Rhode Island Kayaking Laws (Rules and Regulations)


Rhode Island Kayaking Laws - Rules and Regulations

Rhode Island kayaking laws are set and governed by the Department of Environmental Management and officers of the Department of Environmental Management, police officers, and harbormasters enforce those kayaking rules and regulations.

Rhode Island has direct access to the Atlantic ocean and is home to many rivers and lakes. With such extensive access to the water, it’s no surprise that Rhode Island is a popular state for kayaking, canoeing, and sailboating.

Here’s a summary of what you need to know about Rhode Island kayaking laws.

Legal Disclaimer: This article was written for informational purposes only. I am not an attorney and am not giving legal advice. If you have specific questions about your state’s laws, you should consult a local attorney.

Rhode Island Kayak Laws Summary

  • Rhode Island Kayaking Laws – Rhode Island law considers kayaks and canoes, as with all other watercraft, to be vessels.
  • Rhode Island Kayak Registration – Kayaks and canoes do not need to be registered in Rhode Island.
  • Motorized Kayak Registration – All vessels equipped with any motor must be registered with the Department of Environmental Management. This includes a trolling motor on a canoe or kayak.
  • Kayak Operator Licensing in Rhode Island – All persons born on or after January 1st, 1986 must have a boating safety certificate to operate a vessel with more than 10hp.
  • Motorized Kayaking Age – All operators under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a certified adult as a trainer or have their own boating safety certificate.
  • Kayaking BUI Law – Rhode Island has a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law that applies to all watercraft, including kayaks and canoes. In Rhode Island, a BUI charge directly mirrors a DUI charge with retraining and suspension of license. A person is considered legally intoxicated when their blood alcohol content is .08% or above. (see below for further details)
  • Kayaking Life Jacket Law – All vessels must be equipped with a wearable PFD for each person on board. (see below for kayak and canoe specifics)
  • Kayak Lights Law – All vessels must carry, at least, a lantern with a white light which can be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent a collision.
  • Kayaking Sounding Devices – All vessels under 39.4 feet in length must have some means of making an efficient sound signal capable of a 4 second blast. (see below for further regulations)
  • Kayaking VDS Law – All vessels 16 feet or more in length, when used on Rhode Island’s coastal waters, must carry USCG approved day and nighttime visual distress signals.

That only summarizes Rhode Island boating laws applied to kayaking and canoeing. The details are more in-depth and specific. Read on to find out how to paddle legally in Rhode Island.

Affiliate Notification: Paddle Camp is reader-supported. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission on the products or services you purchase using the links.

Rhode Island Kayak Registration

Non-Motorized

Do you have to register a kayak in Rhode Island? No. Kayaks and canoes without motors are exempt from registration.

Motorized

Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Rhode Island? Yes. All motorboats must be registered. Outboard engines must also be registered, and they do not expire. Boat registrations are good for two years and expire on the last day of February.

Titling

Rhode Island Vessel Titling: The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management dictates that all vessels over 14 feet in length must be titled.

Registration Resources

Related Article: Paddle Board Registration

Rhode Island Kayaking Operator Education Laws

Non-Motorized

Do you need a license to kayak in Rhode Island? No. Rhode Island only requires that operators of vessels with 10hp or more have a boating safety certificate.

Motorized

Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in Rhode Island? A Boating Safety Certificate is required by all operators of vessels with 10hp or more born on or after January 1st, 1986.

Youth

All operators under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a certified adult 18 years or older or have their own boating safety certificate.

Rhode Island Kayaking OUI Laws

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Rhode Island? Yes, you can get a DUI on any watercraft in Rhode Island. In Rhode Island, it’s against the law to operate a vessel while impaired or intoxicated due to alcohol or drugs. You can get the equivalent of a DUI, a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) in Rhode Island with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08%.

Related Article: Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak?

Rhode Island Kayak Life Jacket Laws

Do you need a life jacket to kayak in Rhode Island? Yes. All vessels, unless they are racing vessels engaged in a sanctioned race, must have one Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person on board. The PFDs must be readily accessible, and all persons under 13 years of age, while underway in a vessel less than 65 feet in length must wear a life jacket. They are exempt if below deck or in an enclosed cabin.

Rhode Island PFD Details:

  • All vessels must be equipped with a wearable, USCG approved life jacket for each person on board or being towed.
  • Life jackets are considered serviceable when free from tears, rot and punctures. All fasteners must be attached and functional. 

PFD Age Laws

What age do you have to wear a life jacket in Rhode Island? Life jackets must be worn by all youth 13 and under on any vessel less than 65 feet in length unless they are below deck or in a totally enclosed cabin. 

Type IV Throwable PFD

Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Rhode Island? No. Kayaks and canoes are exempt from law that requires vessels 16 feet and greater to have a Type IV throwable on board.

Related Article: Kayak Life Jacket Laws by State (50 State List)

Rhode Island Kayaking Lights Laws

What lights do I need on my kayak at night? All non motorized vessels, including canoes and kayaks, must have a lantern with a white light available to be exhibited in time to prevent a collision.

Rhode Island Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws

Do I need a whistle on a kayak in Rhode Island?  No, but all vessels less than 39.4 feet in length must have some means of making an efficient sound signal capable of a 4 second blast.

Mechanically propelled vessels less than 39.4 feet in length follow the same rules.

The best “sounding” device for kayakers and canoeists is a whistle attached to your PFD in a place that’s quick and easy to deploy.

VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices

All vessels 16 feet or more in length, when used on Rhode Island’s coastal waters, must carry USCG approved day and nighttime visual distress signals. Boats of smaller sizes have varying rules.

Night Signals

All vessels less than 16 feet in length, when used on Rhode Island’s coastal waters, must carry VSD signals suitable for night use. 

Day Signals

Only vessels longer than 16 feet must carry VSD signalling devices during the day.

Rhode Island Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws

Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Rhode Island? No. Even if you have a trolling motor on your kayak, if the fuel tank is of open construction, you aren’t required to have a fire extinguisher.

Regardless of the law, we recommend carrying a small class B-I fire extinguisher if you have a trolling motor on your kayak or canoe. The worst thing in the world is a fire on a boat with no way to put it out, especially if you’re far from the shore.

Additional Rhode Island Kayaking Laws Resources

Boating Law Enforcement

Rhode Island officers of the Department of Environmental Management, police officers, and harbormasters enforce Rhode Island’s boat and water safety laws.

As always, USCG officers enforce federally controlled waters throughout Rhode Island.

Steve W

I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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