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Yacht, Enclosed Cabin or Sailboat

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What you know can literally save your life and makes you a safer boater. 

Using a motor over 10 horsepower? Then you'll need to take a boating safety course and carry a Boating Safety Education Card. The mandatory education law was enacted in Oregon in 1999. ​

The law also states:

  • Youths must be 12 or older to get a boating education card.
  • Youths age 11 and under are not allowed to operate a motorboat.
  • Youths 12-15 years old operating a motorboat of any size.
    • Can operate a boat with more than 10 hp if accompanied by a person 16 or older (18 or older for personal watercraft) who has a boating education card.
    • Can operate a boat with a motor of 10 hp or less without an adult. 

Example of a boater education card​​​

Motorboats 26 feet and less than 40 feet:

1. Wearable Life Jacket

Boats 26 feet to 40 feet need to carry properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket(s) for each person on board and the life jacket must be readily accessible.  The boat must also carry a Type IV throwable cushion that is readily accessible.  All children 12 and younger are required to wear a life jacket at all times while on an open deck or cockpit when a boat is underway or being towed.

​A boat less than 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters) must carry a sound-producing device such as a whistle or compressed air horn.  Both are even better for larger boats.  Many larger boats have built-in horns.

3.  Two, B-1 (or newer rating 5-B) Fire Extinguishers​ or one B-II (20-B) rated portable fired extinguisher. When an approved fixed fire extinguishing system is installed, one less B-I type is required.
4.  Carburetor backfire flame arrestor is required for inboard motors not exposed to the atmosphere above the gunwale.

5.  Muffling system for the exhaust of each internal combustion engine.

The particular type is dependent upon when the boat was built. 
7. Navigation Lighting​​ -Lights are required only when the boat is underway or at anchor between sunset and sunrise and during restricted visibility.

Part of your motorboat registration fees go into the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program and Abandoned/Derelict Vessel Removal Fund, as well as helping fund marine law enforcement and boating facility grants.​​

Motorboats 40 feet and less than 65 feet:

1.  Wearable Life Jackets

Boats between 40 feet and 65 feet need to carry properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket(s) for each person on board and the life jacket must be readily accessible.  The boat must also carry a Type IV throwable cushion that is readily accessible.  All children 12 and younger are required to wear a life jacket at all times while on an open deck or cockpit when a boat is underway or being towed.

2.  Sound Devices​

A boat of more than 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters), but less than 65 feet 6 inches (20 meters) must carry on board a bell and a whistle, or a horn. The whistle and the bell must comply with existing federal specifications.

3.  Three, B-1 (or newer rating 5-B) fire extinguishers or one B-I (or 5-B)  type plus one B-II (or newer rating 20-B) type approved portable fire extinguishers. When an approved fixed fire extinguishing system is installed, one less B-I (5-B) type is required.

4.  Carburetor backfire flame arrestor is required for inboard motors not exposed to the atmosphere above the gunwale.

5.  Muffling system for the exhaust of each internal combustion engine.

6.  Ventilation System

The particular type is dependent upon when the boat was built.

7. Navigation Lighting-Lights are required only when the boat is underway or at anchor between sunset and sunrise and during restricted visibility.​

Part of your motorboat registration fees go into the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program and Abandoned/Derelict Vessel Removal Fund, as well as helping fund marine law enforcement and boating facility grants.​

Visual Distress Signals (Saltwater)
All boats operating in the ocean or coastal waters west of the line of demarcation (jetty tips) must carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved VDS.

VDS allows boat operators to signal for help in the event of an emergency.  

There are three categories of visual distress signals:

1.    Day signals (visible in bright sunlight)

2.    Night signals (visible at night)

3.    Both day and night signals  

VDS are either pyrotechnic (smoke and flames) or non-pyrotechnic (non-combustible and electronic). Operators must select the appropriate devices and have the minimum quantity as referenced in 33CFR175.110 depending on which category. VDS must be U.S. Coast Guard-approved, in serviceable condition, and readily accessible. 

Types of visual distress signals

If pyrotechnic devices are selected, a minimum of three must be carried. Any combination can be carried as long as they add up to three signals for day use and three signals for night use. Three day/night signaling devices meet both requirements. There's a variety and different combinations of pyrotechnic devices which can be onboard to meet the carriage requirements.

