Table of Contents

It's the Law

Other Equipment

Diver-Down Flag

Persons scuba diving, skin diving, or snorkeling must display a red and white divers flag.

  • Divers or snorkelers must remain within 100 feet of the divers flag.
  • If possible, vessel operators not engaged in the diving operation should stay at least 100 feet from a displayed flag. If not possible, vessel operators must reduce speed to no more than three miles per hour.

Two types of flags are used to indicate diving activity.

Divers engaged in recreational marine fisheries activities (i.e., catching lobsters or fin fish) are subject to special regulations. Refer to

Divers Flag

A rectangular red flag with a white diagonal stripe, at least 12 x 15 inches in size and constructed of rigidly supported material. This flag must be displayed on a vessel or surface float and must extend a minimum distance of three feet up from the surface of the water.

Alfa Flag

A blue and white International Code Flag A (or Alfa flag), flown from a vessel restricted in its ability to maneuver. This flag indicates that a vessel is involved in a diving activity. The Alfa flag may be displayed in addition to the divers flag but does not replace the divers flag.

Divers and Alfa flags
Divers and Alfa flags

The following are Massachusetts requirements and will not be found in federal law.

Anchor and Bailer

All vessels propelled by a motor of any kind must have an anchor and sufficient line (rope) to anchor in the vessel’s normal operating area, and a manual bailer. (PWCs are exempt from these requirements.)

Plow-style anchor

Plow-Style Anchor

Good for most boats

Fluke-style anchor

Fluke-Style Anchor

Good for most boats

Mushroom-type anchor

Mushroom-Type Anchor

Useful only for small canoes, rowboats, small sailboats, or inflatables

Paddle or Oar

All vessels less than 16 feet in length and propelled by a motor of any kind must carry a paddle or oar on board. (PWCs are exempt from this requirement.)



All vessels towing a person on water skis or similar devices must be equipped with a ladder, steps, platform, or similar device that can be used to retrieve the person being towed from the water.

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