Signals for Kayaks/Canoes

It is getting warmer and there tend to be questions each year about what signals are legally required. On many inland areas there are state laws to check in addition to Coast Guard regs, but for the Great Lakes, coastal areas a rivers with substantial commercial traffic the Coast Guard rules. Here is an article I found that, as far as I can tell, is citing still current requirements.

that part about Night Signals
That part about night signals isn’t something I was aware of.

“When operating from sunset to sunrise, kayaks and canoes must carry a minimum of three visual distress signals…”

I thought all we needed was the white light that is talked about further down under navigation lights. Do we really need to have 3 visual distress signals?

p 18 -20 here

You can have three different or three of one sort…ie handheld flares.

Shipping Channels and Lanes
If you play in the shipping lanes - act like a ship.

Knowing where the buoys are, what they mean, and

acting like a ship go a long way towards safety.

If they can’t see you - you are invisible -

and will suffer the consequences.

Radar doesn’t work so great 100 cm off the water’s surface

I read it as…
Thanks for the link.

I read it as if you chose pyrotechnics as your visual distress signal for night, you need 3. But if you chose an electric one, then having a single device meets the requirement.

from page 18:

If pyrotechnic devices are selected, a minimum of three signals are required for day use and three signals for night use. Some pyrotechnic signals meet both day and night use requirements (combination flares)


White lights are for visibility so other boats can see you, and can be required by some states as well. It is a navigation more than a distress consideration.

Distress signals are a different animal, and may have different visibility standards. That said, the link I posted and the brochure seem to have two different takes on what those criteria are. Since many of the night distress signals I see are careful to note what distance they can be seen from, flares as well as lasers, this may a point where you have to go to the original reg’s to be certain rather than someone’s summary.

If I did want to be seen to save my life, I would not want to rely on a signal that disappeared from view every time I was in the bottom of a wave.