A Course for Safe Boating
Boating Law, Navigational Rules and Navigational Aids
Visual Distress Signals (On Coastal Waters Only)
Be prepared to use Coast Guard-approved visual distress signals. They include:
An orange flag printed with a black square and ball, for day use only.
A flashlight, for night use only.
A red, hand-held flare, for day or night use.
An orange smoke signal, for day use only.
Red meteor flares, for day and night use.
The following boats do not have to carry night signal devices unless they are
operating at night:
Recreational boats less than 16 feet long.
Boats propelled by hand, such as rowboats, canoes and kayaks.
Open sailboats less than 26 feet long with no motors attached.
Boats taking part in organized marine events.
Backfire Flame Arrestors
Does your boat need a backfire flame arrestor?
All motorboats with enclosed gasoline engines, except those with outboard
engines, must have a backfire flame arrestor on each carburetor. The backfire
flame arrestor is designed to safeguard against fire and explosion in the
engine compartment, and must meet Coast Guard standards. The flame
arrestor screen on each carburetor should be kept clean of any oil or gasoline
deposits to prevent ignition of a fire. Check the flame arrestor periodically
If your gasoline engine does not have a carburetor, it must have a reed valve
assembly or an air and fuel induction system installed in accordance with
Coast Guard standards.
VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNALS
On coastal waters, boats 16 feet or longer must carry three daytime signals and three
nighttime signals. One orange flag may be substituted for three daytime signals, and
one SOS distress light may be substituted for three nighttime signals.
For more information about visual
distress signals, visit