
Therefore, any vessel less than 39.4 feet/12 meters in length is required to make an efficient sound signal to signal your intentions and to signal your position in periods of reduced visibility.
Moving to the Nav Rules, they say:
(a) The word "whistle" means any sound signaling appliance capable of producing the prescribed blasts and which complies with the specifications in Annex III to these [Regulations / Rules].
(b) The term "short blast" means a blast of about one second's duration.
(c) The term "prolonged blast" means a blast of from four to six seconds' duration.
(a) A vessel of 12 meters or more in length shall be provided with a whistle and a bell [INLD], a vessel of 20 meters or more in length shall be provided with a bell in addition to a whistle [Intl], and a vessel of 100 meters or more in length shall, in addition be provided with a gong, the tone and sound of which cannot be confused with that of the bell. The whistle, bell and gong shall comply with the specifications in Annex III to these Regulations. The bell or gong or both may be replaced by other equipment having the same respective sound characteristics, provided that manual sounding of the prescribed signals shall always be possible.
(b) A vessel of less than 12 meters in length shall not be obliged to carry the sound signaling appliances prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule but if she does not, she shall be provided with some other means of making an efficient signal.
Moving on to the CT Boater’s Guide http://www.ct.gov/dep... , on page 25 under Whistle (Horn) and Bell it says: (I’ve enlarged and bolded the most important section)
Navigation Rules (part of Federal Law) require all vessels (including
canoes and kayaks) to have some means of making an efficient sound
signal. (See chart on page 20.)
Every motorboat 16 feet or more in length shall be equipped with
a whistle or horn type sound producing device capable of producing
a blast of two seconds or more in duration. On motorboats 16 feet or
more but less than 26 feet in length the device shall be mouth, hand or
power operated and audible for at least one-half mile.
On motorboats 26 feet or more but less than 40 feet in length the
device shall be hand or power-operated and audible for at least one
mile. On motorboats 40 feet or more but less than 65 feet in length the
device shall be power-operated and audible for at least one mile.
Connecticut Law requires that every motorboat 26 feet or more in
length to be equipped with a bell capable of producing a clear bell-like
tone of full round characteristics.
The chart on page 20 says it contains Connecticut and US Coast Guard Minimum Requirements. Under the Equipment column there’s an entry for “Sound-Producing Devices – Bell, Whistle.”
Moving to the next column to the right, which is labeled Class A – Less than 16 feet (less than 4.9 m) it says “Must have a means of producing a sound.” Regarding “Sound-Producing Devices – Bell, Whistle.”
Moving to the next column to the right, which is labeled Class 1 - 16 feet to less than 26 feet (4.9 to less than 7.9 m) it says “Must have a mouth, hand or power-operated whistle or horn audible for ½ mile.”
My opinion as a kayaker, not a DEP employee, follows.
Summary: A canoe or kayak must have a means of producing an efficient sound signal, other than the human voice. At a minimum, this should be a whistle. This is the legal requirement according to Federal law as part of the Navigation Rules, Inland. The whistle should produce a very loud sound and be manufactured for marine use without a pea inside. Kayak instructors and outfitters have observed and I have personally experienced an inability to produce an efficient sound signal with just a whistle if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction so having some kind of horn is much better, but with the limited space on a life jacket for a horn, most kayakers opt for just whistles. There simply isn’t room for anything more with the current equipment available for purchase at retail stores and no kayak has a built in sound producing device. A horn on the front bungie cords is likely to be washed away or not available for use quickly enough. Jean
personal flotation devices
Hi Peter, this is my last e-mail and is about LIFEJACKETS ( or PFD’s, meaning personal flotation devices.) Jean
The Quick Reference Chart for Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats http://www.uscgboatin... says that for a vessel whose length is <16 feet, or 16 to <26 feet or 26 to <40 feet should have (a) One Type I, II, III, or V wearable PFD for each person on board. (must be USCG approved) and for boats 16 to less than 26 feet long, they must have (b) In addition to paragraph (a), must carry One Type IV (throwable) PFD.
And if you look under the Equipment Requirements, then under Personal Flotation Devices on the left sidebar, here’s what it says. I’ve enlarged two mentions of canoes and kayaks. It says that we don’t have to carry a throwable life jacket in addition to the one we are carrying on board which is a Type I, II, III or IV.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)
All recreational boats must carry one wearable PFD (Type I, II, III or Type V PFD) for each person aboard. A Type V PFD provides performance of either a Type I, II, or III PFD (as marked on its label) and must be used according to the label requirements. Any boat 16ft and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must also carry one throwable PFD (Type IV PFD).
PFDs must be
Coast Guard approved,
in good and serviceable condition, and
the appropriate size for the intended user.
