Small Passenger Vessel Safety
Small passenger vessel safety includes firstly, having all the right stuff on your boat. And secondly, making sure that everyone knows where it is and how to use it. The regulations for small UPV (Uninspected Passenger Vessels) are located in 46 CFR Subchapter C, Parts 24, 25, and 26. The OUPV (6-pack Captain) class covers all of this and much more. While these regulations apply to 6-packs, they provide a good guideline for safety on recreational boats as well.
Part 24 General Provisions
These regs contain general info that applies to all uninspected vessels.
Part 25 Requirements
These regs contain specific equipment requirements for uninspected vessels. Including PFDs, EPIRBs, and portable fire extinguishers required.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
Each person onboard must have an appropriate size Type I PFD. You may carry other PFD types (Type II and Type III) as additional equipment. However, they do not count towards the required number of Type I PFD required. Secondly, you must stow this additional equipment in a different location from the required Type I PFD.
EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon)
You do not need an EPIRB. But it is still a good item of safety equipment to have on board. Check out a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) as a cost-effective alternative to a self-activated EPIRB.
Fire Extinguishing Equipment
All powerboats must be equipped with fire extinguishers. Powerboats under 65-feet must carry 5-B hand portable fire extinguishers. Those less than 26-feet must carry one (1) 5-B extinguisher. Between 26 and 40-feet must carry two (2) 5-B extinguishers. And those over 40-feet must carry three (3) 5-B extinguishers.
Part 26 Operations
The single most important thing that all vessel operators must do is provide a safety orientation before getting underway. This orientation must include the location of lifesaving equipment onboard, and the location and contents of the emergency instructions. Additionally, it should include donning instructions for lifejackets too.
You must have Emergency Instructions onboard for Man-Overboard, Fire, and Rough Weather. Firstly, the regs contain these instructions. Secondly, the instructions contain steps to deal with each emergency. And lastly, the instructions must be posted in a visible location.
Charts and Nautical Publications
All boats must have charts and publications onboard. The charts and pubs must be appropriate for their area of operation and the type of navigation in use. This must include copies or excerpts from the US Coast Pilot, Aids to Navigation, Tide Tables, and Tidal Current Tables. Either electronic or paper copies are okay.