A question as I have been going through Coast Guard requirements for on the boat

As I have been reviewing the requirements, I see two things I still need to get. I am getting a touring/sea kayak. I plan to start paddling on lakes and calm rivers and build up to the Chesapeake Bay and the intercostals.

I need a waterproof flashlight and a 15 m buoyant heaving rope.

What are you guys using, any recommendations are greatly appreciated.

How often are you all checked by the coast guard?

AFAIK unless you paddle at night (I don’t) you need a PFD and a whistle. If I were doing whitewater I’d carry the rope in a throw bag. I’ve been checked by county mounties but not the CG.

Good review on the flashlight.

Historically, I’ve never heard of a 15m buoyant heaving line being required. Coastal sea kayakers are wise to have approx a 15 m tow line with quick release belt around your waist (i.e. not tied to your kayak). PS - Had my 2021 annual USCG vessel safety check 10 days ago and nothing was asked about a heaving line so that is probably not a new requirement. Do you have a reference in USCG Navigation Rules?

I found the reference in the Delta owners manual.

US and Canadian Coast Guard regulations require the following:
One Coastguard approved personal flotation device or life
jacket of appropriate size for each paddler
One buoyant heaving line of not less than 15m in length
A watertight flashlight or 3 approved flares of Type A, B or C
A sound signalling device (whistle or air horn)
A bailer or bilge pump

Coast Guard requirements for a kayak are a PFD and a whistle, and a white light if operating at night - doesn’t have to be a flashlight but that’s a good option. No other requirements that I am aware of. You can request a vessel safety check from your local CG Auxiliary or Power Squadron, which is a great way to be sure that you have all of your required gear.

All of the sea kayakers that I know carry much more than just the required gear. I do bring a belt pack tow belt, first aid kit, bilge pump and paddle float, knife/rescue hook, food and water, VHF radio etc, but none of these are required by the Coast Guard.

I have never been stopped by the CG while paddling. I was stopped once in my sailboat - they were quick (possibly because I was singlehanding) and very courteous. One stop in 30+ years of boating.

I’m thinking that list is more specific to the Canadian CG requirements - Delta is a Canadian company.


Good point Brodie.

I’ve been doing this for a very long time and never been checked by anyone. The only time I ever got any notice at all from the coast guard was when I was on my sailboat, sailing close hauled to windward and hiked out . This very young dude shouted out for me to sit down in the cockpit. I don’t remember what I hollered back, but it probably wasn’t printable.

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Haha, yes it’s funny when the CG doesn’t know their own rules! Sitting on the gunwales (especially feet out) is not allowed on boats under engine power but there is an exception for sailboats while under sail.

Just checked my USCG Vessel Safety Check form from my 3/27/21 check. The tow line/boat recovery system is a “recommendation” for the USCG when in open water.

Seems Brodie is probably correct that the 15 m heaving line is a Canadian requirement. It makes more sense as a river piece of WW equipment than an open water tool where a tow line is more useful.

PS - If you haven’t been stopped consider yourself lucky. I’ve been given an on-water/underway safety check several times (usually only in the summer) while paddling in the middle of nowhere. Enforcement agencies have included USCG and state marine patrols, usually when more than a mile offshore. Local interpretation is when greater than 1.5 miles from shore additional requirements are to have VHF, flares, and a day distress signal device.

And a unique State of Mississippi requirement is to have a “labeled” trash container - luckily they give kayakers a break about the labeling as long as you have a container…I use a small mesh bag.

I don’t think a VHF is ever required for recreational vessels (although I have no idea why) but flares and visual distress signals may be required if you are past the COLREGS line (“offshore” - the line is shown in magenta on a nautical chart). Most kayakers don’t travel past that line that the rules are usually shown for inshore which doesn’t require the flares.

The 15M line is a Canadian requirement, not US.

Beyond the basic requirement for kayaks talked about above (PFD and whistle), early on most sea kayakers will get and carry a paddle float and bilge pump (plus learn how to use), a dry bag or two to carry gear, and appropriate thermal gear for your conditions (usually the started is a farmer john/jane wet suit and paddle jacket).

Yup, those look like Canadian boat manufactures guidelines. I have something similar in my owner’s manual. But the detailed requirements for kayaks and canoes operating in Canada are on the Transport Canada site.:

  1. One lifejacket or PFD for each person on board.

  2. One reboarding device.
    (Note: A reboarding device is only required if the vertical height that a
    person must climb to reboard the boat from the water (freeboard) is
    over 0.5 m (1’8”).)

