What Is Required On A 12-Foot Inflatable Dinghy?

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Similar to a car, a Dinghy allows one to do several things. A dinghy will enable you to go diving, surfing, fishing, and exploration. Therefore, several requirements should be met for you to legally and safely drive it.

According to the United States Coast Guard, there are several federal safety equipment for boats under 16 feet. Therefore, a 12-foot inflatable dinghy must adhere to the set federal requirements.

Additionally, as a boat operator, it is paramount that your boat has required safety equipment and is in compliance with federal and state regulations.

Coast Guard Regulations

There are several rules that the Coast Guard has set. However, these rules differ in terms of boat size. This article will focus on safety rules and requirements for a 12-foot inflatable dinghy.

State Registration

It is a requirement that the dinghy is registered in the state of principal use. After registration, the owner is issued with a Certificate of Number and displayed on the vessel.

Additionally, the owner must carry a valid Certificate of Number every time the dinghy is in use. It is important to note that the number is only valid for 60 days upon change of state, and the owner is mandated to register for a new Certificate of Number in the new state.

  • It is required that the number be painted or permanently fixed on each side of the forward half of the dinghy. It must be visible; thus, the color used must be contrasted from the boat. Furthermore, it must not be less than three inches in height.

It is also a prerequisite that the numbers are only read from left to right. There must be a separation of within six inches between the state decal and registration number.

Dinghy Safety Checklist

The safety of those on board is crucial.

Therefore, the Coast Guard requires that all the safety gears are approved and certified as per its standards.

All safety equipment must meet Coat Guard minimum requirements on specification standards, material, design, and regulation for performance.

Personal floatation device (PFD)

It is mandatory that the vessel contains personal floating devices of everybody on board the dinghy. Life jackets are designed to suit several age groups. Therefore, if there is a baby on board, it is essential that you must have the best life jacket for kids that correctly fit the child.

All PFD’s in the dinghy must be Coast Guard certified and approved types, I, II, III, or V. furthermore, they must be wearable by the intended user and readily available.

Although not a requirement, it is vital to have a life jacket designed for dogs.

It is important to check manufacturer information as it provides valuable information, including type, approval information, size, and intended use.

Important aspects that should be considered for all PFD includes:

  • In excellent and serviceable condition
  • Properly stowed
  • U.S. Coast Guard certified and approved
  • Appropriate size and type for the intended user

All-Round White Light

It is a requirement that power-driven boats have an all-round white right that is visible in all directions. Some individuals use inflatable solar-powered lanterns, but the most preferred means of all-round light is the LED white stern light.

The LED white stern light is intense and is visible from far distances.

Considering that it is difficult for larger vessels to see small boats like a dinghy, it is recommended that a brighter source of all-round white is used.  

Side Lights

Navigation lights are instrumental in helping you, and other boaters evaluate the give-way vessel at night. Therefore, they must be displayed from sunset to sunrise or during seasons when visibility is minimal.

The sidelights are red and green lights that are visible to other boats approaching from the side or head-on. The red light indicates the left side of the dinghy, while the green light indicates the right side of the dinghy.

Sidelights are a requirement during nights, especially if your maximum speed exceeds 7 knots. The sidelights must be paired with the all-round white lights.

There are several lights that are easy to fix when you need them. However, for an inflatable dinghy, we would recommend the suction cup.

Distress Signals

Emergencies are bound to happen when on the water. Therefore, the dinghy must have emergencies distress equipment required to draw attention. Distress equipment must have a means of making a good sound.

The most common sound signal that should be contained in the dinghy is a good whistle. Additionally, you can opt to have an air horn.

Apart from sound-producing devices, it is recommended that the dinghy has visual distress signals during the night. It is crucial to have electric distress light and at least three red flares.

Fire Extinguisher

It is a mandatory requirement for all vessels with permanent fuel tanks to be fitted with fire extinguishers. Even if you can easily unstrap your engine and threw it overboard, it is still critical to have a fire extinguisher.

In most cases, boats contain rooms with fuel or flammable materials, and it can be catastrophic in the event of a fire.

The U.S Coast Guard requires that 12-foot inflatable dinghy have any type of B-I fire extinguishers. The extinguisher must have a mounting bracket.

Although not a requirement, it is recommended that the extinguisher be mounted in a readily available and accessible location. Regular maintenance of the fire extinguisher is recommended.

Sanitation Device

For vessels with the head facility, it is a requirement that they have an operable CG-Certified type I, II, or III Marine Sanitation Device. It should be placed in a way that there is no discharge of untreated waste into the water.

take a look at this boating safety video from YouTube.


It is not a requirement to have insurance to use a boat but is highly recommended even if it is a third party. Looking at a scenario where you damage another boat or injure another person without insurance, you might end up paying huge bills.

Therefore, it is advisable to have insurance cover even though it is not a legal requirement.

However, some launch sites have enacted by-laws requiring one to have insurance cover.

Other Equipment to Consider

It is important to have oars in the dinghy for situations where the engine fails.

Having bailers is essential if water gets into the dinghy.

A handheld VHF device is critical in getting weather updates and calling a potential mayday in the event of an emergency.

Final Thoughts

The safety of everybody is paramount. Therefore, regardless of whether it is defined by law, every dinghy user needs to ensure that the safety of everybody is guaranteed.

The U.S Coast Guard has provided clear guidelines and requirements on the use of 12-foot inflatable dinghy, but it is the responsibility of everybody to ensure that they are adhered to.

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