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WakeWorld Discussion Board » >> Boats, Accessories & Tow Vehicles Archive » Archive through January 14, 2005 » Flag holding "Legal" requirement « Previous Next »
By Jeff (duramax_dually) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 9:02 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
What is the real truth?

The USCG handbook says you are required to have a flag for downed or people in the water to advise other boaters of this current condition. It also has mention of the minimum age the flag holder has to be if they are going to hold the flag. So the basics are as noted above; Have to have flag and have to be minimum age to hold it.

So here is the recent scenario. Tower makers offer flag holders to attach to the tower. I used one and was recently reprimanded by lake patrol that someone needs to be holding the flag. I pulled out the handbook and asked them very politely to clarify the book as I was confused as to the verbage it does not state someone has to be holding the flag. It states that you have to have a flag and if a person is going to hold it they have to be a minimum age.

They told me Flag holders are illegal.

Does anybody have further clarification on this. As you know with young adults the attention to keeping the flag up high and visible is marginal at best. Most are interested in other things or set the flag down to help get something or when asked to move around the boat. I think the flag holder is a great way to insure the flag is visible 100% of the time.

By Duane (nvsairwarrior) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 10:37 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
I've wondered about this as well. Your profile has you in Cali and use inland lakes. I'm curious of the jurisdiction of the USCG in the "inland lakes" as opposed to coastal waters and therefore the USCG handbook may be considereed a guide rather then citing the law.
Here in the Cali Delta the USCG has a large presence along with county sherrifs.
The point is that USCG jurisdiction may be limited. Otherwise I belive it a State by State issue when dealing with inland lakes.
As far as "Safety" some might argure that a flag should be up at "all" times when participating in behind the boat sports/activities, not just when the rider is down.

By Jeff (duramax_dually) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 11:09 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
I too am curious. It seems to be an interesting situation when you have Sheriff patrols in the inland lakes enforcing USCG rules. When you read the posted lake rules usually located at the boat ramps they clearly state all USCG apply plus some specific lake requirements. I am in no way trying to fight the system, I am just trying to acquire some clarification and avoid problems which could be a simple interpretation of the rules. Inland lake patrols are really getting serious these days and handing out alot of various citations. The most severe now is the No Wake rules. You even make a slight wake near the marker bouy or inside it, you will get cited. The fine for this is $450. A friend just got hit with one at Don Pedro.

By Tim W (brick) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 3:27 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
Jeff, this is directly from the ABCs of boating:

"When using a boat to tow a person..., there must be in the boat, in addition to the operator, one other person who can observe the person being towed. The observer must be 12 years of age."

"It is mandatory for the operator of a vessel involved in towing a skier to display, or cause to be displayed, a red or orange flag."

The only restriction is on the age of the observer. A flag holder should be acceptable as long as you have an observer that meets the minimum age.

(Message edited by brick on September 28, 2004)

By John Klein (jklein) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 4:13 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post

The ABC's actually says "The observer must be at least 12 years of age."

I doubt many of us break the flag law, but I'm sure plenty break the USCG approved vest while skiing law.

By Tim W (brick) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 7:16 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
John, not sure what your reading, but I stated that the observer needs to be 12.
By Monster Tower (monstertower) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 7:22 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
In most areas it seems two rules are not normally enforced.

One is the flag rule and I rarely hear of anyone having problems with the law over this.

The other is a USCG rule that the highest point on any boat must be a 360 degree running light with 12V power.

New towers must have the tower running light to be USCG approved so all new boats have a running light on the top of the tower.

How many other people have been stopped over either of these???

By leo lasecki (malibuboarder75) on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - 8:23 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
pigs suck

they make up rules all the time. in louisiana we dont need a third if we have a legal size miror and a legal adult on board. Yet they still fine us if we dont have a spotter.

By Jeff (duramax_dually) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 8:45 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
Thanks for the response. I have read what you posted as well. My oldest daughter is 12 and that has not been the problem. That part is clearly understood. The issue for me has been the use of a tower mount flag holder. They tell me that a person in the boat must hold the flag and that it cannot be placed in a holder. I try explaining to the Lake sheriff patrol that it does state anywhere that a person must hold the flag rather that the person watching the skier meets the proper age requirement. Obviously this is a intepretation issue as is the case with great majority of rules. I purchased the tower flag holder and now have been told at 2 different lakes I cannot use it and I am trying to understand why. It just seems quite silly. I can see that the spotter is holding the flag while the person is in tow and raises when they fall, after that it should be able to be placed in the holder until the rider is back up...Seems so simple and clear to me. I have also been told to have a flag present if people are swimming even if anchored. So you have to have a person holding the flag the entire time you are relaxing while your children swim???

