If you plan to go boating, here is a checklist of things to keep in mind before your boat hits the water. In addition to Coast Guard approved life jackets for everyone aboard, there are several items that Texas law requires aboard boats or personal watercraft. Knowing what is needed can keep you and others safe and legal. Law enforcement officers, including Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens and Brazos River Authority Lake Rangers, perform random safety checks to make sure each boat has the necessary items aboard to keep people safe.

Here are must-have items for boats:

  • Any motorboat which is less than 12 meters – or 39.4 feet long – is required to have a noise-making device aboard. The device can be a simple as a whistle or a horn. The TPWD notes that this helps the boat operator to signal intentions during times of reduced visibility. It also helps those aboard draw attention when problems arise.
  • Every vessel needs a light visible from sunset to sunrise, or when weather conditions hamper visibility. can include a flashlight or lantern. Navigation lights on boats, and the type needed is determined by the size of the . The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has details and diagrams online that show what kind of navigation lights you need for the you are operating.
  • TPWD rules indicate that every boat towing a person has to have either an observer age 13 or older (other than the boat operator) or a review mirror at least 4 inches by 4 inches.
  • Gas engines installed in a boat built after April 25, 1940 – except for outboard motors – must have backfire flame control.
  • Exhaust water manifold or a muffler must on motorboats.
  • Fire extinguishers are a good but are not required on boats less than 26 feet with outboard motors.
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Additional personal watercraft requirements

Additional rules apply to personal watercraft, including jet skis, wet bikes, wave runners or similar vessels. Every person on one of these watercraft is required to wear a life jacket, regardless of age. Inflatable life jackets are not approved for personal watercraft. If the boat has a cut-off or kill switch, it has to be attached to the operator or his/her clothing.

Sailboats, canoes/kayaks

Sailboats are considered motorboats when operated under power, according to state law, and they must have the same safety equipment as motorboats. Those paddling canoes and kayaks at night must carry a flashlight, lantern or other white light visible from 360 degrees. Canoes and kayaks must also have a visible stern light and sidelights and must exhibit a bright light at night when not docked.

For boats in coastal waters

Those taking their boat into the ocean have some additional, federal requirements to follow. These include:

  • Visual distress signals such as flares, electric lights for night or an orange signal flag for daytime
  • An anchor
  • Another way to move the boat if it becomes disabled (paddles or oars)
  • An item to help remove water from the , such as a bucket

For more information, go here.