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    • Making a Dinghy Legal in Florida

      A very interesting discussion has been taking place this week on the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (http://www.greatloop.org/) about the requirements for legally operating a dinghy in the Sunshine State. This is useful reading for all who cruise in Floridian waters.
      Incidentally, the entire Salty Southeast Cruisers’ Net bunch continues to highly recommend membership in the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association. What a GREAT bunch of fellow cruisers!

      Our boat the “Ariverderci” she made it to Fort Myers beach from MN in Dec of 2012.
      We will be getting back to her in Feb to continue on out Great loop Adventure.
      We are having dinghy and davits attached to our swim deck while we are away. We did not really need one on the way down beacuse tieds were not a problem. We simply beached the boat and have done this for years.
      Well that has changed. A dinghy should be a lot of fun put we sure do not want to break any laws while using it.
      Can any one tell us if we need navigation lights on a motorized dinghy under 9′ long. I can’t find anything that say I do, but I want to be safe.
      Also under Florida boating regs we found a web site that said boats under 16′ needed 3 Visual distress signals approved for night time use. Can some-one name 3 for me? Hand held VHF radio? Flash light? I don’t know if they qualify and that’s only two.
      We will be looking for your ideas and suggestions on lights and visual distress signals for boats under 16′
      Ariverderci

      Under 16′ – For lighting, you only need one all-around light when operating sunset to sunrise, or in restricted visibility. For distress signals, nothing is required unless you are on coastal (not inland) waters
      See this link:
      http://myfwc.com/boating/safety-education/boat-safety-equipment/vessels-under-16-feet/
      Don’t forget to register your dinghy with proper state, probably the same state as your primary boat.
      Ron & Jan Matuska

      Do not confuse the requirements for a NON-POWERED vessel with those of a vessel that is powered. Powered vessels REQUIRE navigation lights after dark. Non-powered vessels DO NOT (except for a lantern, flashlight, etc). A dinghy is a vessel!! Get out your navigation rules, dust them off and look throught them. Don’t stop reading when you find the answer you want, read the whole section, the rule may change when applied to your situation. Remember, Federal Laws can trump local laws.
      Distress signals are described in the Navigation Rule book. Specifically, rule 37. Additionally look at annex IV to the Nav rules, you will find 15 or more. For lights, look at rule 23 and 25 and make sure you follow either international or inland rules as appropriate.
      Larry Kreissler

      I am a Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Inspector and would refer you to a few web pages for your information.
      The first one is http://www.boat-ed.com/abc/instructors/. This website allows you to look at the different states and their laws. As there are surprising differences between states, you need to be aware of and comply
      with different state laws as you proceed around the loop. This company is the publisher of the various state law books that are distributed by the states. Printed copies of these books are available from your nearest Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadron who also conduct Vessel Safety Checks.
      I would strongly urge you to get a FREE Vessel Safety Check. Each examiner is qualified to perform the inspection and will issue you a decal if your vessel passes the exam. Some insurance companies might give you a discount on your insurance for passing the exam – check with them. To schedule a Vessel Safety Check with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, just go to http://www.cgaux.org/ and click on “Vessel Safety Check” in the left hand column. Here you will find a “virtual VSC” so you can make sure you have
      all the required equipment. Once you have done this, you can schedule a VSC with a local examiner through this website. For the US Power Squadron, go to http://www.usps.org/ and follow a similar procedure. While passing the exam and display of the decal is not a get out of jail free card, you may still be boarded by the Coast Guard or local law enforcement to conduct a safety check as this is their probable cause for stopping you. If they are doing random boardings and see the decal, they may decide to bypass you and move on to someone who is not displaying the decal.
      Different states will have their own web sites, so please also refer to those for hopefully, the most up to date information.
      Visual Distress Signal carriage requirements depend on the body of water you
      operate on and whether you operate only during daylight, or potentially could operate at night or in limited visibility conditions. Because of the wide variety of time of day, conditions, and locations where you may use
      your dingy, I would equip it to the highest standard – coastal and night operations. This is completely different than daylight only – inland. Personally, I carry the Orion Skyblazer handheld flares in a pocket on my life jacket while aboard my dingy. They meet day and night requirements, coastal and inland requirements, are relatively cheap, and are very compact.
      I have no pecuniary interest in making this recommendation – only one of a satisfied customer. Various localities may have additional requirements or restrictions. An example of this is the Corps of Engineers lakes in Georgia.
      They discourage the use of the pistol type pyrotechnic launchers (notice I did not say guns) as they launch a flare high enough and with enough range that it could come down on shore and potentially start a forest fire. I
      also have a B-1 fire extinguisher, a Danforth style anchor (made for PWC) and a screw type beach anchor along with 50 feet of anchor line, and a couple of dock lines.
      Navigation lighting requirements are Federal and will apply to you regardless of your location. Various states may have additional requirements. On my dingy, I have removable navigation lights with bases that are glued to the tube on the bow, and glued and bolted to the top of the engine at the stern. While the anchors and anchor line are not part of the legally required equipment, it certainly makes my dingy more useful and safer. It is not difficult or expensive to make your dingy compliant and legally usable in all locations under all conditions.
      Even if all of this was not required by various state and federal laws, you want to see and be seen, hear and be heard. This makes you safer on the water and greatly decreases the chances that you will have an accident.
      Thanks for asking the question as I am sure there are others who will read this and take appropriate action to make their Loop safer and to be legal wherever they go.
      Dave & Nan Ellen Fuller

