MA Kayak legislation - update!

-- Last Updated: Jan-20-05 2:12 PM EST --

I recieved a reply from Rep. Gomes's office concerning the kayak related legislation she is filing this year.

The proposed bill is a re-file of the bill (House 4456) that Gomes offered last year in response to a petition by the parents of the two girls (Aronoff & Jagoda) killed off Chatham in a rec. kayak. Last year the bill did was not approved by the legislature and was not enacted. This year the bill has attracted additional legislative sponsors: Reps Eric Turkington, Cleon Turner, and Matthew Patrick - all representing districts on the Cape, Sen. Therese Murray representing Plymouth and part of the Lower Cape, and Sen. Robert O'Leary representing the rest of the Cape and the Islands.

The text of this year's proposed filing is identical to last year's - it seems Gomes etal did not learn from any of the negative comments generated by the "kayaking community" concerning the bill last year.

For what it's worth here's the text of proposed bill:

"Chapter 90B of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 5B the following section:—
Section 5C. Any person aboard a Kayak shall wear at all times a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device of Type 1, 11, or 111. Kayaks shall also be equipped with a compass and a whistle."

I urge everone who believes that this proposed legislation is inappropriate, ill concieved, discrimanatory, wrong, or stupid, etc. to contact the sponsors of the legislation and tell them what you think. All memebers of the Mass. House and Senate can be reached by e-mail - the addresses of the sponsors are listed below!


Mostly agree, slightly disagree
For every action there is a reaction, so, view this as support for what you are concerned about, and secondly, in a world where reasonable safety concerns sometimes need to be mandated, I slightly disagree. (This is not meant as a flame, please don’t take it that way).

Any small group facing regulations by any large group knows that Camel’s Nose Under The Tent deal, once in the rest is sure to follow. From that point of view, it is often very very dangerous to allow in any regulations whatsoever, as worse ones become likely to follow. Thus, this does worry me and may indeed be worth resisting. I have not made up my mind about it.

Just for me, and if it did not lead to other negative regulations, I am in theory for minimal regulations. I straddle the fence, being loyal to neither liberal nor conservative viewpoints here. I am majorly for freedom of action and personal respoinsibility and yet like seat belt laws and speed limits, I do see the need to regulate people sometimes for the greater good. So don’t take it as any more than my own view that it might promote some good if people get lost even with their compass, but have the darn PFD with them, and if they come to grief anyhow, al least they may be floating but dead, at least they are easier to find.

Lots of talk
about this among area whitewater boaters, who are wondering exactly how the compass is going to help them stay safe…

Will it also apply to pool sessions?

If it only applied to use in the Atlantic, I wouldn’t make a fuss. But if it’s always and everywhere, it’s a bad idea.

There is a 3-season PFD law already
It’s important to know that this camel’s nose is already in the tent. There’s a law in Massachusetts already mandating PFD’s on kayakers Sept 15 to May 15. In fact, the women who died were in violation of that law, so it obviously wouldn’t have helped them if the new proposal had been in place.

Anyway, the effect of the existing law is, IMHO, absolutely rotten. It sends a message that PFDs are not really all that important, certainly not something you should wear as a matter of course, but only when conditions dictate. This has got to hurt education efforts. Moving from a 3- to 4- season law would put a powerful line of attack at the disposal of instructors and others trying to promote kayaking safety and PFD use in particular.

So, since eliminating the old law is certainly not in the cards, I think it’s reasonable to support extending the PFD law to four seasons. In fact, to fight the extension is almost to agree that PFDs need not always be worn. On the other hand, a strong case can (and should) be made ~against~ the compass (for sure) and whistle (tougher) requirements. Maybe defeating those parts would be a good enough slap on the camel’s nose to keep him at bay for a while.

Just my $000.02.


PS: Look here for a reasonable pro-PFD-law take.

I agree

– Last Updated: Jan-19-05 12:57 PM EST –

with the talking points in the link. That's why I don't step in either of my kayaks or my canoe without wearing a PFD. It's my choice.

