New laws in MA ??

There is proposed legislation in the Massachusetts House of Representatives that will make it a law that “Any person aboard a kayak shall wear at all times a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device of Type 1, 2 or 3. Kayaks shall also be equipped with a COMPASS and a whistle.”

I responded to one of the State Reps last fall when I heard that she was sponsoring a bill to further regulate kayakers. I offered some strong comments, but in a constructive way, and suggested that this new law while well meaning, it was reactionary because of the recent deaths of couple of totally inexperienced and unwise kayakers.

I strongly opposed the part about having to equip all kayaks with compasses. I presented a long list of all the logical reasons/arguments that I could think of (compass for a whitewater?? or small pond??, etc, etc.). I personally use a compass most all the time in open water and also carry one on board. I (being the consummate “gear junkie”) have more safety gear on board than most anyone I know, and strongly believe that’s a wise move, but I do resent however blind sweeping laws that are inappropriate most of the time, and feel this is a time when the kayak community should speak up for itself. If we need help from the Government it might be better in the form of advocacy (funds for safety education??) rather than reactive inappropriate controls

She emailed me back with a personal letter at that time and I have just received another one from her asking for further comment and an invitation to speak at the hearing for the bill at the State House on 4/27/05. I am not sure I can make the hearing, but will write her again.

The bill is “House # 1934”, and is proposed by Shirley Gomes, State Representative from the 4th Barnstable District. Her email is

If you are from Massachusetts you SHOULD speak up and contact her, and input from out of state would be welcome as well.



A lot of kayakers have been speaking up
…but Rep Gomes seems determined to push this stupidity through.

Very likely for votes
She may even not believe in the legislation herself, but may just be shamelessly exploiting a tragedy (Sound familiar in the news lately?) in order to look like she “did something about it”. Politicos do it all the time in order to get re-elected.

Had the causative incident involved 2 middle aged men out fishing, it may not have even made the news for more than one day, because there’s no political mileage to be gained from it. I’m not diminishing the scale of what happened in reality, but rather pointing to the motives of lawmakers. It stinks either way.


You can submit written testimony -

– Last Updated: Apr-13-05 1:44 PM EST –

You don't have to attend the committee hearing to submit testimony.

If a person wished to testify on House Bill 1934, but cannot attend the Public Hearing, a letter of testimony can be sent, referencing the bill number, to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, State House, Room 146, Boston, MA 02133. The letters should be addressed to the two Chairs: Sen. Jarrett Barrios and Rep. Cheryl A. Rivera.

There is also another thread going on this topic in the Paddler's Place Discussion Forum

Cop Warned Me
I had a cop stand and watch me don my vest at a reservoir in ID. Didn’t have a problem with it. You can carry a whistle and compass in your PFD pocket no problem. You should be doing that already. If not your not that good of an example to others. A whistle is handy in WW. Rafters carry them.

Thanks, Roger, for the
detailed information. I agree with you–mandating compasses inland makes no sense.

If they want to mandate them on the coast, I personally wouldn’t mind that so much, though I think the CG has better things to do in this post 9/11 age than checking everyone for a compass–particularly when many people would have one but not know how to use it.


Thank you Sanjay.
I appreciate your comments and support. I hope that we can each take a moment and send off a letter to Rep. Gomes and her buddies at the State House and let them know that there are many of us that are actually CONSCIOUS thinking people, aware of our safety needs and that we can

do without unnecessary and frivolous interference.

I also read your “profile”. Very impressive.



On serval western rivers you’d need a compass and map if you had to walk to safety. What happens if you trash your boat and have to walk to help? The same people who check for fishing licenses can check for safety equiment. You expect the government to save your butt when you get in trouble. That gives them the responsibiity to reduce your need to be rescued.

And if I want to wear a class
5 fd for whitewater it would be illegal. As is a class V for racing.

Bad Law

All that feel good stuff is fine
but it is just that. What good is a compass if you don’t know how to use it, what good is it if the fog rolls in and you don’t know where you are or were turned around and did not know where shore was, or you don’t know that there is a current ahead of you and it will push you out to sea if you keep going the direction you are? If they are going to do then do it right and mandate a CG course and a real compass not the little 59 cent compass they talk about in their push for this bill. This will not do anything for saftey. I fact if I remember correctly the girls that died and started all this were already breaking exsiting laws.

So this year when we make our…
…annual trip up there I’ll bring the canoe instead of the kayaks, (assuming that canoes are exempt)

I always did want to make that crossing from Plymouth to P-town in a canoe. Thought it would be a fun challenge.



You Go, Jack!
report back on your trip when you’re done. Would love to hear it. :wink:


Feel good stuff
:This will not do anything for saftey. I fact if I :remember correctly the girls that died and started :all this were already breaking exsiting laws.

100% accurate. See my comments above about getting votes as to why this is still an issue.


Sad but true.
Perhaps we should tell Rep. Gomes that she should be ashamed of herself for exploiting the deaths of these two young girls? That would win us a lot of friends, eh? :wink:

Well, at least WE would feel better about it.

My understanding is that the CG…
…does not - and perhaps cannot - enforce state regulations. That’s up to the state “water cops”. The truth is that this regulation, like the October-May PFD regulation that the dead girls ignored, is completely unenforceable. With the state doing virtually nothing to educate the paddling public, most people will never even know about the new regulations. The bottom line is that these regulations are a joke and the lawmakers involved know that. It’s all about votes, not safety.

Inflated inner tubes too?
Good point re canoes - so maybe you could be out there in an inner tube with no safety gear too…

I’m a huge fan of compasses, but they aren’t any good if you can’t tell which number is north.