Are all passengers required to wear a life jacket or have one available for each passenger?

Question: Are all passengers required to wear a life jacket or have one available for each passenger?

Answer: Each state has their own laws about the wear of life jackets. For more information, contact your state boating agency. Also, any boat over 16' is required to carry (except for canoes and kayaks) a Type IV throwable device.

As for children, the Coast Guard requires that each child under 13 wears a life jacket unless they are in a enclosed cabin or below decks. If a state has a different law for children than the Coast Guard, then the state law is followed in waters that the state has jurisdiction.

For a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, you will need to show each passenger has a life jacket that is Coast Guard approved. It is recommended that everyone always wears a life jacket. If you are not wearing one, you need to have it readily accessible and in working condition. A life jacket will not save your life if you cannot access it or it will not function.

For more information about life jackets, visit the Federal Requirements Brochure, and look at pages 9-16.

Can a boat use rope lights as navigation lights?

Question: Recently when I was out underway I say a boat that had red and green rope lighting for nav lights. The lighting was were your rub rail would be. It appeared that the rope was close to giving proper angle. They ended the lights on the curve of the bow. Would something like this be acceptable?

Answer: It sounds like what you are seeing are the new LED lights. If the boat is new and if the lights were installed by the manufacturer, then it would pass an inspection for a Vessel Safety Check (VSC). If someone installed a piece of rope light, then they are not. Lights need to be USCG approved and each side should shine 112.5° from center.

What navigation lights are required for 16' open aluminum skiffs powered by outboard motors when the boats were manufactured with no lights?

Question: What navigation lights are required for 16' open aluminum skiffs powered by outboard motors when the boats were manufactured with no lights? These skiffs have no electrical systems and carry no batteries.

Answer: All boats must be able to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and in conditions of reduced visibility. Boats 16 feet or more in length must have properly installed, working navigation lights and an all- around anchor light capable of being lit independently from the red/green/white "running"� light.

The requirements of a Vessel Safety Check (VSC), you will need to install navigation lights. There are many places where you can have lights with a proper electrical source installed, or depending on your skill level, you can do it. My recommendation is to contact a marine supply store. They should carry the navigation lights you need. They should also be able to recommend where you can have the lights installed. All installed lights should meet Coast Guard regulations for navigation lighting.

For more information about navigation lighting, please visit page 27 of the A Boater's Guide to Federal Requirements for Recreational Boating and Safety Tips brochure.

Visit our Online Virtual Vessel Safety Check webpage to see what you vessel needs to be safe and to successfully complete a VSC.

Is there some place where I can borrow children life vests?

Question: Is there some place where I can borrow children life vests?

Answer: I don't know of any place where you can borrow life jackets. Some places that rent boats or other types of crafts (kayaks, canoes, etc) may provide life jackets. However, I strongly recommend that you purchase life jackets. Most life jackets are relatively inexpensive. They can be purchased at many large retails stores, boating supply stores, sport stores, or online. It is worth the peace of mind knowing you have a new and reliable life jacket.

Here is more information about how to select a life jacket for children - Personal Flotation Device (PFD) for children - CHILDREN & PFD SELECTION. Also, LIFE JACKET WEAR / WEARING YOUR LIFE JACKET, provides more information. If you are in the situation where children need life jackets, it is advisable that adults should be wearing one also.

Can a VSC be done at a mooring?

Question: I am unable to bring my boat to a dock. Can I get an inspection at my mooring?

Answer: The owner or operator of the boat must be present during the examination. The boat may be examined out of the water, such as on a trailer for transport, or in the water safely afloat at normal trim with adequate freeboard at dockside only. To find an examiner, please visit our I want a Safety Check! website.

Wanting to obtain a yacht certification.

Question: I recently purchased a 53' x 15' steel hull "houseboat" in Texas. I am trying to obtain a yacht certification and do not know where to turn as I have no idea if there is a capacity limit on a vessel this size in my state. I did not finance the vessel I paid cash. I intend to use it for private use and may occasionally rent it out. It is still registered with the state of Texas and is in a slip on a lake in Texas where I intend to keep it. I have not transferred the title yet because I was going to wait until the current registration expires in 03/13. Also, are there any types of certifications that I need to obtain from the Coast Guard? Please help.

