Dinghy Cruising with Phillips
Chapter 3

Legal Requirements

These vary from time to time and from place to place. Before cruising any area, you should check the local requirements.

  • In Canada, contact the Canadian Coast Guard at http://www.ccg-gcc.gc.ca/
  • In the U.S., the requirements may vary from state to state
A brief summary of current (2001) Canadian legal requirements for Wayfarer-size dinghies is provided in the box below:
Personal protection equipment
  • one approved personal flotation device or lifejacket of appropriate size for each person on board 
  • one buoyant heaving line of not less than 15 m in length 

Boat safety equipment

  • one manual propelling device or 
  • an anchor with not less than 15 m of cable, rope or chain in any combination
  • one Class 5BC fire extinguisher, if the pleasure craft is equipped with a fuelburning cooking, heating or refrigerating appliance
  • one bailer or one manual water pump fitted with or accompanied by sufficient hose to enable a person using the pump to pump water from the bilge of the vessel over the side of the vessel.
Navigation equipment
  • a sound signalling device or a sound signalling appliance
  • navigation lights that meet the applicable standards set out in the Collision Regulations if the pleasure craft is operated after sunset and before sunrise or in periods of restricted visibility 
Distress equipment 
  • Powered boats not more than 6m in length (an outboard motor on a Wayfarer) must carry distress equipment: a watertight flashlight or 3 Canadian approved flares of type A, B or C 
  • A reminder from Dick Harrington that the U.S. Coast Guard is very "sticky" about its requirement   "A minimum of 3 approved and currently dated distress flares." 

Lights and Horn.
If you are under way after sunset running lights1 are required, i.e, red and green port and starboard lights, and at least a light to shine on the sails. If you ever anchor where anyone might be navigating at night, an anchor light1 (360°) must be hung in the rigging. We have a "man-overboard" light that doubles as anchor light.

While you are not required to carry a fog signal or bell at all times, if you should be out in fog, either anchored, adrift, or under way, you must have an "efficient means" of making a noise. A horn blown with your own breath is the most reliable. It is easily stowed in a clip on the hull or bulkhead and also comes in handy for attracting the attention of your companion boat or calling people for meals, etc. You will need it if you are going to try to get a swing bridge to open for you.

Radar Reflectors. There are quite strict regulations regarding radar reflectors, but the requirements "need not be met if they are not essential for the safety of the pleasure-craft, or are impracticable". I presume therefore that you would not be penalized for not carrying one, but if you were run down by a commercial vessel, you might have trouble with your insurance company if a radar reflector could have prevented the collision. Carry a collapsible reflector, ready to be assembled and hoisted, in case you cannot avoid being in a commercial shipping lane in a fog or at night. It should give a big enough echo to look like something that might dent a freighter. When assembled it is essential that the three reflecting planes are exactly at right angles2 and stay so while aloft. It should be flown in the oblique ("catch rain") position.

Equipment that is not legally required but is advisable. Most of the following items are desirable or essential for a camping cruise depending upon the amount of open water you plan to cross and the conditions
you might encounter. A good deal less would be needed if you were going to make only a five-mile sail across the bay. 

