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Boating Safety Frequently Asked Questions

Posted By Michael Wesolowski, Friday, May 29, 2020
Updated: Thursday, May 7, 2020

Boating Safety Frequently Asked Questions

The Sea Tow Foundation has assembled a list of answers to questions we hear most often. If the answer to your question is not listed here it may be in another post on our blog - try searching our blog for that topic. You can also ask your question in the comment section and we will be sure to add it.


How to Boat Safely and Socially Distance During COVID 19

A: Everyone’s life has changed as a result of the Coronavirus, but boating can still be a wonderful activity to participate in while practicing social distancing. The Sea Tow Foundation wants to encourage you to get out on the water and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, but we ask that you do it safely and legally. We’ve compiled a list of 10 Dos and Don’ts to help you plan a great day on the water. Click this link for details.


What life jackets are required to be carried on my recreational boat?

A: In general, Federal law requires that you must have a Coast Guard-approved, wearable life jacket that is in good and serviceable conditions and of the appropriate size for each person onboard your vessel. In addition, boats greater than 16 feet in length must carry a Coast Guard-approved throwable device (Type IV). A throwable device is not required on canoes or kayaks regardless of length. For more information on exemptions and the proper use of life jackets, click this link.


When should I wear my Life Jacket?

A: The USCG recommends wearing your life jacket at all times when the boat is underway.


What are the federal regulations for life jacket wear for children?

A: On a vessel that is underway, children under 13 years of age must wear an appropriate U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket unless they are below deck or within an enclosed cabin. If a state has established a child life jacket wear requirement that differs from the Coast Guard requirement, the state requirement will be applicable on waters subject to that state's jurisdiction. Contact your state boating authority for more information.


Am I required to carry a Life Jacket on my Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP).

A: Yes, when used beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area a SUP is considered a vessel and is required to carry a life jacket for everyone on board like any other boat.


Who can wear a Coast Guard-approved inflatable Life Jacket?

A: Inflatable life jackets are generally intended for persons over 80 lbs (39kg). To meet life jacket carriage requirements, the intended wearer must be over 16 years of age. See the life jacket’s label for more information.


Is my boating safety certificate valid to operate a boat in another state?

A: In most cases, yes. However, there are a few states that do not honor a certificate obtained outside of their state. Always check the laws of the state where you will be boating to ensure your current certificate will be accepted.


How do I dispose of expired pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signals (VDS) or marine flares?

A: The disposal of expired pyrotechnic devices should be done in accordance with local county and state hazardous waste regulations. Please check with these local authorities to obtain the correct disposal procedures.


How do I register my Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or submit an updated registration form?

A: You can register online at this link.


What Visual Distress Signals must I carry on my boat?

A: Visual distress signals are required to be carried onboard vessels operating on the Great Lakes, High Seas, Territorial Seas and connecting waters seaward of a point where the width of the entrance exceeds 2 nautical miles, with certain exceptions. For more information on the types and quantities required and proper use of visual distress signals, click this link.


What is a Vessel Safety Check?

A: A Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is a courtesy examination of your boat (vessel) to verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. The volunteer VSC examiner may also make recommendations and discuss safety issues that can make you a safer boater. No citations will be given if the boat does not pass. The examiner will supply you with a copy of the evaluation so that you may follow up with any recommendations. Vessels that pass the examination will be able to display the distinctive VSC decal. The decal does not exempt boaters from law enforcement boarding but indicates to boarding officers that the boat has been examined and found to be in compliance with safety equipment regulations. Vessel Examiner is a trained volunteer specialist and a member of either the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons, or in some cases state volunteer examiners.


When should I file a float plan?

A: You should complete a float plan and leave it with a responsible party each and every time you get underway.


When should I turn on or display my navigation lights?

A: Navigation lights are to be turned on or displayed from sunset to sunrise and when operating in or near areas of restricted visibility (e.g., fog, snow, and heavy rain).


Do I need a horn on my boat?

A: Navigation Rules require sound signals to be made under certain circumstances, such as meeting, crossing, and overtaking other vessels. Recreational vessels are also required to use sound signals during periods of reduced visibility and while at anchor. See A Boater's Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats for the types of sound producing devices required for your specific vessel. A vessel of less than 39.4 feet (12 meters) must, at a minimum, have some means of making an efficient sound signal (i.e., handheld air horn, athletic whistle, installed horn, etc.). A human voice is not acceptable. A vessel 39.4 feet (12 meters) or greater must have a sound signaling appliance capable of producing an efficient sound signal, audible for a mile, with a 4- to 6-second duration.


Do you have any other questions? Try searching our blog or ask your question in the comments below.

