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Recreational Boating - The Legal Side

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Vessel Owners & Operators must:

  • Comply with all Federal, State & Local Requirements
  • Take appropriate actions to protect safety & wellbeing of self & others
  • Operate Vessels in Safe, Reasonable & Responsible Manner
  • Take whatever actions necessary to avoid a collision

Solas LED SOS Automatic Strobe Light

Maritime/Admiralty Law, Excise Tax & Vessel Purchase
Guide to Federal Requirements

USCG approved Electric S-O-S Distress Light as Alternative to Pyrotechnic Flares on Recreational Vessels are required to automatically flash S-O-S, meet all intensity & duration requirements for emergency signialing devices.  Currently "Electric S-O-S Distress Lights" are self-certified by manufacturer. USCG does not issue approvals or keep a list of authenticated products, so be sure that any devices you purchase meet: Approval Standard - Title 46 Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 161.013.

Navigation Lights & Shapes  -  Boats without navigation lights are required to carry flashlight or other white flare-up light that must be displayed between sunset & sunrise in sufficient time to avoid a collision.   Knowing the navigation light distinctive patterns & shapes could save your life (Navigation Lights Test).

Waste Management Plan  -  Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 151.57 requires all ocean going vessels 40 ft or more used in commerce or equipped with galley & berthing (includes numbered & documented recreational vessels) to have a written waste management plan.

State & Local Requirements


  • vessel registration & numbering
  • vessel titling
  • boat trailer registration & licensing
  • state / NASBLA boating safety education card
  • posted speed limits & no wake zones
  • prohibite discharge of waste on inland waters
  • prohibite discharge / spill of gasoline, oil, diesel or other petroleum products
  • prohibite boating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (BUI)
  • require sailboats to have and display in low visibility conditions sidelights & stern light

Actual:  MD    VA    DC    Other States

Things NOT Required By Law, But Worth Having Onboard:

  • first-aid kit & portable radio (weather forecasts)
  • charts of area
  • dock lines & fenders
  • anchor & anchor line (rode) for 10:1 scope
  • dewatering device / bucket
  • protective clothing, sun screen, drinking water & snacks
  • VHF radio or cell-phone to call for assistance in an emergency
  • oars in event wind quits or mechanical failure

Lifejackets Float, You Don't - Wear It, We Do!

Boating Safety - Doing Your Part

Good Boating Practices & Tips

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