Answer: The first thing you need to do is register the boat with the state in which you intend to use the boat. If you intend to do any financing on the boat, it may need to be documented with the Coast Guard, but if the lending institution does not require it, you can skip that step. If you were renting out the boat, the insurance company should be aware of that. They may require an additional premium and a charter policy.

Will the domain name continue to be used?

Will the web address still continue to be a good web address in the future? I know that it sends you to the V dept's home page but is much easier for the public to remember.

Yes it will as it has many years of "branded" name recognition and is as you said, easier to remember.

How do I change the name of a documented vessel?

Question: I have recently purchased a boat that I have changed the name that was on the stern with another of my own. How can I register the new name with the Coast Guard?

Answer: If your vessel is documented with the Coast Guard, you can contact the National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) to change the name.

The name and/or hailing port may be changed by filing an application for change on form CG-1258 (PDF document) with the appropriate fees. If your vessel is subject to a mortgage of record, you must obtain permission from the mortgagee on form CG-4593. (PDF document)

For more information, visit the NVDC's Frequently Asked Questions section.

Also, you can contact the state agency in your state that handles boat registration to see if they have any requirements in changing your boat's name.

Please note: To view and print PDF documents, you must use the Adobe Reader software, which is available for download without charge.

My Vessel Has a Marine Toilet but no Marine Sanitation Device, is this acceptable?

Question: I have just purchased a 27 foot sailboat built in 1976. The boat came with a marine toilet which discharges directly overboard. The through hull has a wooded plug driven into it from outside. There is no place to put in any kind of holding tank. Short of a porta-potty, do i have any other options?

Answer: All recreational vessels with installed toilet facilities must have an operable marine sanitation device (MSD) on board. Direct discharge toilets are illegal unless the vessel is operating under a waiver granted by the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Installed toilets that are not equipped with an MSD, and that discharge raw sewage directly over the side, are illegal.

Vessels 65 feet and under may install a Type I, II, or III MSD. The Marine Sanitation Device web page describes the different type of MSDs. The exception is portable toilets. Portable toilets are not considered installed devices and are therefore not subject to the regulations. Sewage from portable toilets may not be dumped overboard in U.S. waters.

If you cannot install a MSD on your vessel, than it is advisable that you remove the marine toilet. Your option if you wanted toilet facilities would be to carry a portable toilet.

Does my 12 ft. open runabout with an outboard motor need a fire extinguisher?

Question: I had a vessel safety check performed on my boat in June of this year and was NOT awarded a decal. My boat is a 12 ft. open runabout, powered by an outboard motor. I was rejected from receiving the decal because of failure(s) of not having a fire extinguisher and failure of state and local requirements. It is my understanding that recreational boats under 26 ft. and powered by an outboard motor are NOT required to carry a fire extinguisher. I believe that the failure to meet state and local requirements was checked as failed because of this lack of a fire extinguisher, since the boat met all of the other requirements and this was the only area that the examiner spoke to me about. The examiner stated that because the boat carried a portable fuel tank for the outboard, it was required to carry a fire extinguisher. Please explain this contradiction.

Answer: You are correct that in most cases a craft of your size and with an outboard motor would not need a fire extinguisher.

Here is a list of exceptions:

  • All boats with closed compartments and compartments under seats where portable fuel tanks can be stored.
  • All boats with double bottoms not sealed to the hull or which are not completely filled with flotation materials.
  • All boats with closed living spaces. All boats with closed stowage compartments in which combustible or flammable materials are stored.
  • All boats with permanently installed fuel tanks. Fuel tanks secured so they cannot be moved in case of fire or other emergency are considered permanently installed. There are no gallon capacity limits to determine if a fuel tank is portable. If the weight of a fuel tank is such that persons on board cannot move it, the Coast Guard considers it permanently installed.

I cannot comment on the state regulations since I do not know in what state your craft has registration.

If you believe your boat meets the requirements, my best suggestion is to contact another Vessel Examiner for a recheck. The Coast Guard Auxiliary I Want a Vessel Safety Check! web page will help you in contacting an examiner. Since we are all volunteers, please allow up to few days to receive a response.