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 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.

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.

ABS Certification, Could you point me in the right direction?

Question: I own and operate a pontoon dredge in the state of Florida. I am looking at bidding Corp of Engineer projects which contain language of a "Coast Guard inspected Vessel" and an "ABS Certification" Could you point me in the specific, right direction to accomplish the two? Thank You

Answer: The best course of action would be for you to contact the Army Corps of Engineers directly.

If you want to do business in Florida, you would be working with the Jacksonville, Fl office in the South Atlantic Division. The main contact number for this office is (800) 291-9405 or (904) 232-2234.

To find the information you are looking for, you should contact their Contract Division at (904) 232-3735. They should be able to answer your questions and inform you of the processes, requirements and procedures necessary to bid on contracts.

Another resource that might be of interest is the Interested in doing business with the Corps? web page. If you want to do business in an area outside of Florida, you should contact the appropriate office.

Capacity Plate Requirement

Question: Is the vessel's passenger capacity required to be visible ? If not it should be listed on your 15 point safety check. The recent NY accident, could be the reason.

Answer: Under the U.S. Coast Guard Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, boats less than 20 feet powered with an inboard, outboard, or stern drive engine manufactured after November 1, 1972, must display a capacity plate defining the safe load limits. This plate must be mounted where you can see it when preparing to get underway. Sailboats, canoes, kayaks and inflatable boats are exempt from this standard.

They are generally near the helm of the vessel. Boats manufactured prior to 1971 are exempt from the requirement. It is in our 15 items as shown under recommended Item as it is not a safety requirement in the Federal Regulations.

Age Requirement to Operate a Jet Ski

Question: How old do you have to be to operate a jet ski?

Answer: You would need to contact your state's law enforcement agency as each state has their own requirements. We have links to most of the state boating authorities on this web page:

Kill Switch Requirement

Question: What if any are the requirements for "kill switch". I have a 21ft Bayliner with a cabin.

Answer: During a Vessel Safety Check the Kill Switch is one of the many items we check:

Safe Electrical and Fuel Systems:

The electrical system - Must be protected by fuses or manual reset circuit breakers. Switches and fuse panels must be protected from rain or water spray. Wiring must be in good condition, properly installed and with no exposed areas or deteriorated insulation. Batteries must be secured and terminals covered to prevent accidental arcing.. If installed, self-circling or kill switch mechanism must be in proper working order. All PWCs require an operating self-circling or kill switch mechanism.

As you can see the PWCs require a Kill Switch be used and in working condition. For your boat if one is installed and I've not seen a modern day boat without one, it must be in working condition. The test is to start the engine and pull the kill switch lanyard to kill the engine. It is generally mounted on the dash by the helm.