The most common U.S. Coast Guard-approved non-pyrotechnic devices are an Orange Day Flag (day) and Electronic Distress Signal (night) to meet requirements.

Smaller sailboats between 10' and 11'11" 

1. Wearable Life Jacket

Sailboats less than 16 feet in length need to carry properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket(s) for each person on board and the life jacket must be readily accessible. All children 12 and younger are required to wear a life jacket.

Sailboats 16 feet and over must also carry one throwable cushion.

2. Sound Devices​

​A boat less than 39 feet 4 inches (or 12 meters) long, must carry a whistle or a compressed air horn.  It's easy to attach a whistle to a life jacket! Both are required equipment. 

3. Navigation Lights​

Required only when underway or at anchor between sunset and sunrise, and during periods of restricted visibility.

4. Waterway Access Permit (boats 10' and longer, including sail between 10'-11'11")

A waterway access permit is required on boats 10' long and longer, and sailboats between 10' and 11'. One permit per boat. Permits are transferrable to other non-motorized boats and children 13 and younger are exempt. ​​

Watercraft propelled by a motor and sailboats 12 feet or longer must be titled and registered in Oregon. ORS 830.705(2)

​Large motorboats and sailboats must have a valid registration decal affixed to the bow of the boatThis applies to boats moored in Oregon waters. The operator must also carry the boat's Certificate of Number. 

Documented vessels in Oregon waters for more than 60 days are also required to register the vessel with the Marine Board and affix the expiration stickers (decals) on the port and starboard sides of the boat at the stern. 

Example of a custom-made Documented Vessel Number Plate
A Boat Documentation plate displays the identification number assigned to boats by the United States Coast Guard. The Coast Guard number marking requirement in 46 C.F.R. § 67.121 states: "The official number of the vessel, preceded by the abbreviation "NO." must be marked in block-type Arabic numerals not less than three inches in height on some clearly visible interior structural part of the hull. The number must be permanently affixed to the vessel so that alteration, removal, or replacement would be obvious. If the official number is on a separate plate, the plate must be fastened in such a manner that its removal would normally cause some scarring of or damage to the surrounding hull area." Permanent installation would therefore require both screws and adhesive. When you document your boat with the USCG, place the name of your boat and the hailing port (the home port of the vessel owner by city and state) on the transom. 

​If you plan on mooring your boat in Oregon waters, consider a Clean Marina. These certified facilities protect and improve local water quality by promoting the use of environmentally sensitive practices at marinas. The program provides the tools, supplies, and consultation. Facilities earn certification after adopting clean marina practices, complying with existing environmental regulations, and committing to a cleaner marine environment to help protect Oregon's waterways.​

Clean Marina logo and flag flown at certified marinas

Remember, boat ownership comes with financial responsibility. Any structure, including a boat, in a water environment, needs special care and maintenance for long, useful life. Boat owners need to be prepared to spend money on the basics to ensure their boat remains seaworthy and when that time has passed, to have an end-of-life plan to include being removed from the water and being correctly dismantled and disposed of. Have an end-of-life plan and prevent abandoned or derelict boats from creating a navigation or environmental hazard.  ​​

Planning and Preparation

Make sure your vessel is in ship shape and seaworthy:

  • Make sure your motor and other equipment are in good working order.
  • Replace worn rigging and protect sails.
  • Ensure zincs are not degraded on the rudder, propeller shaft, and hull.
  • Keep marine biofouling from gaining a foothold on the hull.

  • Do not exceed either the stated maximum weight capacity or the maximum number of people indicated by your boat capacity plate.
  • The maximum weight is the combined weight of passengers, gear and motors (including ballast tanks or other devices).
  • It’s a violation to exceed the boat capacity. If your boat does not have a capacity plate, use the following formula to determine the number of people the boat will safely carry, and do not exceed that limit.

Number of people = Length of boat (in feet) X Width of the boat (in feet) / 15

The results give the number of persons (150 lb. average) that can be put aboard without crowding, in good weather conditions. Overloading a boat is not only dangerous, it’s illegal.

​Our waterways are always cold and sudden immersion can lead to an involuntary gasp reflex where a person breathes in water which then enters into the lungs - leading to drowning. A life jacket will keep a person’s head above water so inhaling water is less likely, and will allow the person to gain control of their breathing. It's important boaters know how to self-rescue and the 1-10-1 principle: 

1-10-1 principle of cold water survival

​Have a VHF radio for coastal rivers and bays, as well as the ocean. When boating in the ocean, also consider more robust communication devices like an EPIRB or PLB.  At a minimum, carry a cell phone in a dry pak. Cell phones are considered an unreliable form of communication in many locations due to limited cell tower signal strength, especially in remote areas.

