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Course Outline

Visual distress signals (VDSs) allow vessel operators to signal for help in the event of an emergency. VDSs are classified as day signals (visible in bright sunlight), night signals (visible at night), or both day and night signals. VDSs are either pyrotechnic (smoke and flames) or non-pyrotechnic (non-combustible).

  • When operating on federally controlled waters (Lake Erie or the immediately connecting bays, harbors, and anchorage areas), these are the requirements.
    • No person shall operate or permit operation of:
      • A vessel 16 feet or more in length without carrying USCG–approved VDSs for both day and night use
      • Any vessel between sunset and sunrise unless carrying USCG–approved VDSs for night use
    • Exceptions to the requirement for day signals are:
      • Recreational vessels that are less than 16 feet in length
      • Non-motorized open sailboats that are less than 26 feet in length
      • Manually propelled vessels
    • The required VDSs must be USCG–approved, in serviceable condition, and readily accessible.
  • When operating on Ohio waters other than federally controlled waters (that is, waters other than Lake Erie or the connecting bays, harbors, or anchorage areas), no person shall operate or permit operation of a vessel without carrying a distress flag at least two feet square and international orange in color or a USCG–approved daytime distress signal.
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