Rhode Island Boating Regulations Summary

Rhode Island's boating regulations are designed to ensure safety and order on all state waterways, both tidal and non-tidal. These guidelines are enforced by DEM Conservation and Boating Safety Officers, harbormasters, and police officers. Key points from the state's boating laws and regulations include:

Authority and Compliance

  • Compliance with the commands of enforcement officers is mandatory. Refusing to stop or move a vessel upon their command is considered a misdemeanor.

Vessel Numbering and Identification

  • All motorboats must be appropriately numbered as per state and federal laws. This identification must be visibly displayed on the boat's bow.

Required Safety Equipment

  • Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs): A USCG-approved PFD is required for each person aboard. Vessels over 16 feet must also have a throwable Type IV PFD.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Mechanically propelled vessels under 26 feet need one B-I extinguisher, those between 26 and 40 feet require two B-I or one B-II extinguisher, and vessels from 40 to 65 feet need three B-I or one B-I plus one B-II extinguisher.
  • Visual Distress Signals (VSDs): All vessels need USCG-approved VSDs; the exact requirements vary by vessel length.
  • Sound-producing Devices: Every vessel must carry a whistle or horn. Vessels over 12 meters also need a bell.
  • Navigation Lights: Proper navigation lights are mandatory for all motorboats operating from sunset to sunrise or during periods of reduced visibility.
  • Mufflers: Engines must have a factory-type muffler or an effective muffling system to reduce noise.

Operation Guidelines

  • Operating in a reckless manner that endangers others is prohibited.
  • Children under 13 must wear a USCG-approved PFD when on vessels less than 65 feet in length unless they are below deck or in a closed cabin.
  • Speed limits are enforced in various water bodies, with a general limit of 45 mph during daylight and 25 mph during darkness or restricted visibility.

Boating While Intoxicated (BWI)

  • Operating any vessel while intoxicated is illegal. The blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is set at 0.08% or greater.

Diving Activities

  • Divers must display a diver’s warning flag. Motorboats are prohibited from operating within 50 feet of a displayed diver’s flag.

Environmental Protection

  • The transport of any plant or plant part into or out of Rhode Island waterbodies on any equipment is prohibited, except for authorized activities.

Rhode Island Boating Regulations & Guidelines

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