How can I tell if my kayak is USCG approved?

How can I tell if my kayak is USCG approved?

The U.S. Coast Guard performs USCG compliance inspections on both inflatable and hardshell kayaks.

This is a free service offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

A good boating adventure requires the right equipment.

A Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is a free inspection of a boat (vessel) to ensure that required safety equipment is present and operational. The exams are not part of boarding or law enforcement. No citations or penalties will be issued.

The Vessel Examiner is a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons official trained to test vessels. Additionally, these volunteers will discuss specific safety concerns with the boater.

Certain states require recreational vessels to have specific safety equipment, which varies based on the type of propulsion, construction, use, and the number of people on board.

Boaters will receive a copy of the evaluation so that they can implement the recommendations. All vessels are allowed to display a VSC decal. Displaying the decal signifies you comply with the requirements. But it will not exempt you from boarding by law enforcement officers.

How to get your kayak certified by the USCG:

You would want to go to this URL:

And fill out the form.

What is a vessel safety check?

Vessel Safety Checks are joint inspections between you and a Coast Guard, Auxiliary member. Inspections seek to educate customers about boat safety equipment and features. Safety Check results are not released.

The time spent during a vessel inspection depends on the size of the vessel.

Your kayak either passes or fails the inspection. A decal is applied to the side of your boat once your vessel has passed the Safety Check. “The Seal of Safety” stickers alert law enforcement that your boat has all necessary safety equipment.

If your boat fails inspection, you will receive a list of damaged or missing items, which you must fix in order to be issued a decal. After acquiring or repairing these items, contact the Auxiliarist to re-inspect your boat. “Safety Decal” is issued if all requirements are met.

Do you have enough life jackets?

Would you feel safe in the water if your life depended on it? Do you have kids and adult sizes in stock? Can you see these jackets in the dark? What’s in your Lifejacket’s pockets? Would you have a mirror or a die marker in your life vest?

Why would your kayak need a safety check?

Because you need to make sure your kayak is safe for anyone using it.

Get someone with a lot of boating experience to help you out if needed.

Results of the inspection are treated with the utmost discretion. No third parties have access to your information, and they never issue tickets or summonses.

You don’t pay a cent because they come to you.

Passing the Safety Check earns the decal “Seal of Safety.”

What do the safety inspections entail?

For each boat, there are unique requirements. This is a partial list of things they inspect. Your kayak will need to be inspected if it will be taking you to a particular state.

In between the registration numbers, place enough space to see them.

On the front half of the boat, the registration number must be permanently attached. They must be vertically oriented and at least three (3) inches tall. Separate letters from numbers by using a space or a hyphen. State tax sticker policy: Follow.

Registration number should be displayed

There should be current registration papers or a U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation on board.

Display registration numbers at least three inches high and of contrasting color on both sides of the bow half of the hull.

State validation decals must be within six inches of the state registration number.

Label an easily visible part of the structure with documentation numbers. The hailing port and boat name must be prominently visible on the hull. A documented boat must weigh at least 5 net tonnes.

Personal Flotation Devices or PFDs:

All life jackets must be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, in good working order, and the right size for everyone on the boat. Children must wear PFDs properly fitted. Accessible PFDs are necessary. Floating devices should be within reach at all times. Personal watercraft operators are required to have a PFD. One Throwable PFD is required for all boats 16 feet or longer.

Visual Distress Signals (VDS):

A vessel sailing on coastal waters or the Great Lakes must carry three-day and three-night pyrotechnics, a non pyrotechnic device for one day (decal), and a non pyrotechnic device for one night (auto SOS light). There are no night-time visual distress signals required for boats less than 16 feet in length on the Great Lakes or in coastal waters.

A distress signal is recommended but not required for boats operating in inland waters. Analyze the boat’s operating conditions to determine how many and what types of signals it should send.

The requirements discussed here also apply to recreational boaters, regardless of the number of passengers on board. Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains the requirements for Visual Distress Signals on most commercial vessels. On January 1, 1981, carrying visual distress signals became mandatory. This regulation requires that all boats operating in coastal waters, which includes the Great Lakes, the territorial seas, and waters directly connected to the Great Lakes and territorial seas, must have visible distress signals.

Fire Extinguishers:

Engines that are inboard; closed compartments for portable fuel tanks; and dual bottom hulls that aren’t completely sealed or filled with flotation materials; Enclosed living space; enclosing compartments for combustible materials; permanently installed tanks of fuel. Fire extinguishers must be onboard and in good condition.

Navigation Lights

A vessel propelled by oars must show lights specified in the sailing vessel rule, but she must also have on hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which must be displayed in time to avoid a collision.

USCG Rule 25 requires that kayak navigation lights include an electric torch or lighted lantern that displays a white light.

Orange distress flag

To meet the legal requirement, you will need an orange distress flag that has been approved by the Coast Guard (46 CFR 160.072).

This 36″ x 36″ orange distress flag has proven to be a literal lifesaver during countless daytime aerial searches.

Boat sound must be capable of emitting a four-second blast that can be heard for half a mile at least.

If visibility is reduced, then sound is important in helping the operator of a vessel communicate his or her intentions or position. sound signals are required in all head-on, crossing, and overtaking situations

Boats that are longer than 12 meters (39.4 feet) must have an effective sound signaling system. Handheld air horns, athletic whistles, and installed horns are some examples. Voice communication is unacceptable.

Pollution, Trash Placards (26 ft & over)

Boats that are 26 feet or longer must display a placard that reads “oily waste pollution.”


All boats equipped with gasoline engines must have a powered ventilation system after August 1, 1980. Vessels built earlier than that date need to have either natural or powered ventilation.

Boats constructed after August 1, 1978, must display a “Certificate of Compliance” to demonstrate compliance. Previously, ships’ fuel tank compartments must have either natural or mechanical ventilation. Confirm that the blower is operating.

Backfire Flame Control:

EPA-approved backfire flame control devices must be installed on all gasoline-powered inboard/outboard or inboard motorboats. This is dirt and oil-free.

Marine Sanitation Devices:

Approved toilets must be installed. Overboard outlets must be watertight.

Navigation Rules

A copy of navigation rules must be available onboard for boats 39.4 feet or longer.

State and/ or Local Requirements:

First, the requirements that follow must be met. Boat inspections follow state regulations. Contact the local maritime enforcement agency.

Overall Vessel condition:

As far as a Vessel is concerned but not limited to

Deck free of hazards and clean bilge:

The kayak needs to be in good condition overall, with generally sound visible hull structure and bilges that are free of potential fire hazards. Doing so is not recommended. Do not use a greater horsepower rating than is shown on the capacity plate.

Safe Electrical and Fuel Systems:

Use fuses or circuit breakers to protect the electrical system. Keep rain and water spray away from switches and fuse panels. Wiring must be in good condition, installed properly, and have good insulation. Keep a battery and terminal covered to avoid accidental arcing. The self-circling or kill switch mechanism must function after installation. PWCs require self-circling or kill switches in order to work.

Fuel tanks must be made of indestructible material and free of leaks and corrosion. Vents must have self-closing vents. Leakage is something to be avoided at all costs. Fuel tanks must be adequately ventilated.

Safe Galley and Heating Systems:

The system and fuel tanks must be securely fastened, and no flammable materials should be present nearby.