​Most fires and explosions happen shortly after fueling. To prevent this type of accident, follow these rules:

  1. Fuel before dark.
  2. Don’t smoke or strike matches.
  3. Shut off motors. Turn off electrical equipment.
  4. Close all windows, doors and openings.
  5. Take portable tanks out of the boat and fill them on the dock.
  6. Keep the fill nozzle in contact with the tank rim to prevent a buildup of static electricity, which could produce a spark.
  7. Fuel tanks expand as they warm. Do not fill tanks completely, because overfilling can lead to spills.
  8. Wipe up any spilled gasoline from around the boat. Discard the cloth in a safe manner. The bilge pad will soak up any overflow or spills while protecting the water.
  9. If your boat is equipped with a power ventilation system (blower), turn it on for at least four minutes after fueling, prior to starting your engine. This will help eliminate gas vapors in the bilge.
  10. Before restarting the engine, sniff the bilge and engine compartments for fumes. Periodically check the entire fuel system for leaks. Some fuels contain alcohol (ethanol-blended fuel), which can cause rubber gaskets and hoses to deteriorate, resulting in fuel leaks and clogged fuel filters. Be sure to winterize your boat each season, so it runs well.

Boaters who plan a trip for more than a day should complete a “Float Plan” and leave it with a friend or neighbor. Then, if you don’t return as planned, the proper agency can be notified. The float plan will provide the necessary information including where you are going and when you’re expecting to be back. Be sure to tell people when you return.​

​“Stability” is the resistance of a boat to forces that tend to induce a boat to “tip” from one side to the other. Smaller boats tend to have less stability based on the center of gravity of the boat, AND the individuals in the boat. People, gear, and environmental conditions have a greater stability impact on smaller, lighter boats. Small boat operators need to pay close attention to weather conditions, water conditions, how their boat is operating, gear weight and most importantly, their own impact on overall stability. Never stand up quickly, even when landing a big fish! Keep your center of gravity along the center line of the boat as much as possible. Falls overboard and capsizing are the primary contributing factors of accidents and fatalities in Oregon.

Operators are responsible for carefully loading supplies and seating passengers properly. Remember:

  1. Spread weight evenly.
  2. Fasten gear to prevent shifting.
  3. Keep passengers seated in designated areas. Sitting on the gunwales, bow, or transom of a boat that’s underway is unsafe and illegal.
  4. Don’t overload the boat. Follow the boat manufacturer’s capacity plate.

​The following tips are offered to assist you in launching and retrieving your boat to avoid unnecessary delay and blocking the ramp. Conduct these operations in the “staging area,” as much as possible. 

Staging Area

  1. Be sure all required safety equipment and certificate of number are on board. You must also carry a boater education card if the boat motor is over 10 hp.
  2. Load your boat with your gear and supplies in the staging area.
  3. Make sure the trailer tongue is securely fastened to the ball hitch, remove all tie-downs and un-plug the trailer lights.
  4. Check condition of battery, motor and angle of drive unit (tilted up). Also, make sure your bilge pump works.
  5. Make sure the boat plug is firmly in place.

Launching (retrieving is in reverse order)

  1. Slowly reverse the boat trailer down the ramp, and stop just before the stern hangs over the water.
  2. Disconnect the winch strap and remove any pins or other devices used to prevent an outboard motor from tipping down.
  3. Back the boat trailer down the ramp until the trailer wheels are submerged. Have a helper take a bow line, or tie it to your vehicle or winch handle.
  4. Float off the trailer. Once the boat is away from the trailer, tie your vessel to the dock with the bow line.  Avoid "power loading," which displaces material at the toe of the boat ramp, causing deep ruts and shoals that making launching and retrieving potentially dangerous.  This practice can also cause significant damage to the toe of the ramp, not to mention a boat trailer or boat hull. Experienced boaters will have someone move the boat away from the dock until the driver has parked and is ready to board.
  5. Always run the blower for four minutes before you start the engine. You can begin this process at the staging area to reduce your wait time.
  6. When retrieving, remember to "Pull the Plug​" and allow all water-holding compartments to drain as you leave the waterbody and while in transit.

