When kayaking on the Great Lakes, U.S. Coastal Waters or territorial seas, the U.S. Coast Guard requires kayakers (or other paddlers) to carry signalling devices. An other article, Signaling Devices to Carry When Kayaking or Canoeing, covers the most common signalling devices that you should carry, but if you want to get by legally, you must carry these. Don’t be caught without them.
Don’t want to read the article and just want to know what you have to buy to be legal? Scroll down to the summary below. It has bullet points.
Visual Distress Signals
The U.S. Coast Guard requires kayakers to carry three visual distress signals for night. For many boaters, it also requires three day signals. Some signaling devices qualify for nighttime and daytime use.
As of 2012, manually propelled boats, such as kayaks and canoes, are not required to carry visual daytime distress signals.
When operating from sunset to sunrise, kayaks and canoes must carry a minimum of three visual distress signals. Night signals include red flares, either handheld or aerial. Some options include Orion’s Locate Handheld Signal Pack, Skyblazers and Orion’s Red Signal Flare Alerter. Carrying several aerial options and one or two handheld options will help you during both the alert and locate phases of a rescue.
Although Coast-Guard-approved strobes qualify as a distress signal in inland waterways, they do not meet the Visual Distress Signal requirements. That means that they don’t count as one of your three required devices. They’re still a good idea and help rescuers located you.
The easiest way kayakers can qualify for the Visual Distress Signal requirements is to carry three red flares that are approved for day/night use. Orion’s Skyblazers are one of the least expensive that you can buy.
Sound Producing Devices
All kayakers are required to carry a whistle or approved sound making device. A whistle is the easiest way to meet this requirement. ACR’s WW-3 Res-Q Whistle is loud and works even when wet.
When operating at night, kayakers are required to have a white flashlight or lantern that can be shown in time to avoid a collision. A headlamp is a good idea, because it allows you to keep your hands on your paddle and still be able to show the light. Princeton Tec’s EOS Headlamp is bright and waterproof.
If your kayak is longer than 23 feet and you’re using a sail, you must also display red and green lights in one of three configurations. For more details, contact the U.S. Coast Guard.
If you want to be covered for any situation, day or night, that you find yourself in buy everything on this list. If you do, you’re covered under the U.S. Coast Guard rules.
- Orion’s Skyblazers or Orion’s Red Signal Flare Alerter
- ACR’s WW-3 Res-Q Whistle
- Princeton Tec’s EOS Headlamp
- For more information see A Boater’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boaters.