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Boating Regulations and Safety Concerns – tn.gov

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Any Tennessee resident born after January 1, 1989 must show the TWRA-issued wallet Boating Safety Education Certificate as proof of successful completion of the TWRA Boating Safety exam.
"Coast Guard approved equipment" is equipment which has been approved by the Commandant of the U. S. Coast Guard and has been determined to be in compliance with U. S. Coast Guard specifications and regulations relating to the material, construction and performance of such equipment.
All children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a Coast Guard approved PFD while on the open deck of a recreational boat except when anchored, moored, or aground. There are four basic things you should keep in mind about your personal flotation devices.
First, you must have one wearable device of the appropriate size on board for each person in the boat or each person being towed. (This applies to rowboats, sailboats, canoes and rafts as well as motorboats.)
Second, each device must be kept readily accessible. They should not be hidden below deck or stored in plastic bags. They should be worn or at least be close at hand where they can be reached quickly in an emergency.
Third, each device must be Coast Guard approved and bear the approval stamp and number.
Fourth, each device must be in good condition and be of the appropriate size for the person intended to wear it. The straps must be firmly affixed, there should be no rips, tears or holes which will affect the operating efficiency of the device, and there should be no leaks in the plastic bags containing the flotation material (this can be checked by squeezing each bag and listening for escaping air.)
All boats, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one wearable personal flotation device for each person on board or for each person being towed on water skis, etc.
Boats 16 feet in length or over must also be equipped with one Type IV (throwable) PFD per boat in case someone falls overboard.
Inflatable Flotation Devices
There are a wide variety of inflatable life jackets available. To be accepted as one of the required life jackets on board, the device must have a Coast Guard approval stamp on it. If it is approved as a Type V, it must be worn to be accepted. Inflatable devices of any kind are not acceptable for persons less than 16 years old or for personal watercraft operation.
Ski Belts
These are not on the approved list of flotation devices and are not recommended for your safety. A ski belt may not be counted as one of the required pieces of equipment on board any boat. A ski belt may be worn while skiing but an approved flotation device for the skier must be on the towing boat.
If someone falls overboard, follow these procedures:
Boats are 26 feet or longer, transport passengers for hire, have one or more of the following:
Permanently installed fuel tanks. These are defined as:
Tanks which require the removal of screws or bolts to remove them from the boat.
Tanks that when filled cannot be easily or readily handled by one person on board.
Each fire extinguisher is classified by letter and Roman numeral according to the type of fire it will extinguish, and the size of the extinguisher.
The "letter" indicates the Type of fire:
Extinguishers approved for motorboats are hand portable, of either B-I or B-II classification for gasoline, oil and grease fires.
Dry chemical fire extinguishers without gauges or indicating devices must be weighed and tagged every six months.
Check extinguishers regularly to be sure that gauges are free and showing fully charged and nozzle is clear.
Number of Fire Extinguishers Needed:
A permanently installed fire extinguisher in an engine compartment may be substituted for one B-I extinguisher on any class of vessel.
Read labels on fire extinguishers; the extinguisher must say U. S. Coast Guard approved or U. L. listed for marine use.
Vessels with closed gasoline engine compartments must be ventilated. Boats built after July 31, 1980, must be ventilated by a powered exhaust blower system. Boats built before that date must have at least one intake and one exhaust duct fitted with cowls for the removal of explosive fumes. The intake duct should be vented from outside the boat to midway of the compartment or to a level below the carburetor air intake. The exhaust duct should be vented from the lower portion of the engine compartment to the outside of the boat.
Vessels with enclosed fuel tank compartments must be ventilated like the description above. An exception is made if the boat meets the following requirements:
Vessels less than 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters) are not specifically required to carry a whistle, horn or bell but they must have some means of making an "efficient sound signal."Vessels over 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters) are required to carry a bell and a powered whistle or horn.
Visual distress signals are not required for boaters using Tennessee waters. They are desirable to have on any boat but are only required for boats using coastal waters and the Great Lakes. Boaters using those waters should obtain the exact requirements based on the length of their boat and whether they will be operating at night.
