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Safety Equipment

California Required Boat Safety Equipment

California boating laws require recreational human powered vessels (canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and rafts) to carry the safety equipment listed on this fact sheet. Before you set out on the water always make sure this required safety equipment is ready and in working order.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons offer complimentary vessel safety checks including a check for required equipment. For more information about safety equipment and vessel safety checks, please order a free copy of the ABCs of California Boating.


Life Jackets:
 
All human-powered vessels, regardless of length, must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the intended wearer, the conditions and the boating activity. The life jackets must be within easy reach for each person on board.

Under California state law, every child under 13 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while the boat is underway.

Navigation Lights:

All vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during times of restricted visibility. A navigation light may be one of the following:
  • An electric flashlight or other bright light.
  • Lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.
  • Tricolored lantern (should not be used with all-round green and red lights)
  • All-Round green and red lights. (should not be used with tricolored lantern)
Sound Signaling Devices:

A whistle, bell or other means of making an efficient sound signal.

Visual Distress Signals (Coastal Waters Only):

One or more of the following devices suitable for night are required between sunset and sunrise:
  • Hand-held red flare, distress signals
  • Pistol projected parachute red flare distress signals
  • Hand-held rocket-propelled parachute red
  • Distress signal for boats, red aerial pyrotechnic flare
  • Electric distress light for boat

California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course. Visit www.BoatCalifornia.com for courses in your area.

California boating laws require recreational sailboats to carry the safety equipment listed on this fact sheet. Before you set out on the water always make sure this required safety equipment is ready and in working order.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons offer complimentary vessel safety checks including a check for required equipment. For more information about safety equipment and vessel safety checks, please order a free copy of the ABCs of California Boating.


Life Jackets:
 

All sailboats, regardless of length, must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the intended wearer,and the conditions and the boating activity. The life jackets must be within easy reach for each person on board.

Under California state law, every child under 13 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while the boat is underway unless every child under age 13 is restrained by a harness tethered to the sailboat; (2) every child under age 13 is in an enclosed cabin; or (3) the vessel is engaged in an emergency rescue situation.

Sailboats 16 feet or longer must carry one immediately accessible (easy-to-reach) U.S. Coast Guard-approved throwable device—such as a ring, cushion or horseshoe buoy.

Navigation Lights: 

All vessels must display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during times of restricted visibility. Navigation lights must be kept in serviceable condition. If practicable, a sailing vessel may exhibit sidelights and a stern light or lighted lantern showing a white light, which must be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.

Sound Signaling Devices:

A whistle, bell or other means of making an efficient sound signal. Vessels over 39 feet are required to carry both a whistle and a bell.

Visual Distress Signals (Coastal Waters Only):

All boats 16 feet or more in length must carry visual distress devices aboard at all times. Boaters must carry at least one of the following devices that are suitable for day or night use:
  • Hand red flare, distress signals
  • Floating orange smoke distress signals (day)
  • Pistol projected parachute red flare distress signals
  • Hand-held rocket-propelled parachute red
  • Hand-held orange smoke distress signals (day only)
  • Distress signal for boats, red aerial pyrotechnic flare
  • Orange flag (day)
  • Electric distress light for boat (night)
Fire Extinguisher:  

Sailboats less than 26 feet with a motor or enclosed cabin or enclosed fuel storage must carry one Type B-I Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher when no fixed fire extinguishing system is installed in machinery spaces.


Sailboats 26 feet in length and up to 40 feet in length must carry two Type B-I or one Type B-II Coast Guard-approved fire extinguishers when no fixed fire extinguishing system is installed in machinery spaces. With a fixed system in the machinery space, one Type B-I fire extinguisher must be carried.

Sailboats over 40 feet in length and up to 65 feet in length must carry three B-I or one B-I and one Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher when no fixed fire extinguishing system is installed in machinery spaces. With a fixed system in the machinery space, two Type B-I or one Type B-II extinguisher must be carried.

Backfire Flame Arrestor:  

 A Coast Guard-approved backfire flame arrestor is required for inboard gasoline motors that are not exposed to the atmosphere above the gunwale level.

Muffling System:  

 
An effective muffling system is required for the exhaust of each internal combustion engine. Unmodified outboards usually meet legal requirements.

Ventilation System:  

All sailboats with motors, except open boats made after 1940 and using gasoline as a fuel must have at least two ventilator ducts fitted with cowls or their equivalent for the efficient removal of explosive or flammable gases from all engine and fuel tank compartment bilges.

 Boats built after July 31, 1990, that have a gasoline engine for electrical generation, mechanical power or propulsion must be equipped with an operable ventilation system.

