You must have required safety equipment to operate a boat. When I see Game Wardens on the water they are always checking to see if the required equipment is there. The cost of a ticket could pay for most of what you need and more importantly having it could save you’re life, you only have to need it once for it to be the best investment you ever made. Some people call life jackets PFD’s, but I insist on calling them life jackets, because that is what they are – a jacket for saving your life. Before I go on let me get on my soap box. Many people opt for the inflatable Type V life jackets, and I hate them and believe them to be worthless. The inflatable life jackets only work if you are conscious when you hit the water and they are a chore to maintain properly, once again folks we are talking about a LIFE JACKET, something that will help keep you alive in a bad situation. This is what you must have:
• All children under 13 in boats under 26’ must wear a life jacket while under power.
• All boats must have at least one Type I, II, III, or V wearable life jacket for each person on board.
• All boats 16’ and longer, excluding canoes and kayaks, are required to have at least one Type VI throwable floatation device in addition to the required life jackets for each person on board.
• Boats 39.4’ and less in length are required to carry a whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound to signal intentions and position.
• All boats when not at dock must have and exhibit at least one bright light visible all around the horizon from sunset to sunrise and during weather with restricted visibility.
• Navigation lights if underway at night.
• Boats less than 26’ in length, of open construction, not carrying passengers for hire, are not required to carry a fire extinguisher. However, a fire extinguisher is required if any of the following conditions exist: 1) Fuel is stored in a closed compartment, such as under seats or thwarts. 2) Double bottoms not sealed to the hull or which are not completely filled with floatation material. 3) Closed living spaces. 4) Closed compartments in which flammable materials are stored. 5) Permanently installed fuel tanks. 6) Inboard engines.
Texas also requires that anyone born on or after September 1, 1984 must complete a TPWD-approved boater education course to operate any boat over 10 horsepower, sail boat over 14’, and all personal watercraft (i.e. jet skis). Statistically it has been shown that states that require boater safety courses fare 6 times better in terms of reduced boat accidents and fatalities than states that do not.
Dan Ashe is a fisheries biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He has worked out of the Jasper, Texas field office since 2005 helping to manage east Texas reservoirs including Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend. Dan has also worked as fisheries biologist in Puerto Rico, California, and Alaska but now calls Texas home.
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