      As Dave pointed out, powered vessels REQUIRE navigation lights after dark. And like Dave, I too have removable navigation lights with bases that are glued to the tube on the bow, and bolted to the top of the engine at the stern.
      Also, be sure to have on board a life jacket for each person on board. An inflatable vest in a pouch worn on the waist is a convenient choice. And a whistle or other audible device is needed too. And a daytime distress signal too. An anchor can save you from having a current sweep your dinghy into harms way, should your outboard conk out ‘” although it’s not required.
      USCG and water cops with time on their hands find dinghies easy prey for these violations. And in some places you’re more likely to be cited after sunset.
      Nighttime dingy transits in busy, confined areas like Key West can be rather dangerous if a dingy does not display the proper navigation lights. The on shore lights and other vessels hamper visibility, increasing the possibility that a dinghy can be run over by a larger vessel.
      Len

      The Fullers state that, `I have removable navigation lights with bases that are glued to the tube on the bow, and glued and bolted to the top of the engine at the stern.’ I see many all-round anchor/range lights on top of outboards which are clearly in violation of COLREGS. If that light cannot be seen all around, over the heads of passengers or the boat’s superstructure, it is illegal and unsafe.
      Capt. Jim Acheson

      As Dave pointed out, powered vessels REQUIRE navigation lights after dark. And like Dave, I too have removable navigation lights with bases that are glued to the tube on the bow, and bolted to the top of the engine at the stern.

      Also, be sure to have on board a life jacket for each person on board. An inflatable vest in a pouch worn on the waist is a convenient choice. And a whistle or other audible device is needed too. And a daytime distress signal too. An anchor can save you from having a current sweep your dinghy into harms way, should your outboard conk out ‘” although it’s not required.

      USCG and water cops with time on their hands find dinghies easy prey for these violations. And in some places you’re more likely to be cited after sunset.

      Nighttime dingy transits in busy, confined areas like Key West can be rather dangerous if a dingy does not display the proper navigation lights. The on shore lights and other vessels hamper visibility, increasing the possibility that a dinghy can be run over by a larger vessel.
      Len

      Comments from Cruisers (1)

      1. USGC Jim -  April 9, 2017 - 5:06 pm

        Navigating a small dinghy at night requires ONLY a white all around light if the vessel is navigated at a speed of less than 7 knots and is less than 7 meters (22′) long-clearly in the rules-and don’t let some clammer cop tell you otherwise. I’ve always found that legit boarding officers in the USCG know the rules. Local cops are another story.

        Reply to USGC
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