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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).

Vessels used on Rhode Island coastal waters or on federally controlled waters must be equipped with visual distress signals that are USCG–approved, in serviceable condition, and readily accessible.

Required VDSs if on State or Federally Controlled Waters

Type/Length of Vessel Day (sunrise to sunset) Night (sunset to sunrise)
Vessels less than 16 feet long None required 3 night (or day/night) VDSs
Manually propelled vessels None required 3 night (or day/night) VDSs
Non-motorized open sailboats less than 26 feet long None required 3 night (or day/night) VDSs
All other vessels 3 day (or day/night) VDSs 3 night (or day/night) VDSs