Be courteous! The less time you spend on the ramp or at the dock, the more other boaters will appreciate you. Learn best practices to avoid conflict at the boating facility.

​Oregon law requires a two-year trailer registration, when the loaded weight of the trailer and boat exceed 1800 pounds. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registers trailers. 

Trailers, including boat trailers, must have stop, tail and turn signal lights with two red reflectors mounted on the rear of the trailer. They must also have side reflectors and marker lights: amber on the side at the front, and red on the sides at the rear. These lights and reflectors may be separate units or installed in combinations. If the trailer is over 80 inches wide, it must have clearance and identification lights. If the trailer has a license plate, it must have a license plate light.

Booster brakes are best with heavy boats. The driver of the towing vehicle must be able to safely stop in a reasonable distance.

Adequate tie-downs are needed at the bow and stern. Temporary bumper hitches are not recommended.

Hitches should be welded or bolted to the frame of the towing vehicle.

One or two safety chains or cables are required, connected to prevent the tow bar from dropping to the ground in the event the toolbar or coupling device fails. The chains or cables must have a tensile strength equal to the weight of the trailer, and long enough to permit proper turning of the vehicle. Take time to practice maneuvering and backing in an open area before launching at the ramp, to develop proficiency.  

Keep in mind, backing down a ramp in a straight line is more difficult than on level ground.

​All persons operating a rented watercraft greater than 10 hp must carry the signed portion of the Watercraft Rental Safety Checklist if they do not already possess a boater education card. All other provisions of the Mandatory Boater Education Program apply, including minimum operator ages and supervision. The livery, or rental facility, will have each boat operator complete this form and walk through basic boating safety items on this checklist with a qualified staff member. Your signed copy of this checklist acts as a temporary boater education card only during the operation of the rented watercraft.​

Before you head out, check the local weather and sea conditions. Weather information is available by listening to local radio stations, U.S. Coast Guard radio, or the National Weather Service VHF/FM broadcasts on frequencies: 162.400, 162.425, 162.475 and 162.550 MHz in areas where available. Along the Oregon coast, tune in to 1610 AM for local weather and coastal bar crossing information. Storm warning flags are displayed at selected coastal locations such as U.S. Coast Guard stations, marinas, public piers and yacht clubs. These signals are a prediction of potentially dangerous wind, or in the case of small craft warnings, winds and seas dangerous to small boats. Boaters should know the signals and heed their warnings, especially at coastal bar locations.  

Guidelines for Pumpouts/Dump Stations:

Encourage everyone to use the shore-side facilities before casting off.

If you will be on the water for several hours and you don't have an installed toilet or “head" on board, bring supplies with you. Having these items available can help family and friends relax and enjoy their boating experience.

If you have a toilet connected to a holding tank, use a pumpout station for waste collection.

If a portable toilet or a bucket was used, dump stations are available to help with disposal.  

These facilities are designed to dispose of human waste only. Anything other than human waste can clog and break equipment. This can cause systems to be out of service and require repairs.

Items such as personal wet wipes, diapers, and sanitary products go in the trash. Oil, fuels, and other chemicals can also damage the equipment. Contact local hazardous waste collection facilities for the safe disposal of these items.

Onboard Marine Sanitation Devices

What is a Marine Sanitation Device (MSD)? It is any equipment installed on a boat to collect, treat, or discharge sewage and human waste.

It's required to have a functioning, U.S. Coast Guard-certified Marine Sanitation Device if you have a toilet installed on your boat while operating on U.S. navigable waters. This includes the ocean within three miles of the shoreline.

A Marine Sanitation Device or (MSD) is defined as “any equipment for installation on board a vessel which is designed to receive, retain, treat, or discharge sewage, and any process to treat such sewage." (EPA MSD website

  • Section 312 of the Clean Water Act requires the use of operable, U.S. Coast Guard-certified MSDs on board vessels that are:

1) equipped with installed toilets, and
2) operating on U.S. navigable waters (which include the three-mile territorial seas). 33 U.S.C. 1322(h)(4) (PDF) (10 pp, 170 K). 

  • Vessels that do not have installed toilets (e.g., vessels with "porta-potties") do not need to follow the MSD requirements.

It is illegal to discharge ANY sewage (raw or treated) into:

  • freshwater lakes
  • reservoirs
  • or other bodies of water where entrances and exits are too shallow for boats with installed toilets to navigate.

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