Marine sanitation device laws apply to boats with installed heads (commodes). Sanitation devices are classified by types. Types I & II treat sewage and then discharge it into the water. A Type III is a holding tank which retains the waste until it is pumped out at a marina or other facility. The following is a summary of the M.S.D. laws:
Federal law requires that all vessels 26 feet and over must display one or more pollution placards (signs) in a prominent location so that it can be read by the crew and passengers.
The placard must:
It is the responsibility of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to enforce and administer the provisions of the "Tennessee Boating Safety Act." Enforcement officers of the Agency are on the water to assist boaters as well as to enforce laws and to provide control when necessary.
The owner of a vessel may be responsible for any injury or damage done by his or her vessel whether the owner is present or not.  This shall not hold true if the vessel is used without the owner’s consent. 
Every officer of the Agency has the authority to stop and board any vessel subject to the State Boating Act. They may issue citations or, when necessary, they may arrest, on sight, without warrant, any person they see violating any provisions of the Act.
Most Agency vessels may be recognized by the orange and green stripes near the bow and the words WILDLIFE RESOURCES on the sides; however, unmarked vessels are also used. Boaters who are signaled to stop must do so immediately and maneuver in such a way that the officer may come along side or come aboard.
TWRA officers monitor marine radio channel 17 and can also be contacted through the regional TWRA dispatcher at the toll-free number.
A U. S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device must be worn by each person on board vessels being operated within specifically marked areas below any dam.
It is unlawful to operate any sail or powered vessel while under the influence of intoxicants or drugs. Here are some important facts to consider.
Implied Consent
All persons operating a sail or powered vessel have given their implied consent to chemical tests to determine the alcohol or drug content of their blood. Failure to consent to testing is a separate offense and may result in suspension of vessel operating privileges for six months.
Presumption of Guilt
A vessel operator whose BAC tests show .08% or greater by weight, of alcohol shall constitute a violation of this statute and is presumed under the influence and his or her ability to operate a vessel is impaired.
Blood-Alcohol Test Required
Blood-alcohol content may be taken from all operators involved in an accident where death or serious injury occurred.
Conviction for operating under the influence will result in fines of up to $2,500 on the first offense, $2,500 on the second offense and $5,000 for the third offense. A jail sentence of 11 months and 29 days may also be imposed for any conviction and operating privileges may be suspended from one to ten years. Additional federal penalties may also be charged.
Unless otherwise marked, all vessels operating within 300 feet of a commercial boat dock must do so at a slow wake speed regardless of whether or not the area is marked by buoys.
"No wake" is defined as a vessel traveling at or below idle speed, or at such speed that the boat or its wake (waves) is not sufficient to cause possible injury or damage to other persons, boats, or property.
Boats must not operate within 50 feet of a diver’s- down flag and a slow, no-wake idle speed restriction is automatically imposed within 200 feet of the flag.
A diver is any person who is in the water and equipped with a face mask, snorkel or underwater breathing apparatus.
All divers, regardless of whether they are diving from a boat, shall prominently display a diver’s-down flag in the area in which they are diving and must surface within 50 feet of the flag. After dusk the flag must be illuminated so it can be seen from a minimum of 300 feet.
Any boat used as a necessary part of the diving operation must display, from its mast a diver’s-down flag at least 20 inches x 24 inches in size and an international code flag Alpha so that they are visible from 360 degrees. After dark such boats shall illuminate their flags so they are visible from a minimum of 300 feet.
Reckless operation of a vessel, water skies or similar device is one of the most serious offenses in Tennessee boating law. Violations are punishable by a fine of $2500 and six months in jail. Additionally, the Coast Guard may impose a civil penalty of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of one year. Reckless operation is defined as any act which endangers life, limb or property.
Examples of reckless operation are:
Operating a vessel in swimming areas.
Riding on seatbacks, gunwales, transoms or pedestal seats while above an idle speed.
Excessive speed in crowded areas, dangerous areas or during restricted visibility.
Operating an overloaded vessel.
Towing a skier in a crowded area where a fallen skier is likely to be hit by other vessels or towing in areas where the skier is likely to strike an obstacle.
Using a personal watercraft to jump the immediate wake of another vessel. 
Vessel operators involved in an accident must notify TWRA immediately.
Any boating accident involving death, or injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, or the disappearance of a person should be reported as soon as possible, and must be reported within 48 hours. 