Wearable PFDs must be readily accessible.
You must be able to put them on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.).
They should not be stowed in plastic bags, in locked or closed compartments or have other gear stowed on top of them.
The best PFD is the one you will wear.
Though not required, a PFD should be worn at all times when the vessel is underway. A wearable PFD can save your life, but only if you wear it.
Throwable devices must be immediately available for use.
Inflatable PFDs may be more comfortable to wear.
The best PFD is the one you will wear.
Inflatable PFDs require the user to pay careful attention to the condition of the device.
Inflatable PFDs must have a full cylinder and all status indicators on the inflator must be green, or the device is NOT serviceable, and does NOT satisfy the requirement to carry PFDs.
Coast Guard Approved Inflatable PFD's are authorized for use on recreational boats by person at least 16 years of age.
Child PFD Requirements
Some states require that children wear PFDs
applies to children of specific ages
applies to certain sizes of boats
applies to specific boating operations
Check with your state boating safety officials.
Child PFD approvals are based on the child's weight. Check the "User Weight" on the label, or the approval statement that will read something like "Approved for use on recreational boats and uninspected commercial vessels not carrying passengers for hire, by persons weighing __ lbs". They can be marked "less than 30", "30 to 50", "less than 50", or "50 to 90".
PFD requirements for certain boating activities under state laws
The Coast Guard recommends and many states require wearing PFDs:
For water skiing and other towed activities (use a PFD marked for water skiing).
While operating personal watercraft (PWC) (use a PFD marked for water skiing or PWC use).
During white water boating activities.
While sailboarding (under Federal law, sailboards are not "boats").
Check with your state boating safety officials.
Federal law does not require PFDs on racing shells, rowing sculls, racing canoes, and racing kayaks; state laws vary. Check with your state boating safety officials.
If you are boating in an area under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers, or a federal, state, or local park authority, other rules may apply.
Looking at the CT Boater’s Guide, p. 21, this section is very pertinent:
Special Life Jacket Requirements
• From October 1st through May 31st, all persons on board a manually
propelled vessel shall wear a Type I, II, III, V or V Hybrid United States
Coast Guard approved life jacket. No operator, owner or user of a
manually propelled vessel shall allow any person to be aboard who is
not wearing a life jacket.
• No person on board a racing shell, rowing scull, racing canoe or racing
kayak shall be required to wear a life jacket during the mandatory life
jacket wearage months if accompanied by an escort vessel.
Each escort vessel shall accompany no more than three vessels and
shall keep the escorted vessels in sight at all times, without the use of
artificial devices other than eyeglasses.
• Children under twelve years of age shall wear a life jacket while a boat
is underway unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
The chart of page 20 titled Connecticut and US Coast Guard Minimum Requirements says for “Class A vessels - less than 16 feet (less than 4.9 m)” that One approved Type 1, II, III or V PFD for each person on board or being towed on water-skis, etc. Check label if using Type V.” is needed.
The chart of page 20 says for “Class I vessels – 16 feet to less than 26 feet (4.9 to less than 7.9 m)” - “One approved Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person on board or being towed on water-skis, etc. and in addition, one throwable Type IV device. (Type IV not required for canoes and kayaks.) Check label if using Type V.”
Page 19 has labels on life jackets which is somewhat helpful for figuring out what is meant by Type I, etc. http://www.ct.gov/dep... . Most kayakers and canoeists wear Type III.
The Personal Flotation Device Manufacturer’s Association has a good page showing the different types: http://www.pfdma.org/... and lots more info to answer anyone’s questions.
I see nothing in the Nav Rules regarding lifejackets for small craft or canoes or kayaks.
Jean closes her e-mail with:
As a CT DEP employee, I can most definitely say that it is a CT state requirement that all persons in canoes and kayaks and other manually propelled vessels must WEAR a life jacket (also called a PFD or personal flotation device) from Oct. 1 through May 31. It is a federal requirement that one be carried on board at all other times. It must be US Coast Guard approved, easily accessible, in good and serviceable condition, and the appropriate size for the user. Children under 12 years of age must wear one at all times in a canoe or kayak or other manually propelled vessel according to CT rules.
The life jacket should be a Type I, II, III, V or V hybrid. Different rules apply to racing vessels if escorted by an escort vessel.
Common sense and the manufacturer’s recommendations should be used when choosing a life jacket. The best life jacket is the one which a person WEARS. Most persons in manually propelled vessels choose a Type III life jacket. Type V PFD’s should be chosen very carefully and the wearer should follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding maintenance and usage.
Many people would still be alive today if they had their life jacket on in an emergency. I can give you some examples if you wish, involving paddlers in this state.
Edited by Peter on Mar 5, 2009 11:00 AM