Ya just hate arguing a point with lake patrols as they always feel you are wrong and because they are sheriffs they are right.

Anyway this is not a huge deal but one I was hoping to get some clarification so I can be prepared should it arise again. I am going to continue to use my flag holder and wait for one of the patrols to actually cite me so I can see the code I am in violation of.

By Mike (lehmur) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 9:04 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
If you really want to argue that point I would say keep a copy of the regulations in your boat and ask the Policeman/Ranger to show you in the regulations where you are wrong.
Otherwise I think you will always have issues over interpretation of the law. Just as many people on this board have different interpretations of the law so do the law enforcement persons themselves.

By Salmon Tacos (salmon_tacos) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 9:11 am:    Edit Post Delete Post

About the tower light: According to the USCG regulations, it also must be visible to 7-degrees below horizontal. I looked it up because people have been getting tickets in Austin because their boards in the racks were blocking the tower light.

Someone told me that you could have two lights, one in front and one in back as long as one of them was visible from any given direction. I have not confirmed that though.

By John Klein (jklein) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 9:23 am:    Edit Post Delete Post

I'm reading the ABC's of the California Boating Law 2004. If what you're reading actuall says "The observer must be 12 years of age." instead of "The observer must be AT LEAST 12 years of age.", it's saying you can only have an observer that IS 12 years old. That eliminates anyone who is any age other than 12. It could be a mis-print in your book.

As far as holding the flag, Jeff you're correct that the book does not say that someone 12 or older must be holding the flag. It just says that you must have a flag and it must be displayed at the proper times. I can see the merits of both sides of the argument with respect to displaying the flag. Even children of age often forget the flag. I can't count the number of times I've had to bring it to their attention as I sit in the water waiting for the rope to get tight. I've also seen boats flying around the lake with the flag strapped to the tower in the up position constantly. If everyone were to do that, soon the flag would have no meaning. It would be ignored like the car alarm going off in a crowded parking lot.

I stick the flag on the tower when we are parked and swimming in the 5 Mph zone, and have the observer hold it when we are riding.

By Rod McInnis (rodmcinnis) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 12:48 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
Regarding the lights:

USCG rules:

A boat is only required to have lights if it is operating between sundown and sunrise (which is different than "darkness").

All boats (well, actually really small row boats have an exception) are required to show the red/green lights forward and a white light visible from behind. A boat under power (versus under sail alone) is also required to show a white light visible to the front. Really large boats, tugs pulling/pushing barges, submarines and other special boats have additional requirements but for our discussion a ski boat needs red, green and white visible forward and white visible aft.

A boat at anchor needs to have a white light visible 360 degrees around.

For small boats (under 12 meters) it is permissible to combine the anchor light with the running light. That is, the single white light, visible 360 degrees, will serve as the anchor light as well as the forward and aft visible running light.

The typical white light arrangement for a small boat is to have the light on a removabe pole. The pole should be tall enough to extent the light above any obstructions, such as windshilds, bimini tops or towers.

The state of California follows the Coast Guard requirements. Unless you are on some county or private lake that has additional requirements, you don't need to have any lights at all if the sun is up.

Regarding the age of observer wording: this sounds like the old joke: Hey, you got a dollar? You look in your wallet, see you have two dollars, and reply NO.

There is no such thing as being an exact age. It's like saying is it 12 midnight? No, it is either before, or after, but never exact. It might be a minute passed, or a second, or a nanosecond, but time is never exact.

By talltigeguy (talltigeguy) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 12:52 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
Utah laws say the observer has to be 8 years or older. I'll have to read again to see if a human has to hold the flag or not.

My 2005 Tige doesn't have lights on the tower. Maybe that's why it is wired for some though?