  • Oars. Get the longest oars you can, as the longer they are, the easier it is to row. The limitation on this will be convenient stowage, which usually has to be on the sole of a dinghy. Oar-locks should be placed as far outboard as possible, and about 15 inches aft of the centre thwart. 
  • Paddles. Although oars are best for a long haul, and essential if you have to pull against a current or a strong wind, a paddle is handier for manoeuvering to or from the dock, or in a crowded anchorage. I also keep a paddle with a telescopic handle in one of the closed buoyancy compartments, as a reserve in case of a capsize and loss of gear.
  • Anchors. For a major cruise you need two anchors. You will use both when riding out a strong blow, and you need a reserve in the event of losing one, which can happen easily. A cruising sailor's attitude to anchors should be to take the heaviest he can stow, not the lightest he can get away with. As you are taking two, they may as well be different types, for example, a Danforth or a CQR (plough) for a good holding bottom, and a grapnel for rock. I carry a nine-pound Danforth and an eight-pound grapnel, each with six feet of chain and 100 feet of rope. The main function of the chain is to spare the rope from damage on rocks. Also it cushions the initial shock when the rope comes taut, and it does not foul around the stock during a quiet evening. 
  • Ground Tackle. The rope should still be thick enough to withstand a good deal of chafing. Use half or three-eighths inch synthetic rope although its tensile strength when new is above what is needed. Chafe (which of course should be guarded against) requires a very large safety factor here. Such a quantity and weight of ground tackle seems ridiculous on a summer afternoon. It does not seem ridiculous when you are sleeping afloat in your tent and the wind picks up to gale force, whether you have a rocky shore or open lake in your lee. Wire all shackle pins. Splice the rope securely round the thimble, or, if you use an anchor bend or bowline, seize the end by whipping to the standing part. Always leave the bitter end of the rode tied to the boat, and you are more likely to finish the cruise carrying the same two anchors you started with.
  • Inflatable Boat Rollers (1 or 2).  Boat rollers are invaluable for dragging a dinghy up the beach, and can be carried inflated as extra buoyancy. Imagine the weight of one of them filled with water. This same force acts in reverse when filled with air, considerably increasing your boat's buoyancy. They must be securely lashed in position.
  • Fenders. The boat rollers can be used as fenders, but they are expensive items to expose to damage. Also, after using them in this manner, you may forget to lash them securely when you sail away. It is probably better to buy separate fenders, or to parcel up old life jackets if you have any. Never use your in-service life jackets.
  • Compass. One mounted and one hand held compass are required. Positions for mounting the boat's compass will be discussed later, as this can be quite a problem.
  • Sea Anchor. A sea anchor is useful only in a strong wind with heavy seas, and requires plenty of sea-room. A drogue of 18- or 24-inch diameter, with swivel, is usual. (You do not often meet anyone who has actually used one.)
  • Bailers. You need two buckets tied to the boat in addition to Elvstrom or transom bailers if fitted. Bucket handles must be rugged and securely fixed. One bucket with a well-fitting lid is handy to carry things that need to be kept dry.
  • Bilge Pump. A good supplement to the essential buckets is a small hand-held pump, with a suitable intake hose to slip under the floorboards, and a discharge hose to go overside or into the centreboard trunk.
  • Safety Harness and Life Line. Many people do not carry a safety harness, but to have one on and securely tied to the boat may save your life. In the event of capsizing, the boat may drift faster downwind than you can swim, or if you fall overboard, big waves might hide you from your crew. A lifeline is even more important for the skipper if the crew is not an experienced helmsman. Suppose the jib is poled out, or spinnaker flying, when you fall overboard; the crew will take a little time to stop the boat, let alone trim sails and beat back to you single-handed. He might even forget the centreboard in the stress of the moment. It is better to have your life-line attached, then you will stay within shouting distance. You can buy a commercial harness, or you can make one out of webbing or rope. Think carefully which is the weakest link (often a D-ring) and be sure it is strong enough. Test it by hauling yourself up with block and tackle. Metal parts ought not to distort at all under your full weight.
  • Life-line: 16-20 feet of 3/8-inch synthetic rope tied with bowline or fisherman's bend to the centre thwart, skipper to starboard, crew to port, and always pass that way in the boat to avoid tangling. (N.B. I have had a bowline come undone while moving around with the line slack, using braided synthetic rope. This must not be allowed to happen.)
  • Water Containers. For ocean sailing, a supply aboard of fresh water is a vital necessity. Containers must be securely lashed, and protected from damage. Water is the most essential item of stores. When sailing on fresh water, even polluted, you are never going to die of thirst. Where the lake water is drinkable, you need carry only enough for 24-48 hours, which you may need at a campsite where the local water is unfit for drinking. Replenish your water containers when you are out on open water. In more populated areas, carry enough for three or four days, as not all places where you camp will have good water. Two or three smaller containers are better than one large one, for ease of handling.
  • Flashlights and Spare Batteries. Even for a one-day sail, carry a flashlight. For a camping trip you need two or more. The right-angled kind that clip on to the belt are very handy. It is convenient to use the same size of battery for flashlights, radio (if carried), running lights etc. Fewer spares need be carried this way.
  • Whistles. A whistle that will not break (and that has been tested when wet) should be carried by each person in case he falls overboard, or gets lost or injured in the bush when ashore. 
  • Knives. Every sailor should carry a knife, preferably with marlin-spike and shackler, for many everyday uses. Once in a lifetime you may have to cut a line fast in emergency, so it should be sharp, always. (Also it is more useful that way, every day.)

1 According to Canadian Coast Guard Boating Handbook, these lights are not required by boats under 7 metres long; but a white light must be shown in the direction of an approaching vessel "in time to prevent a collision".

2 reflector with an inexact right angle, more than 2° off, is worse than a sheet of foil the same size.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Planning
Chapter 3: Equipment
Chapter 4: Rigging and Sails
Chapter 5: Camping
Chapter 6: Cooking and catering
Chapter 7: Communication
Chapter 8: Navigation
Chapter 9: Heavy Weather
Chapter 10: Spares and repairs
Chapter 11: Clothing, Personal Items, First Aid
Chapter 12: Stowage
Chapter 13: The Record
Appendix A: The CWA Cruising Library
Appendix A1: Dinghy Cruising Logs on line
Appendix B: Book List
Appendix C: Recipes
Appendix D: Addresses: Government Agencies, etc.
Appendix E: Buoyancy Testing