Before you can take your boat on the water, there are several required pieces of equipment and registration displays that must be onboard. Not included in the requirements list is insurance, although having general liability watercraft insurance means being prepared for the worst. Just like insurance is there for you when the worst case scenario happens, same goes for the equipment required on a boat.
PFD Not PDF
A personal flotation device, or PFD, commonly known as a “life jacket”, keeps passengers afloat in emergency situations. On Illinois federally owned water, the rules require a PFD for each passenger onboard/being towed. There are several types of PFDs, each specific for calm or violent waters. If your boat is 16 feet or longer, you will need to carry a throwable flotation device or a buoy ring.
Illinois has requirements on where and how to store PFDs to ensure that the devices are readily available for use in case of an emergency. These devices can’t save lives if people don’t wear them, and people can’t wear them if they are inaccessible. Store PFDs in plain sight, making sure to not pile other objects on top of it.
License and Registration, Please
Operating a watercraft on Illinois waters without the proper registration decals on the vessel is illegal. To avoid legal troubles and fines, update your registration if needed and display the decals correctly.
When placing the decals, make sure to place them on the forward half of the boat on each side. The decals include an “IL”, 4 numbers, and 2 capital letters, and an expiration sticker. Display the decal as one line starting with the IL and moving left to right with the numbers. Leave a gap between the “IL” and the 4 numbers, the capital letters, and the expiration sticker.
Style & Flare
In case you become stranded during the day or night, Illinois requires visual distress for vessels operating on waters. There are a few different types of flares and signals you can purchase. Some flairs specifically made for daylight, while others are good for either day or night.
If you expect to be on the waters between sundown and sunrise, Illinois requires some kind of visual distress signal be on board. Exceptions to this rule include nonpowered sailboats under 26 feet, recreational vessel’s under 16 feet, and manually propelled vessels.
Take Home Message
If you plan to take the boat on the water this summer make sure you have the correct registration displays as well as all necessary equipment. Some safety devices may seem unnecessary but the rules ensure the safety of all on the water. Proper precaution almost guarantees a good day, but definitely guarantees you’ll be ready in an emergency.