By Salmon Tacos (salmon_tacos) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 1:13 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
Texas law says that you don't need an observer if you have a mirror. HA! And what is this flag business?
By Jeff (duramax_dually) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 1:26 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
Well it appears that it will boil down to interpretation. I do have the rule book on the boat with me and with the first incident asked them to look at the code book so I could understand how they came up with the statement that a human being had to be holding the flag. They got a bit agitated and would not do so. Again it is a precarious position to take as they believe they are right as they should be since they are patrols. You know how it goes, you argue with them and they make a career out of you. If I was out with some friends I would be more direct and to the point but when you have your wife and children aboard you need to be a little more respectful and show better judgement.

John: I have seen people like you mentioned with the flag up all day in the tower holder which may be why they are enforcing this as people would leave them in all day and defeat the purpose. Your car alarm scenario is totally accurate...No one listens to them anymore....

As I said, I will continue to use the tower flag holder until a time I get cited and have a code number to reference.

By paul (wakeme884) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 1:48 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
Salmon, just out of curiosity, since you dont need a third, is there a lot more boating accidents than other states where you need the third?
By Salmon Tacos (salmon_tacos) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 1:57 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post

I couldn't comment since I don't have any statistics. I've heard of some boating accidents but I don't think any of them would have been prevented with an observer. They usually involve jet skis, drunk boaters, driving at night, and stuff like that.

I don't think I've ever heard of a rider getting run over but that doesn't mean it's never happened.

The only people I can imagine who might actually know the answer are the insurance companies.

By Whit (whit) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 4:50 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
WSR stands for West Side Rules--right?

Sure am glad we don't have all the crazy rules on the east coast that they do on the west coast. The laws in North Carolina use OR instead of AND. We need a rear view mirror OR an observer over 12 OR the rider needs to wear a vest.

Boat safety has improved dramatically since the 1960's. In 1962, there were 32 deaths per 100,000 boater--in 1999 the number dropped to 5.7 per 100K. In the period, that translates to a 15 percent growth in numbered boats and a 31 percent decline in the fatality rate. (http://www.boats.com/boat-articles/Safety-144/Boating+safety+improving/12151.html)

If you really want some good statistics check out this article: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BQK/is_6_6/ai_80223825

Thank God our legislators have better things to do with their time than come up with more and more laws. Most folks on the east coast have only seen the orange rider flags in catalogs. Read somewhere else that California is wanting to make wakesurfing illegal next.

Lake Patrol for us are someone we always like to see. If you arrived to dock late and need a ride out--Lake Patrol around here is very helpful about getting you on the water. Your boat ran out of gas and you need a pull--call Lake Patrol. It is a shame to hear that many of you see lake patrol in an adversarial role.

By David Mason (rocketman) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 5:10 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post

Glad to hear you have cool Lake Patrol. I wish I could say the same for Arizona. If you ever come here, be very careful on Lake Bartlett. That Lake Patrol will pull you over for no legal reason, yell at you at the top of his lungs the whole time, cite you for something you didn't do, and then lie in court about it. It's a real joy.

By Salmon Tacos (salmon_tacos) on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - 6:35 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post

How does your government fund itself if they don't pass laws and have the lake patrol tenaciously pursue all the "criminals" and fine them?

By Shawn K. (zipe) on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 12:50 am:    Edit Post Delete Post

Department of Boating and Waterways.
Title 14, section 7009

7009. The Ski Flag.
(a) A red or orange flag measuring no less than 12 inches on each side, in
the shape of a square or rectangle, mounted or displayed in such a manner
as to be visible from every direction shall be known as a ski flag.
(b) The use of this flag will not be construed as conferring any rights or
privileges on its users, and its display will not be construed in itself as
restricting the use of the water in the vicinity of the vessel displaying the
(c) Operators of vessels will, however, exercise precaution commensurate
with conditions indicated.
(d) The ski flag shall be displayed when one or more of the following
conditions exists.
(1) A downed skier.
(2) A skier in the water preparing to ski.
(3) A ski line extended from the vessel.
(4) A ski in the water in the vicinity of the vessel. The ski flag shall not
be displayed at any other time.
NOTE: Authority cited: Sections 652, 658, 658.7 and 659, Harbors and Navigation Code.
Reference: Sections 650, 655.3, 658.7 and 659, Harbors and Navigation Code

Based on how the law is written, a holder is not only legal, but encouraged!

"mounted or displayed in such a manner
as to be visible from every direction "

Sounds pretty clear to me, just need to make sure that is is visible from all directions.

