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Does Your Boat Have the Right Safety Equipment?

NOTE: This article was originally published in 2011. We are in the process of revising this article to reflect the current requirements. Please do not rely on this information, as it may be outdated or incorrect.

Before you leave the shore, we thought you might want to know some of the safety requirements for your boat.

For sailboats, canoes, rubber rafts, or other boats without motors, Texas requires personal flotation devices for each person on board and a bright light for use between sunset and sunrise.

For motorized boats in Texas, the safety equipment you carry on board should include:

  • Life jackets for each person on board (also known as personal flotation devices or “PFD’s”)
  • Light, lantern, or flashlight
  • Whistle, bell, or horn
  • Rear view mirrors
  • Fire extinguisher (not required on outboard motorboats less than 26 feet long)

If you are in coastal waters, federal safety requirements include having these additional items on board:

  • Visual distress signals
  • Anchor or anchor line
  • Alternative means of propulsion (such as a paddle or oar)
  • Dewatering device (such as a bucket, can, scoop, etc.)

Besides the equipment required by law, there are other items which a safe boater should keep on board — for example, extra batteries for the flashlight, matches, a map of where you are, flares, suntan lotion, a first aid kit, and extra sunglasses. Items that need to be protected should be put in a watertight pouch or a container that floats.

The boat safety equipment which the law requires depends on the type of boat you are operating. Check with the Coast Guard or the state where you are boating to make sure you have satisfied any special requirements which may apply to your particular type of boat.

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