I just get fed up with government-as-nanny sometimes.

On the other hand, I'm in favor of mandatory seatbelt laws, so I'm not exactly rational or consistant here.

“Big Mommy-Daddy, don’t let other kids
screw up the way we let our kids screw up!” Many more lives would be saved by outlawing motorcycling and ATV use by anyone under 25. But really saving lives is not what we’re about, we’re helping grieving parents feel they’re doing something.

I would prefer a PFD all the time law. What we have now is a law that can’t be enforced evenly, and that makes no sense.

A Georgia DNR ranger asked to see my Lotus Sherman PFD when I pulled in to the hwy 41 take out on the Chattahoochee. So, I took it off, and he looked at the type III label. He said he stopped another fellow whose PFD had no label. The fellow said it had washed off. The ranger said he thought all PFDs had the Coast Guard label.

I took my Stohlquist Max, 22 pounds flotation, out of the car and showed it to him. I told him I knew for a fact it was Coast Guard approved, but it was sold with no label. Then I showed him my Rapidstyle ICF racing pfd. Not Coast Guard approved, I admitted, but actually better than an approved horse collar. I pointed out to him that all the aspiring slalom and wildwater racers skittering around the river were wearing ICF pfds, and did he think he could catch and ticket them all?

He seemed concerned about this, but assured me that if each of us would just keep an approved horsecollar packed somewhere inside the boat, we could wear any unapproved pfd we liked. Now, that does NOT accord with the law, which says that an approved pfd must be worn or in the boat in a READILY ACCESSIBLE place, which it most assuredly would not be if in the tail of a slalom boat.

So, we have selective, or random, enforcement of a law which does not make sense. I would prefer to see everyone required to wear a pfd. I bet they will choose approved pfds.

It’s always and everywhere
the way the law is currently written!

In addition to not making a whole lot of sense the law would be virtually unenforceable.

Consider the law also doesn’t allow type V PFD’s which I believe are the inflatable types that some folks prefer in the summer when it’s hot.

And exactly how is a whistle-equipped kayak supposed to blow the thing? As talented as my boats are, I don’t think they could blow a whistle. Or maybe a whistle built into the front deck with a Platypus type tube extension so I could do that…

OK, seriously - agreed this is very poorly written. Not the least of the problems is that, strictly speaking, the paddler doesn’t have to be actually wearing a PFD. They are of very little use blowing away in your boat when you aren’t in it any more…


not too reasonable
I have to disagree that this is reasonable, much of the “information” on this site is taken form the website of the devil, ummm I mean Tim Ingrim’s (aka spoonson guy) website.

Just noticed that my new USCG-approved type V swiftwater rescue vest would get me a ticket under the proposed law. That’s reason enough to call it bad.

Info on USCG approved PFD Types
can be found here:

Note the proposed MA law does not allow Type V PFDs! As noted elsewhere in the thread - this omission alone is enough to justify opposition to this piece of legislation.

i resent gov’t intrusion of any sort -
- except in angstrom’s mention of seat belts - wearing a seat belt can protect OTHER drivers - - pre-the seat belt era, there were any number of times when i hit dips in a road at high speed, and was partially thrown out of the car seat, thereby partially loosing control = endangering outher drivers -

however -

i supose the arguement could be made that we all pay $$ for searches for people lost from boats who are not wearing PFD’s -

i happen to wear a PFD full time, but can’t understand the exclusion, or oversight, on type V’s

What’s next
regulation of wear of wet or drysuits, type, thickness ect? Foolish people will find ways to injure or kill themselves no matter what laws are enacted.

We gently recommend they move to Florida. :smiley:


yea, i hear you -

Just think…
if that goes through they would have to have a new enforcement agency of kayak cops.

They could proably call it the Metropolitan District commission. Yes the MDC Police.

Now that’s a pretty ring!

