Items You Need. No, Really, It’s the Law

In the state of Texas, you don’t have to register your kayak in most cases. If it has a motor, trolling or otherwise yes, but in most cases no. Here is how it reads:

The following vessels when on Texas public water are required to have current registration, including when docked, moored, or stored.

  • All motorized boats, regardless of length;
  • All sailboats 14 feet in length or longer or any sailboat with an auxiliary engine(s); and
  • USCG Documented vessels (New — see section below).
  • Exempted vessels — Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, punts, rowboats, or rubber rafts (regardless of length) when paddled, poled, or oared and sailboats under 14 feet in length when windblown. Adding an outboard or trolling motor to one of these types requires titling and registration.
  • An exempt boat may have previously been titled as a motorboat. You can check whether a title has been issued for free – Query Ownership
That is great news! Slow down there buddy. Just because you don’t have to register your boat (as long as you meet the above criteria) doesn’t mean you can stroll down to Austin Canoe and Kayak and pick a boat and a paddle and be on the Colorado River before sunset. There are some other things to look at within the laws. 
Just to get on the water you need to read this:
All vessels, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or V wearable PFD for each person on board. A Type V PFD is acceptable only if used in accordance with the specific instructions on the label of the device.

Need some help picking one out? Click here or here. And if you want a direct link to a recommended manufacturer? You should check out Astral Buoyancy. PFDs are what they do. American designed products for the roughest waters in the world. If you need to float, you need an Astral. 

If you are going to paddle at night:
Remember that you must carry one bright white light that can be exhibited in time to prevent a collision. It is recommended that you carry a lantern, flashlight, or other attached white light that will be visible from 360 degrees. Regulations state that canoes, kayaks, and all other manually driven vessels shall exhibit sidelights and a sternlight, and shall exhibit at least one bright light, lantern, or flashlight from sunset to sunrise when not at dock.

Need some help? For the absolute best you need to look at the YakAttack Light. You can find it here with a Ram Mount. It also has a hi-vis flag so people will see you during the day as well. 
A general warning to have your safety items:
Operating Vessels without Required Equipment is Prohibited – No person may operate or give permission for the operation of a vessel that is not provided with the required safety equipment. An operator may not permit a person under the age of 13 to be on board the vessel while the vessel is underway if the person is not wearing a USCG approved wearable PFD. Marine enforcement officers regularly perform vessel safety checks to ensure the safety of boat owners and passengers.

One more thing you will need by law:
Any vessel less than 12 meters in length (39.4 ft.) is required to carry a whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound to signal intentions and position in periods of reduced visibility.

As you are thinking about total purchase price, a weekend trip down the Guad or just a play day at the lake, make sure you have a PFD (life jacket),  whistle, and if paddling at night, a 360 light. 
Stay safe, not only will it save you money but it might save your life!
Safety Whistle
Astral Buoyancy PFD the Willis
YakAttack Light

2 thoughts on “Items You Need. No, Really, It’s the Law

  1. Hey Chris, another great article! Couple things also worth mentioning when it comes to safety that we've run into here at ACK.

    Hobie paddlers that use sails, pay close attention to the line about sailboats ("All sailboats 14 feet in length or longer") under who's required to register their boat. We had a customer who was sailing around a local lake get asked for registration. Still counts despite being a kayak!

    Also, transporting your 'yak should always be done safely! We have a lot of truck owners that come in planning on using their bed – which is fine as long as you watch for overhangs and attach a red flag/light when necessary. You can find a safety flag on our website for less than $5(

    Just a couple things that came to mind, thanks for the shout-out again Chris!

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