California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course. Visit www.BoatCalifornia.com for courses in your area.

California boating laws require recreational motorboats to carry the safety equipment listed on this fact sheet. Before you set out on the water always make sure this required safety equipment is ready and in working order.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons offer complimentary vessel safety checks including a check for required equipment. For more information about safety equipment and vessel safety checks, please order a free copy of the ABCs of California Boating.


Life Jackets:
 
All motorboats, regardless of length, must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the intended wearer, the conditions and the boating activity. The life jackets must be within easy reach for each person on board.

Under California state law, every child under 13 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while the boat is underway unless every child under age 13 is in an enclosed cabin.
 
Fire Extinguisher:
One Type B-I Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher must be carried when no fixed fire extinguishing system is installed in machinery spaces.

Backfire Flame Arrestor:

A Coast Guard-approved backfire flame arrestor is required for inboard gasoline motors that are not exposed to the atmosphere above the gunwale level.

Muffling System:

An effective muffling system is required for the exhaust of each internal combustion engine.

Ventilation System:

All motorboats or motor vessels, except open boats made after 1940 and using gasoline as a fuel must have at least two ventilator ducts fitted with cowls or their equivalent for the efficient removal of explosive or flammable gases from all engine and fuel tank compartment bilges

Boats built after July 31, 1990, that have a gasoline engine for electrical generation, mechanical power or propulsion must be equipped with an operable ventilation system.

Sound Signaling Devices:

A vessel of less than 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters) must be able to provide a means of making an efficient sound signal, but is not required to carry a whistle or bell.

Visual Distress Signals (Coastal Waters Only):
Boats less than 16 feet of completely open construction and not equipped with propulsion machinery, and boats competing in an organized marine parade, regatta, race, or similar event are only required between sunset and sunrise to carry aboard devices that are suitable for night use.

Navigation Lights:
Navigation lights must be kept in serviceable condition. Boats less than 16 feet are only required to carry aboard devices that are suitable for night use between sunset and sunrise.

California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course. Visit www.BoatCalifornia.com for courses in your area.

California boating laws require recreational motorboats to carry the safety equipment listed on this fact sheet. Before you set out on the water always make sure this required safety equipment is ready and in working order.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons offer complimentary vessel safety checks including a check for required equipment. For more information about safety equipment and vessel safety checks, please order a free copy of the ABCs of California Boating.


Life Jackets:
 
All motorboats, regardless of length, must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the intended wearer, the conditions and the boating activity. The life jackets must be within easy reach for each person on board.

Under California state law, every child under 13 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while the boat is underway unless every child under age 13 is in an enclosed cabin.

Fire Extinguisher:
One Type B-I Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher must be carried when no fixed fire extinguishing system is installed in machinery spaces.

Backfire Flame Arrestor:
A Coast Guard-approved backfire flame arrestor is required for inboard gasoline motors that are not exposed to the atmosphere above the gunwale level.

Muffling System:
An effective muffling system is required for the exhaust of each internal combustion engine. Unmodified outboards usually meet legal requirements (see page 37).

Ventilation System:

All motorboats or motor vessels, except open boats made after 1940 and using gasoline as a fuel must have at least two ventilator ducts fitted with cowls or their equivalent for the efficient removal of explosive or flammable gases from all engine and fuel tank compartment bilges

Boats built after July 31, 1990, that have a gasoline engine for electrical generation, mechanical power or propulsion must be equipped with an operable ventilation system.

Sound Signaling Devices:
A vessel of less than 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters) must be able to provide a means of making an efficient sound signal, but is not required to carry a whistle or bell.

Visual Distress Signals (Coastal Waters Only):
All boats 16 feet or more in length must carry devices aboard at all times. Boaters must carry at least one of the following devices that are suitable for day or night use:
  • Hand red Flare, distress signals
  • Floating orange smoke distress signals (day)
  • Pistol projected parachute red flare distress signals
  • Hand-held rocket-propelled parachute red
  • Hand-held orange smoke distress signals (day only)
  • Distress signal for boats, red aerial pyrotechnic flare
  • Orange flag (day)
  • Electric distress light for boat (night)
Navigation Lights:
Navigation lights must be kept in serviceable condition and displayed between sunset and sunrise and at times of restricted visibility. If practicable, a sailing vessel may exhibit sidelights and a stern light or lighted lantern showing a white light, which must be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.

California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course. Visit www.BoatCalifornia.com for courses in your area.

California boating laws require recreational motorboats to carry the safety equipment listed on this fact sheet. Before you set out on the water always make sure this required safety equipment is ready and in working order.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons offer complimentary vessel safety checks including a check for required equipment. For more information about safety equipment and vessel safety checks, please order a free copy of the ABCs of California Boating.


