Powerboats Less Than 16 Feet In Length: Required Safety Equipment

Title and Registration Numbers

Title and registration numbers are required.

Personal Flotation Devices

One US Coast Guard approved wearable device is required for each person on board. Inflatable PFDs are authorized only when used according to the instructions on US Coast Guard approval labels.

Passengers under 13 years of age must wear a Type I, II, or III wearable PFD while the vessel is underway. Underway means not at anchor, made fast to the shore, or aground.

Each wearable PFD should be readily accessible, in serviceable condition, and of the appropriate size for the intended user. Wearable devices should also be approved for the activity taking place and used according to the instructions on its label. Learn more about PFD fit and types.

Fire Extinguishers

One US Coast Guard approved type B-1 marine-grade fire extinguisher is required except for on outboard motorboats that are:

  • less than 26 feet in length,
  • of "open construction", and
  • with no permanently mounted gas tanks.

If a vessel has a fixed fire extinguishing system, that will affect the number and type of fire extinguishers required.

The fire extinguisher must:

  • Be readily accessible.
  • Be in condition for immediate and effective use at all times.

Visual Distress Signals

Visual distress signals that are US Coast Guard-approved for night use are required if operating between sunset and sunrise in coastal waters of the state. Visual distress signals should be readily accessible, in working condition, and unexpired (if expiration date is shown).

Sound-Producing Device

One whistle, horn or other sound-producing device is required. The device must be capable of producing an efficient sound that can signal intentions and position in periods of reduced visibility.


US Coast Guard-approved red and green side lights and a white all-around light are required when not at dock. White lights shall be visible at a distance of at least two (2) miles. Colored lights shall be visible at a distance of at least one (1) mile. "Visible" when applied to lights means visible on dark nights with clear atmosphere.

The required navigation lights must be equipped as shown in Figure 1 or Figure 2.

Red and green side lights, and white lights positioned above and/or at rear of vessel

US Coast Guard-approved lights must be:

  • serviceable,
  • displayed from sunset to sunrise in all weather,
  • displayed during restricted visibility, and
  • visible all around the horizon.

Any other lights on the vessel:

  • must not be exhibited in a way that may be mistaken for navigation lights;
  • must not impair the visibility or distinctive characteristics of navigation lights; and
  • must not interfere with the keeping of a proper lookout.


Ventilation systems are required of all vessels using liquid fuel that is volatile. Vessels that are of "open construction" are exempt. More information about ventilation requirements can be found in the Water Safety Act booklet.

Backfire Flame Arrestor

Backfire flame arrestors are required for gasoline engines installed in a vessel after April 25, 1940. Outboard motors are an exception to this requirement.

An acceptable means of backfire flame control must be suitably attached to the air intake with a flame tight connection. The device must be US Coast Guard-approved or comply with SAE J-1928 or UL 1111 standards and be marked accordingly.

Exhaust Water Manifold

A motorboat must have an exhaust water manifold or a factory-type muffler installed on the engine.

Engine Cut-Off Switch Lanyard

An engine cut-off switch (ECOS) is an emergency switch installed on a motorboat that is designed to shut off the engine. The motorboat operator wears a lanyard attachment that will activate the ECOS if the operator falls overboard or moves beyond the length of the lanyard. The operator or passenger may also wear a wireless attachment that will activate the ECOS if the operator or passenger fall overboard and submerge the water-activated man-overboard wireless transmitter.

If a vessel is equipped, the cut-off switch, lanyard, or wireless device must be attached to operator, operator's clothing, or operator's PFD. It must be worn by the operator when a motorboat is at greater than headway speed. Headway speed means slow, idle speed or speed only fast enough to maintain steerage without creating a swell or wake. The operator must also verify that the ECOS system is fully functioning prior to operating the vessel on public water.

Texas law does not require the retrofitting of any vessel that has not come equipped with an ECOS. This does not allow for the removal of an ECOS from a vessel that was originally equipped.


A rearview mirror no less than four inches in width and height is required when towing a person.

A mirror is not required when towing a person if an observer is present who is:

  • on board the motorboat,
  • not the operator of the motorboat,
  • 13 years of age or older, and
  • acting in the capacity of an observer.