  3. One buoyant heaving line at least 15 m (49’ 3”) long.

  4. If boat is over 6 m long, one watertight flashlight.

  5. If boat is over 6 m long, six flares of Type A, B, C or D, only two can be Type D.

  6. One bailer OR one manual bilge pump.
    (Note: A bailer or manual bilge pump is not required for a boat that cannot hold enough water to make it capsize or a boat that has watertight compartments that are sealed and not readily accessible.)

  7. One sound-signalling device or appliance.

  8. Navigation lights.
    (Note: Navigation lights are only required if you operate the boat after sunset, before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility (fog, falling snow, etc.).)

  9. One magnetic compass.
    (Note: A magnetic compass is not required if the boat is 8 m (26’ 3”) or less and you operate it within sight of navigation marks.)

  10. One radar reflector.
    (Note: Radar reflectors are required for boats under 20 m (65’ 7”) and boats built of mostly non-metallic materials. A radar reflector is not required if:
    • the boat is used in limited traffic conditions, daylight and favourable environmental conditions, and where having a radar reflector is not essential to the boat’s safety; or
    • the small size of the boat or its operation away from radar navigation makes it impossible to install or use a radar reflector.)

I don’t bet my life on Coast Guard requirements. Consider the following in addition to what has already been written in response to the question:
A) A cell phone in waterproof protection, if you are going where reception is likely.
B) A PLB satellite emergency signal or satellite messaging device, where a cell is unlikely to work.
C) Wetsuit or dry suit (already on when you head out) as prudent for the water temperature and time you could be immersed in the water.
D) A paddle leash or at least one extra paddle per party if you’ll be off shore.
E) In your head, a recent marine weather report and local knowledge of variations in wind and water conditions.

The definition of “coastal waters” is contained in 33 C.F.R. § 175.105(b). “Coastal
waters” includes the waters of the Great Lakes, the territorial seas of the United States,

Those waters directly connected to the Great Lakes and territorial seas (i.e., bays,
sounds, harbors, rivers, inlets, etc.) where any entrance exceeds 2 nautical miles
between opposite shorelines to the first point where the largest distance between
shorelines narrows to 2 miles, as shown on the current edition of the appropriate
National Ocean Service chart used for navigation. Shorelines of islands or points
of land present within a waterway are considered when determining the distance
between opposite shorelines.

As you are planning on paddling the Chesapeake Bay and possibly the barrier Islands, if paddling after sunset you would need, in addition to least a flashlight or other white light that can be shown to avoid a collision, some sort of nighttime emergency distress signal, as most of the Chesapeake Bay qualifies as coastal waters.

For a light, any dive shop carries suitable waterproof flashlights and many can be found online. Some people use a waterproof headlamp, but these have the disadvantage of blinding others when you turn to look at them. Some people use a pedestal type LED light on their back deck. Do not use a strobe. That’s an inland waters distress signal and can be confused with a navigational marker. Navigation lights can be used but are not required on a kayak. I also have a light the fits on the strap of my PFD in case of the unlikely event that I became separated from my boat.

While the light does not have to be on, I always have mine on after my wife and I were nearly run down by a dingy with an electric motor running illegally with no lights, when we had our lights off to enjoy the stars.

There are many types of nighttime USCG approved distress signal, such as starting a fire on your deck, but the most practical for kayaks are three areal flares. They can be hand launched or pistol launched, typically made by Orion. In one of our classes we received the appropriate permissions to demonstrate these flares. Fully 85% of the hand launched flares failed after being carried on a boat for a season, in spite of being in the original packages and stored in drybags. After seeing this I went with the 25mm pistol launched flares. In subsequent demonstrations I’ve never had one fail, even a flare 10 years old. Flares have an expiration date and must be periodically replaced.

Within the last few years Orion has come out with an electronic USCG approved nighttime distress signal. but it is bulky, expensive, and a bit too large for most kayaks.

Nighttime distress signal must be USCG approved, in date and serviceable, and readily accessible. I carry the flare pistol in a tethered drybag behind my seat with other emergency gear. Ideally, it would be good to have it on my PFD, but it is too bulky with the other gear I’m carrying. It is questionable whether carrying flares in a sealed hatch that can’t be accessed from the cockpit would qualify as readily accessible. Be wary of manufacturers that claim that their lights are USCG approved. They may be approved for other purposes, but almost none are approved as a nighttime distress signal. Requirements for these are very onerous.