Tags:  Frequently Asked Questions  Life Jacket  Sober Skipper 

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Vote for the “Best Harbor in the U.S.” Contest

Posted By Gail Kulp, Thursday, May 28, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Vote for the “Best Harbor in the U.S.” Contest


US Harbors has opened online voting for the “Best Harbor in the U.S. 2020” at Over 100,000 people, from all over the country, participated in the 2019 Best Harbor contest, with the winning harbor – Padanaram, MA – sweeping the results with their highly engaged local community.


Voting for this year’s Best Harbor contest will be open to everyone through May 31st. Participation is limited to one vote per user. US Harbors will announce the winner of the 2020 event on Thursday, June 4th. The winning harbor, and the top 3 runners-up, receive special plaques commemorating their win. Additionally, US Harbors throws a special event for the overall winner, with gifts for their community, and media coverage.


About the “Best Harbor” Contest: The online contest, started in 2019, uses crowd-sourcing to

determine which harbor is best loved by its community. Participation is open to everyone, but primarily includes the 5 million people who use for their tides/weather/harbor-local information and daily coastal news. The purpose of the contest is to promote the strength and vitality of coastal communities – the winning harbors have been those whose residents have strong communication networks and support for their community. These kinds of networks are vital for effective disaster management, coastal planning, and the overall resilience of a community, its residents, and their economy.


About US Harbors: US Harbors is a media and data company in Rockland, Maine specializing in “tides, weather, & local knowledge™” for people who love the coast. The company has data on 1,400 harbors across 30 coastal states and the Great Lakes. The company’s primary website, , has been helping people make good decisions about their days on and near the water since 2009. The mission of the company is to promote the sustainability and resilience of coastal communities, both economically and environmentally. US Harbors also sponsors national Harbormaster Appreciation Day (celebrated every year around the country on Oct. 8th

Tags:  Partner  Partner Stories  U.S. Harbors 

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Sea Tow Foundation Appoints Seven New Members to North American Sober Skipper Advisory Council

Posted By Gail Kulp, Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Press Release

Sea Tow Foundation Appoints Seven New Members to North American Sober Skipper Advisory Council   

The Sea Tow Foundation has appointed seven new marine industry stakeholders to serve on its North American Sober Skipper Advisory Council which was established in 2019. This new slate joins a dozen inaugural council members and will collaborate on a variety of strategies and tactics to promote greater awareness and adoption of boating safety initiatives and messages both within the recreational marine industry and the boating consumer space.


“We couldn’t be more pleased about the overall composition and the depth of experience in our newly appointed council members,” said Sea Tow Foundation Executive Director Gail R. Kulp  “We were very impressed by the quality of the nominations and the resulting expanded representation that embraces new segments of the marine industry including insurance, podcasting, personal watercraft and sailing.”


New inductees were voted in by the North American Sober Skipper Advisory Council and will serve a two-year term beginning June 1, 2020. Appointees are listed below in alphabetical order:


·         Adam Fortier-Brown, Government Relations Manager, MRAA

·         TK Krumenacker, CEO, Admirals Insurance Corp

·         Tyler Mehrl, Category Manager/Steering and Controls, Mercury Marine

·         Mark Pillsbury, Editor, Cruising World Magazine 

·         Angie Scott, Podcast Host, The Woman Angler & Adventurer

·         Eric Shepard, Retired (30 years in the marine and aviation safety industries)

·         Leslie Zlotnick, Advertising Manager, Yamaha Watercraft Group


About the Sea Tow Foundation North American Sober Skipper Advisory Council

Launched in 2019, the North American Sober Skipper Advisory Council now includes 19 members representing multiple sectors of the recreational boating industry along with an executive task force. In its first year, the council organized and debuted its first National Boating Industry Safety Awards to recognize the outstanding work of recreational boating organizations in promoting boating safety. The council is actively engaged in supporting a variety of safe boating initiatives including the Sober Skipper Program which encourages boaters to be or to designate a Sober Skipper before leaving the dock. The ultimate goal of the Sober Skipper Program is to eliminate the number of boating accidents and deaths related to Boating Under the Influence on North American waterways.


For more information about the North American Sober Skipper Advisory Council, please visit:


To learn more about the Sea Tow Foundation’s Sober Skipper Program, please visit

Tags:  2019-20  Boating Safety  Boating Under the Influence  NASSAC  North American Sober Skipper Advisory Council  Sober Skipper 

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Get a Sea Tow Membership

Posted By Gail Kulp, Friday, May 22, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020

May 22- Get a Sea Tow Membership

Thank you for staying safe and following along during all of National Safe Boating Week. Did you guess our secret phrase?

The secret phrase was SEA TOW.

