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It's the Law: Required Equipment for Your Vessel
When preparing to go out on a vessel, the operator must
check that the legally required equipment is onboard. Check your local
Life Jackets (Personal Flotation Devices, or PFDs)
- All vessels, except sailboards, must have at least one
USCG-approved Type I, Type II or Type III life jacket (personal flotation
device, or PFD) of the proper size for each person onboard or towed.
- One Type IV (throwable) USCG-approved PFD must be
onboard vessels 16 feet or longer, in addition to the requirement above.
Canoes and kayaks are exempt from this requirement.
- Children 12 years old and younger must wear
a USCG-approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less
than 19 feet in length, unless in a fully enclosed area.
- Each person onboard a personal watercraft (PWC) and
anyone being towed behind a vessel must wear a Type I, II or III
USCG-approved life jacket. Inflatable life jackets are not recommended for
- A Type V life jacket may be substituted for any other
type if it is specifically approved by the USCG for the activity at hand and
is being worn.
- All life jackets (personal flotation devices, or PFDs)
- U. S. Coast Guard-approved, which means clearly
marked with the USCG approval number
- In good and serviceable condition
- Readily accessible, which means you are able to put
the life jacket on quickly in an emergency
- Of the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing
for life jackets is based on body weight and chest size.
Types of Life Jackets (Personal Flotation Devices, or
|Pictures of PFDs:
||TYPE I: Offshore Life Jacket
These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take
awhile. They are excellent for flotation and will turn most unconscious
persons face up in the water.
||TYPE II: Near-Shore Vest
These vests are good for calm waters and fast rescues. Type II vests may
lack the capacity to turn unconscious wearers face up.
||TYPE III: Flotation Aid
These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters and fast
rescues. They are not for rough waters since they will not turn a person
face up. This type of life jacket (personal flotation device, or PFD) is
generally used for water sports.
||TYPE IV: Throwable Device
These cushions or ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in
trouble. They are not for long hours in rough waters, non-swimmers or the
||TYPE V: Special Use Device
These windsurfing vests, deck suits, hybrid life jackets and others are
designed for specific activities, such as kayaking or water skiing, and
usually must be worn to be accessible. These windsurfing vests, deck suits,
hybrid life jackets and others are designed for specific activities, such as
kayaking or water skiing, and usually must be worn to be accessible.
To be acceptable, Type V life jackets must be used in accordance with their
Content on this page used by permission.
2008 Boat Ed.
Take a boating safety course at