Link to the codes:http://dbw.ca.gov/boating.htm


By Jeff (duramax_dually) on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 6:17 am:    Edit Post Delete Post

EXCELLENT!!!!..I knew someone would find it. I have printed this and will keep it with me. I always find codes so funny. They always end up having some "Special" code in the back, section XXXX, subset B, paragraph 47 that states "Any code can be tossed out and the governing agency can mandate anything they feel is appropriate at the given time of the encounter"....HAHA

I agree with you. I still think the flag holder is a great idea. It guarantees the flag will be visible the entire time

By Dr. John (newtique) on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 10:08 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
I guess one could interpret "(3) A ski line extended from the vessel" to mean anytime you are skiing/wakebd'n!
By John Klein (jklein) on Thursday, September 30, 2004 - 11:27 am:    Edit Post Delete Post
I think that one "(3)" is in reference to a line just sitting in the water while you may be switching skiers or riders. Thus, another boat does not come along and run over your line.

I am a bit surprised there's no text with respect to swimmers unless swimmers are considered skiers.

By JimR (jimr) on Friday, October 01, 2004 - 12:28 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
I used to live in SoCal and I'm glad I don't have to deal with these pesky boating laws anymore.

Anyway, in Cali swimmers are not skiers, they are bathers - no really.

651.1. Bather definition. As used in this chapter, unless the context clearly requires a different meaning, ''bather'' or ''bathing'' means a person floating, swimming, wading, or bodysurfing, with or without the use of a flotation device, including, but not limited to, floating upon or with the aid of a surfboard, paddle board, surfmat, innertube, life preserver, or air mattress, except a flotation device which is designed to be propelled by sail, mechanical means, power, oars, or paddle.

Also, the code cited by Shawn is in reference to the "ski" flag not the "swim" flag (which, btw, does not exist). The rules regarding swimmers is contained in 655.2 and limits the proximity and speed at which a boat may pass "bathers" regardless of whether they are swimming near a stationary boat or not. There is no mention of a flag requirement.

655.2. Speed limit for vessels in certain areas. (a) Every owner, operator, or person in command of any vessel propelled by machinery is guilty of a misdemeanor who uses it, or permits it to be used, at a speed in excess of five miles per hour in any portion of the following areas not otherwise regulated by local rules and regulations:
(1) Within 100 feet of any person who is engaged in the act of bathing. A person engaged in the sport of water skiing shall not be considered as engaged in the act of bathing for the purposes of this section.
(2) Within 200 feet of any of the following:
(A) A beach frequented by bathers.
(B) A swimming float, diving platform, or lifeline.
(C) A way or landing float to which boats are made fast or which is being used for
the embarkation or discharge of passengers.
(b) This section does not apply to vessels engaged in direct law enforcement
activities which are displaying the lights prescribed by Section 652.5. Those vessels are
also exempt from any locally imposed speed regulation adopted pursuant to Section 660.

Interestingly enough, skiers are not protected by these speed restrictions because they are not bathers and the use of this flag does restrict the use of the water in the vicinity of the vessel displaying the flag.

And while we are splitting hairs, although it may not be the intent of the regulation, Dr. John's argument is spot-on if you interpret the code literally. I hate it when the regulators expect you to follow the letter of the law but then write ambiguous regulations that misconstrue their intent. I can't stand the "read what I mean not what I write" mentality.

By Salmon Tacos (salmon_tacos) on Friday, October 01, 2004 - 1:53 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
So, in CA, it looks like wakesurfers are considered bathers once they let go of the line, at which point, the boat driver would be obligated to slow to 5 mph.


By trace (trace) on Friday, October 01, 2004 - 2:27 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
speaking of surfing & the law... we got a ticket last night in front of Hula Hut on Lake Austin for:
- reckless operation (surfing) $240
- overloaded (waterbed mattress) $??

we were in a Launch, which is under 21' and thus has a weight capacity tag. the cop took no measurements of the mattress, just looked at it & said we were over limit. he also admitted that wakesurfing is not illegal persay, but he has the right to issue "discretionary" tickets for activities they deem dangerous. he claimed someone in Austin lost their arm recently due to wakesurfing. riiiight..

any ideas or advice?

By Dr. John (newtique) on Friday, October 01, 2004 - 7:03 pm:    Edit Post Delete Post
What we need is another litigation attorney, maybe a John Edwards type that will clear this up for us (for a healthy fee)!

(Message edited by NewTique on October 01, 2004)

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