That’s right! We want to encourage everyone to renew or secure a Sea Tow membership before the start of the summer boating season.  Sea Tow Captains are standing by 24/7/365 to answer your call and provide peace of mind to boaters.

As the non-profit side of the Sea Tow family, the Sea Tow Foundation focuses on safe boating practices that result in fun on the water in the hopes of preventing recreational boating accidents and fatalities. We hope you learned some new boating safety tips this week

Tags:  2019-20  Boating Safety  National Safe Boating Week  Sea Tow Services International  Towing a Boat 

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Wearing Life Jackets is Important

Posted By Gail Kulp, Thursday, May 21, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020

May 21 - Wearing Life Jackets is Important

Life jackets save lives, but only if they are worn. The U.S. Coast Guard requires children under age 13 to wear them, but anyone older is just required to carry life jackets on board, although a few activities like water skiing require that they be worn. It is best to always wear a life jacket, regardless of this requirement, because you never know when you’ll need one and finding one and putting it on takes too long in an emergency.

It’s also just as important that your life jacket fits properly. Having the wrong size life jacket can prove fatal if you needed it because the life jackets are sized for a certain amount of foam to float a person based on their weight. And, the life jacket fits based on the chest size measurement of the person as well. Click here to learn more about how to properly fit a life jacket on yourself and your children.

If you don’t have enough life jackets for everyone on board or they aren’t the correct sizes for everyone on board, you can stop by a Sea Tow Foundation Life Jacket Loaner Station and borrow one for free! Our life jacket loaner stations are stocked with Onyx brand life jackets in sizes to fit every member of your family from babies to adults. Simply return the borrowed life jacket at the end of your boating trip so that the next person can use it.

The letter for today is W.

Tags:  2019-20  Boating Safety  Life Jacket Loaner Program  Life Jacket Program  Life Jackets  National Safe Boating Week 

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Sea Tow Foundation Adds New Life Jacket Loaner Stations

Posted By Gail Kulp, Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Sea Tow Foundation Adds New Life Jacket Loaner Stations

SOUTHOLD, N.Y. The Sea Tow Foundation – a national nonprofit dedicated to the education and awareness of safe boating practices – announced today that it has partnered with an additional 87 organizations and agencies to add new or restock existing Life Jacket Loaner Stations for the 2020 Summer boating season.

With more than 650 Life Jacket Loaner Stations already located throughout the United States, the Sea Tow Foundation is also offering tips and guidelines for boaters using life jackets from a loaner station, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many agencies and organizations depend on our experience and knowledge in boating safety and our expertise in life jacket loaner programs,” said Gail Kulp, executive director of the Sea Tow Foundation. “Since the virus has impacted all of us in one way or another, we know it is important to provide guidance to boaters that want to borrow life jackets from our loaner stands. We want to continue to ensure that drownings can be prevented through loaner life jackets that are available to be borrowed at no cost.”

With the health and safety of boaters and life jacket loaner station hosts in mind, the Sea Tow Foundation is providing the following tips and guidelines for consideration:

1.    Follow local and state guidelines regarding closures of beaches, boat ramps, marinas, and other locations that have traditionally provided life jacket loaner stations. If one of these locations is closed, a loaner station previously located there will not be available.

2.    Do not go boating or spend time in public if you have a fever or are feeling sick.

3.    Wear your life jacket if you go boating and ensure that children under age 13 are wearing their life jackets while the boat is in motion as required by the U.S. Coast Guard.

4.    Be sure to also follow the other Sea Tow Foundation social distancing tips while boating.

The Sea Tow Foundation has also provided some general cleaning and disinfecting guidelines for cleaning life jackets.  

“We consulted Onyx Outdoor, the manufacturer we purchase our loaner life jackets from, as well as representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, who oversee our grant for the life jacket loaner program, to help develop signage and language to include on every loaner station,” Kulp noted. “Stickers are being provided to each loaner station host in the coming weeks and new loaner station signage will be printed with the wording already on it.”

All Sea Tow Foundation life jacket loaner stations will contain the following language: “Life jackets are provided for the community. Each user who borrows a life jacket is obligated to inspect the life jacket prior to use and to return it clean and in good working order for the next user. These life jackets are not inspected or maintained after each use. Life jackets are borrowed at your own risk.”

Through its Life Jacket Loaner program, the Sea Tow Foundation has distributed more than  65,000 life jackets to local businesses, agencies and organizations across the country since 2008 to develop life jacket loaner programs in their local areas.

The more than 650 life jacket loaner stations currently in operation are placed in locations where boaters will have easy access to the life jackets, such as boat ramps, marinas, and parks. Boaters may borrow the life jackets at no cost and are asked to return them when they are finished so that they are available for others to use.

This post has not been tagged.