All accidents involving property damage in excess of $2000 (to one vessel or a combination of both vessels) must be reported within 10 days.

The operator of every vessel involved in a reportable boating accident is required to file an accident form with the TWRA. Failure to report a boating accident is a criminal offense and may result in prosecution by the TWRA. 

Giving assistance is required. Whenever a boat is involved in an accident, it is the duty of the operator to give necessary assistance, as long as it will not personally endanger the operator, the passengers, or vessel. 

Incidents Involving Serious Injury or Death: Vessel operators involved in incidents where persons are seriously injured or killed may be charged with a felony resulting in a fine of $10,000 and 15 years imprisonment.
Personal watercraft are those vessels (boats) which are designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on the craft rather than sitting or standing inside the vessel.
It includes but is not limited to jet skis, wet bikes, wave runners, sea doos and similar craft.  Personal watercraft are considered powered vessels and must adhere to the same rules as any other boat.  They must be registered, carry flotation devices and be operated at a speed safe enough for the operator to avoid a collision or stop in time to avoid an accident.
Additionally, personal watercraft operators should be aware of the following:
Before a person may carry passengers for hire on the navigable waters of the United States, an appropriate license must be obtained from the U. S. Coast Guard.
This includes ferry service, fishing guide service or any operation where consideration (monetary or otherwise) is required from the passengers.
Only Type I PFDs are acceptable when carrying passengers for hire. Some equipment requirements vary with the classification of the vessel and the number of passengers carried.
For questions about licensing and equipment requirements, contact the nearest U. S. Coast Guard Marine Safety office.
Boat races, marine parades and any other special aquatic events which may restrict local navigation or require additional patrol by wildlife officers, may not be held without first obtaining a permit from the Executive Director of the TWRA.
The free permit may be requested by applying to the TWRA at least 30 days prior to the date of the event.
Engines of all motorized vessels must have an effective muffling system.
The noise level of any motorized vessel may not exceed 86 decibels at 50 feet or more.
Manufacturers may not sell vessels which do not meet the noise level requirements.
Any vessel used to tow a person on water skis, surfboard or similar device must follow these regulations:
• Picnicking is permitted.
• Disorderly conduct or use of intoxicants or other behavior-modifying substances are prohibited.
• The use of firearms is prohibited except during regular hunting season.
• Target shooting is prohibited at all times.
• Swimming from or near ramps or in such a manner as to interfere with the launching or removal of boats is prohibited.
Each year, boaters are injured or killed by carbon monoxide. Most incidents occur on older boats and within the cabin or other enclosed areas. Exhaust leaks, the leading because of death by carbon monoxide, can allow carbon monoxide to migrate throughout the boat and into enclosed areas. New areas of concern are the rear deck platform with the generator or engines running and teak surfing or dragging behind a slow-moving boat. Regular maintenance and proper boat operation can reduce the risk of injury from carbon monoxide. 
Carbon monoxide is a potentially deadly gas produced any time that a carbon-based fuel, such as gasoline, propane, charcoal, or oil, burns. Sources on your boat include gasoline engines, generators, cooking ranges, and space and water heaters. Cold or poorly tuned engines produce more carbon monoxide than warm, properly tuned engines. 

Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, and mixes evenly with the air. It enters your bloodstream through the lungs and displaces the oxygen your body needs. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness, and dizziness – are often confused with seasickness or intoxication. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations or very short exposure to high concentrations can lead to death.
All carbon monoxide poisonings are preventable!
Avoid Death Zones
Did You Know?
What to Do
Propeller Safety
Protect those toes, feet, legs, and lives. Be aware of your boat’s "danger zone." Swim platforms, ladders, and slides are all located in the rear of the boat where the propeller is lurking right under the water. Use caution when swimming, loading, or jumping off the rear of boats. Turn the engine off when people are swimming near the boat. On larger boats, have someone to visually check the stern area for persons in the water before placing engines in reverse.
Electricity and Boats
All power cords used on boats should be rated suitable for Marine Use, or UL-Marine listed. Never use ordinary "outdoor-use" extension cords to provide electrical shore power to the boats. Never leave a shore power cord on the dock with only the plug end connected. A live cord end is dangerous, especially if it accidentally falls into the water. When AC current leaks out of the AC system and reaches any grounded item on the boat that is in contact with the water then this leakage current will spread out on the water and anyone swimming in the field will be subject to electrical shock.
In 1992, Congress passed the Clean Vessel Act to help reduce pollution from vessel sewage discharges into U.S. waters. The Grant Program established by the Act is for the funding of the construction, renovation, operation, and maintenance of pumpout stations, dump stations, and pumpout vessels to service pleasure craft. As part of its commitment to provide clean, safe, and enjoyable recreational boating in Tennessee, TWRA serves as the State Grant coordinator. The Department will also provide boater education programs to promote public awareness about boat sewage and its proper disposal.
The Clean Vessel Act grant funds are available to both the public and private sector. This includes all local governmental entities and private businesses that own and operate boating facilities that are open to the general public.
More Information regarding the Tennessee Clean Vessel Act Program or Marine Sanitation Laws within Tennessee, please call (866) 416-4488 or e-mail cvaoftennessee@yahoo.com.

The Grant will reimburse recipients for up to 75% of the installed cost of pumpout and dump stations. This includes the cost of new equipment, or the renovation of existing equipment, as well as necessary pumps, piping, lift stations, on-site holding tanks, pier or dock modifications, signs, permits and other miscellaneous equipment needed for a complete and efficient station.
The Grant will not pay for the construction or renovation of onshore restroom facilities, or sewage treatment plants, including septic tanks, leach fields, private and municipal treatment plants.
As a grant recipient, you are responsible for at least 25% of the installed costs of the pumpout and dump station facilities provided for under the grant program. This 25% match can be cash, the fair market value of any labor or materials provided, or a combination thereof.
No. Costs incurred prior to the effective date of a grant agreement are not allowable.
Yes. While the State encourages the free use of facilities constructed under this program, a maximum user fee of $5 can be charged. However, during the grant application evaluation process, a higher priority will be given to applicants who propose free use or a lower than a maximum user fee.
Look for this symbol at marinas that have a pumpout or dump station.
All boats operating between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility are required to display the appropriate lights.   Boats are considered underway and must show all the appropriate lights unless they are anchored, moored or aground.   Anchored vessels must show the appropriate anchor lights.
LED Lighting on Boats (pdf)
Law Enforcement Lights Not Allowed (pdf)
An anchor light is an all-round white light, visible for 2 miles, which is exhibited in the forepart of the vessel or where it can best be seen.
Power driven and sailing vessels less than 7 meters (23 feet) must display an anchor light when anchored in or near a narrow channel, fairway or anchorage where other vessels normally navigate. 
Power driven and sailing vessels 7-20 meters (23 to 65.6 feet) are required to show an anchor light except when in a special anchorage area designated by the Secretary of Transportation or other authority. 
A sailing vessel under machinery power and sails is considered a power-driven vessel.


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