Life Jackets:
 
All motorboats, regardless of length, must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the intended wearer, the conditions and the boating activity. The life jackets must be within easy reach for each person on board.

Under California state law, every child under 13 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while the boat is underway unless every child under age 13 is in an enclosed cabin.

Fire Extinguisher:
Two Type B-I or one Type B-II Coast Guard-approved fire extinguishers must be carried when no fixed fire extinguishing system is installed in machinery spaces. With a fixed system in the machinery space, one Type B-I fire extinguisher must be carried.

Backfire Flame Arrestor:
A Coast Guard-approved backfire flame arrestor is required for inboard gasoline motors that are not exposed to the atmosphere above the gunwale level.

Muffling System:
An effective muffling system is required for the exhaust of each internal combustion engine. Unmodified outboards usually meet legal requirements (see page 37).

Ventilation System:
All motorboats or motor vessels, except open boats made after 1940 and using gasoline as a fuel must have at least two ventilator ducts fitted with cowls or their equivalent for the efficient removal of explosive or flammable gases from all engine and fuel tank compartment bilges

Boats built after July 31, 1990, that have a gasoline engine for electrical generation, mechanical power or propulsion must be equipped with an operable ventilation system.

Sound Signaling Devices:
A vessel of less than 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters) must be able to provide a means of making an efficient sound signal.

Visual Distress Signals (Coastal Waters Only):
All boats 16 feet or more in length must carry devices aboard at all times. Boaters must carry at least one of the following devices that are suitable for day or night use:
  • Hand red Flare, distress signals
  • Floating orange smoke distress signals (day)
  • Pistol projected parachute red flare distress signals
  • Hand-held rocket-propelled parachute red
  • Hand-held orange smoke distress signals (day only)
  • Distress signal for boats, red aerial pyrotechnic flare
  • Orange flag (day)
  • Electric distress light for boat (night)
Navigation Lights:
Navigation lights must be kept in serviceable condition and displayed between sunset and sunrise and at times of restricted visibility. A recreational powerboat may display a 360 degree all-round stern light and combination red and green sidelights.

California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course. Visit www.BoatCalifornia.com for courses in your area.

California boating laws require recreational motorboats to carry the safety equipment listed on this fact sheet. Before you set out on the water always make sure this required safety equipment is ready and in working order.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons offer complimentary vessel safety checks including a check for required equipment. For more information about safety equipment and vessel safety checks, please order a free copy of the ABCs of California Boating.


Life Jackets:
 
All motorboats, regardless of length, must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the intended wearer, the conditions and the boating activity. The life jackets must be within easy reach for each person on board.

Under California state law, every child under 13 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while the boat is underway unless every child under age 13 is in an enclosed cabin.

Fire Extinguisher:
Three B-I or one B-I and one Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher must be carried when no fixed fire extinguishing system is installed in machinery spaces. With a fixed system in the machinery space, two Type B-I or one Type B-II extinguisher must be carried.

Backfire Flame Arrestor:
A Coast Guard-approved backfire flame arrestor is required for inboard gasoline motors that are not exposed to the atmosphere above the gunwale level.

Muffling System:
An effective muffling system is required for the exhaust of each internal combustion engine. Unmodified outboards usually meet legal requirements (see page 37).

Ventilation System:
All motorboats or motor vessels, except open boats made after 1940 and using gasoline as a fuel must have at least two ventilator ducts fitted with cowls or their equivalent for the efficient removal of explosive or flammable gases from all engine and fuel tank compartment bilges

Boats built after July 31, 1990, that have a gasoline engine for electrical generation, mechanical power or propulsion must be equipped with an operable ventilation system.

Sound Signaling Devices:
Vessels 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters) or more in length are required to carry a whistle and a bell.

Visual Distress Signals (Coastal Waters Only):
All boats 16 feet or more in length must carry devices aboard at all times. Boaters must carry at least one of the following devices that are suitable for day or night use:
  • Hand red Flare, distress signals
  • Floating orange smoke distress signals (day)
  • Pistol projected parachute red flare distress signals
  • Hand-held rocket-propelled parachute red
  • Hand-held orange smoke distress signals (day only)
  • Distress signal for boats, red aerial pyrotechnic flare
  • Orange flag (day)
  • Electric distress light for boat (night)

Navigation Lights:
Navigation lights must be kept in serviceable condition and displayed between sunset and sunrise and at times of restricted visibility. A recreational motor-powered Bessel underway is required to display a masthead light forward, red and green sidelights and a stern light.

California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course. Visit www.BoatCalifornia.com for courses in your area.