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Open a Book and Learn About Boating Safety

Posted By Gail Kulp, Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020

May 20 - Open a Book and Learn About Boating Safety

How long has it been since you opened a book or a web browser to brush up on your boating safety skills? Today, we challenge you to do just that. Learn a new boating safety fact, take a boating safety class, read your boat or engine’s manual, or learn about general boat maintenance. You never know when you’ll have to put the tips into practice, so it is a good idea to learn about them when it isn’t an emergency. You can even log onto our website at where we provide lots of tips and boating safety information.

There are so many resources that we can’t share all of them, but our partners at America’s Boating Club offer online courses on power boating, sailing, fishing and paddling, plus the chance to get together with other boat lovers on a regular basis. Whatever your boating lifestyle, they have you covered.

Once you’ve completed the course – Open your email and share with us what you’ve learned! 

Today’s letter to the secret phrase is O.

Tags:  2019-20  America's Boating Club  Boating Safety  Boating Safety Course  National Safe Boating Week 

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Text Someone Where you are Going

Posted By Gail Kulp, Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020

May 19 - Text Someone Where you are Going


Texting or telling someone your float plan for the day ensures that if your boat excursion extends longer than planned or if you run into trouble, someone will know where you were headed and have an idea of where to send rescuers to look for you.

Thousands of hours and dollars are spent searching for missing boaters each year. While many of these searches are for a good reason, a number of them are due to the fact that no one knew when the boaters were supposed to be back or where they were going in the first place.

Taking five minutes to fill out a float plan would have prevented many of these needless searches or allowed rescuers to narrow down the area in which they are searching. The purpose of a float plan is to explain where you plan to boat, how long you will be gone, and when you plan to return. In addition, you should provide a number to call if you fail to return by the appointed time. You should give your float plan to a trusted friend or family member staying on the store. And, at the end of your boating trip, don't forget to call your friend or family member to let him/her know that you made it home safely. Click this link to the US Coast Guard Auxiliary's Float Plan Form. Please note that this is not filed with the Coast Guard and will still need to be printed and given to a friend or family member.

Today’s letter is T.

Tags:  2019-20  Boating Safety  Float Plan  National Safe Boating Week  US Coast Guard Auxiliary 

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Attach an Engine Cut Off Device

Posted By Gail Kulp, Monday, May 18, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020

May 18 - Attach an Engine Cut Off Device

When you get in a car, you buckle up your seatbelt before you drive anywhere. Similarly, before driving a boat, the operator needs to attach an engine cutoff device before turning on the boat’s engine. The reason why an engine cut-off device is so important is that it will stop the propeller from moving if someone were to fall in the water.

In most boats, a lanyard is available at the helm and it is supposed to be attached to the boat operator’s wrist or life jacket. Many find this restrictive and it only works if the operator is thrown overboard, so wireless options have been created to allow protection for the operator and all of the passengers.

FELL Marine is a close partner to the Sea Tow Foundation and they provide a vast array of wireless man overboard systems. In fact, Sea Tow captains use FELL Marine’s MOB+ system because they are often away from the helm as they are drawing tow lines or providing a jump start, and yet they are protected from an accidental propeller strike because they are wearing a FOB attached to their life jackets.

Today’s letter is A. Are you any closer to guessing the mystery phrase?

Tags:  2019-20  Boating Safety  Engine Cutoff Device  Fell Marine  Lanyard  National Safe Boating Week  Propeller 

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Emergency Signaling Devices are Required

Posted By Gail Kulp, Sunday, May 17, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020

May 17 - Emergency Signaling Devices are Required

If there is an emergency on your boat, it is time to signal for help! This may mean using a flag, a whistle, a horn, or a mirror, but the most commonly carried piece of emergency signaling equipment is a set of flares. However, there are two issues with flares. 1) Where to store them to keep them dry and yet easily accessible and 2) They expire after 3 years and need to be replaced.

First, you need a kit that will be resourceful in the toughest of situations – that’s where Life Cell Marine comes in with its variety of floating boxes. These boxes are designed to hold all of your safety equipment in one place so it’s easily accessible and all equipment remains operational in the event that your boat sinks because the boxes float!

Sirius Signal Distress Signals replace the one-time use of your typical pyrotechnic flares with a single U.S. Coast Guard approved SOS distress device. This electronic flare is easy to spot and operate and it never expires. Sirius Signal also features an alert app – which helps communicate float plans, provides instant communication of location and the graphic indication of an SOS distress call.

Now that you’re ready in case of an emergency with your Emergency Signaling Device – are you ready to guess our mystery phrase too? Today’s letter is E.

Tags:  2019-20  Boating Safety  Emergency Signaling Devices  flares  Life Cell Marine  National Safe Boating Week  Sirius Signal 

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