I feel sorry for you folks that have to stay in that state because of your jobs.



we have a warning that nuclear weapon material was smuggled into CA from mexico, and is destined for boston -

here is my letter

– Last Updated: Jan-19-05 9:01 PM EST –

I have recently read the MA house bill 4456 which prescribes certain "safety" features mandated for kayaks in the Bay state. Unfortunately the bill ignores, but would cover, the white water kayaks who ply the rivers in the Berkshires and along the NH/MA borders. For example, in a whitewater kayak there is no place to mount a flag, and to mount one on a 7 foot white water kayak would increase the danger to the boater in the event of a capsize.

I understand this bill is in response to the tragic drowning of two young women off Cape Cod in 2002. Unfortunately it would have done little to save them if it had been law at that point. 4456, aside from the appearance of "doing something", accomplishes nothing except aggravating those of us who participate in the various aspects of water sport that fall under the simplistic moniker "kayaking". There are many individuals and organizations who would gladly assist you in crafting workable legislation which could save lives if such additional legislation is needed. I would direct you first to North Shore Paddlers Network, a sea kayaking group (website, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Merrimack Valley Paddlers, a whitewater kayaking group in MA and NH. ( I would ask you to please work with representatives of these organizations because they know what they are talking about, while the bills original authors, while well intentioned, clearly do not.
a frequent kayaker on the ocean and rivers of MA

unfortunately, I've had 3 undelieverables kicked back. so far

For those who want to mandate PFDs
Some questions:

  1. Do you wear a PFD at the beach?
  2. Are you afraid of the water?

    Why would I wear a pfd in a kayak when I am in water where I might swim? I’m talking about warm, close to shore, no boat traffic.

    It really amazes me how some of you guys think it is a death defying feat to sit in a kayak on a hot day on a lazy stream or lake. Could you possibly, under some circumstance die? Well yeah, but 1000 times less likely then it happening on the drive there.

    If this were approved I would have to follow logic and demand that white water kayaking and canoeing be banned. It is far more hazardous then any water I’d go in without a PFD. If you cannot stand a risk, you cannot justify this. Stand up and be counted.

Also contact your rep
to let them know. The sponsors are already signed off.

To contact your rep: and look up your town.

Here is my e-mail please do not clip and send you may use it for ideas.

Dear Representative …,

Once again, there is more legislation pending regarding kayaking. I am glad that due to the efforts of conscientious representatives such as yourself the last bill went nowhere. I am glad to see no mention of a pole or flag on kayaks, which would be a hazard in whitewater, and make Eskimo rolling difficult for those with the skills to do so.

Please remember that the poor girls who died on the cape were in violation of Massachusetts state laws concerning PFDs. Their lack of education is tragic.

I am a competent sea kayaker and had a trip scheduled for that day. I can Eskimo roll on both sides and have experience surfing my kayak on 8 foot waves etc. I cancelled my trip that day due to the fog and sea conditions. I would never take the boats they were in onto the ocean.

I oppose this bill: it is poorly written. Some notes:

1.White water and small lake kayakers do not need a compass. A dimestore compass cannot be used in conditions where you must have both hands on the paddle to stay upright and that’s when it matters most

2. Some of the best Greeenland kayaking specialists in the world practice in Massachusetts lakes. Some of these people roll kayaks using only their hands, many know more than 12 ways to roll a kayak. These people practice without PFD’s and compete at kayak rolling internationally. While I always use PFD’s when touring, having to use them during this practice would make the practice irrelevant to competition in Greenland where they are not allowed. (I am only a student of this art not competitive.)

3. For folks who race surfskis (long narrow open topped kayaks not to be confused with a fat open topped kayak called a Sit On Top) even a type three PFD is restrictive. They race in the Blackburn Challenge and at other races in the area. If there is to be a PFD requirement please make sure it includes type V (5) PFD’s to accommodate racers.

My bottom line is: unfortunately the victims had no real kayak education. Neither do the authors and proponents of the Gomes kayaking bill. Groups such as the North Shore paddlers network and others ( would be glad to give knowledgeable consultation if desired. We advocate use of PFD’s when ocean touring (requiring them at our official events), have educated hundreds of paddlers (to some extent), and are acquainted with various specialties of kayaking.

With best regards,