Visual distress signals (VDSs) allow paddlers to signal for emergency help.
- Vessels on federally controlled waters must carry USCG—approved visual distress signals.
- All vessels must carry night signals when operating at night.
- Manually propelled canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards are not required to carry day signals. However, you may want to carry one or more as a precaution.
- If your paddlecraft is equipped with a motor, you may be required to carry day signals. The need for additional signals will depend on where you are operating and the length of your vessel.
- If pyrotechnic VDSs are used, a minimum of three must be carried in the vessel.
- It is illegal to display visual distress signals if you are not in need of immediate, emergency assistance.
- Check with your state’s boating agency for any specific requirements for visual distress signals on state waters.