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Aftermarket ignition-protected MARINE distributors.

September 18 2017 at 3:33 PM

Paul  (Premier Login FEfinaticP)

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It’s been a while since we had the USCG Approved Ignition Distributor conversation and I wanted to give everyone an update. Specifically, there have been some well-intentioned comments about boating safety (REGARDING AFTERMARKET MARINE DISTRIBUTORS that did not have the USCG stamp on them).

Several years ago a member of this forum sent in a note saying he purchased some HEI style marine distributors from Performance Distributors, in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, and had been running them for twenty years with good results. I eventually contacted this firm, and the owner was willing to help me with an obsolete Ford 427 motor, and I acquired a pair of his marine HEI distributors just like the member of our forum did twenty years prior, and I too have been running these now for “several years” with absolutely great results.

In my opinion, these modern distributors are a very serious safety upgrade over the old style caps, because I take my friends out in the main shipping channel at night on occasions, when we are returning from a waterfront restaurant. Relying on the old caps in a situation like that, for me, is just not what I want to do; previously during a tune-up, I actually ran one motor and it was warm, and would not start again, and it never did start until I replaced the old distributor cap……they can and will fail anytime they want to, even with a warm motor.

My motivation to research this topic has been the few negative comments coming from people, claiming there is something wrong with this because those distributors “are not USCG certified”, and after doing a lot of research I can say (that in my humble opinion) that is “un-informed”.

In order to research this topic fully, I called Washington DC and spoke with top USCG officials. I was then referenced to an agency that assists with inspections. I then called Boat US and spoke with officials there. I then called ABYC and spoke with the top official there.

This is my report, and I don’t plan on arguing with anyone, and if you simply don’t agree and/or must re-trace these steps on your own, please do so off line and/or with direct email and give the rest of us a break, thank you ! The bottom line……………………USCG (or anyone else) does not look for a USCG label on an aftermarket marine distributor, nor is it required on a classic boat. Ignition protected devices are naturally required on boats (that were initially built with them), but there are “NUMEROUS” equivalent ways to meet the requirements, and having a USCG stamp is not (not) required on a distributor, and today it’s not even needed on a flame arrestor as long as the parts in question are built to an acceptable standard.

The local USCG guys in Tennessee were not well informed and took my number, and never called back. After a few days I called the USCG office that has jurisdiction over the entire Ohio Valley watershed, and was then referred to a specific individual in Washington DC, who was a senior guy with many years of experience, and who gave me great information, and then further referenced me to another expert. I am not going to list their names out of professional courtesy on the world-wide-web, and due to the fact that virtually “anything” posted on the internet “can” (and most likely “will”) be miss-interpreted and/or taken out of context, and I don’t want to be responsible for my good will to be the result of their getting phone calls from people wanting to argue something. Therefore, my report here is faithfully recounted, and in the end everyone who reads this must make their own decision on what they install on their own boat, this is not a recommendation to one thing or another, just a faithful report of my phone conversations.

You can use this for your own personal information at your own risk, I assume no liability what-so-ever for the work I’ve done here, I am simply reporting what I’ve found in good faith as a point of information. If you are willing to argue the point, please have something other than your own opinion to back it up, thank you.

I identified who I was, and why I was calling, “to just get accurate information, to avoid speculation, and to clarify any interpretations from the local dock-walking boating general public”. My reason for doing this was the fact that a particular marine ignition system that is available to classic boating enthusiasts has (in my opinion) been unfairly maligned by a few individuals over the past couple years by people who, again in my opinion, know part of the law but not all of the law. In fact, one person even declared “I don’t know how they can legally even be selling this stuff, because I called them, and their distributor does not have a USCG stamp on it”. I decided I was going to get to the bottom of it, PERIOD. Guess what, the USCG stamp is not a requirement.

I explained that I had heard that the USCG would fine someone if they found a distributor on a boat that did not have the USCG stamp on it. The official I spoke with was very willing to discuss the situation, and said (and this is a direct quote): “in a practical application it is almost humorous listening to this”, and indicated his Coast Guard guys were simply not out there pulling distributors off classic pleasure boats looking for a USCG stamp. He said he could not speak for the rogue un-informed “boat cop” someone might encounter, or an appraiser who didn’t understand classic boats are allowed to be fitted with equipment they had on board when they were built (in that case, if they did have a problem, they would have a problem with all classic boats, and I just checked the distributors I pulled off my 427 engines and they don’t have any identification stamps what-so-ever).
The so-called “regulations” some of us have encountered in internet discussions, is most likely a manufacturing requirement for new boats from ABYC. Even then, there are numerous equivalencies that exist that allow parts to be produced to meet requirements.

Vintage boats are to be fitted with the kind of equipment they were originally furnished with, and if there are any safety upgrades then so much the better. This is why our antique boats can be fully compliant with fuel pumps that don’t have the safety tube directed to the carb, because they have what was required “when” they were built, and they don’t have to comply with the manufacturing standards of today.

After a lot of generalized discussion, where one official said “if you build a boat and find an old 283 with a v-drive, and put it together for yourself, you can go to your state and apply for a license, and they won’t inspect it if it is for yourself”; I then asked specifically about an aftermarket electric ignition distributor that was for a gas inboard motor, that did not have a USCG “stamp” on it, but it was a sealed waterproof unit and it had a flame arrestor built into the design, and was marketed as a marine unit. He did not take any issue with that. He mentioned the various acts and regulations in the past that dealt with flame arrestors for gasoline engine backfire control, but there was nothing specific that would require an aftermarket distributor on a boat you already own and use for your own use, to have a USCG stamp on it.

Here is one such regulation he referenced (it's long, but here it is):

85 STAT. PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 213
which are in excess of $10,003,000 in fiscal year 1972 for '"Public Lands
SEC. 308. None of the funds provided in this Act shall be available
for administrative expenses in connection with commitments for
grants for Urban Mass Transportation aggregating more than
$900,000,000 in fiscal year 1972.
SEC. 309. No part of any appropriation contained in this Act shall
remain available for obligation beyond the current fiscal year unless
expressly so provided herein.
SEC. 310. None of the funds provided under this Act shall be available
for the planning or execution of programs for any further construction
of the Miami jetport or of any other air facility in the State
of Florida lying south of the Okeechobee Waterway and in the drainage
basins contributing water to the Everglades National Park until
it has been shown by an appropriate study made jointly by the Department
of the Interior and the Department of Transportation that such
an airport will not have an adverse environmental effect on the ecology
of the Everglades and until any site selected on the basis of such study
is approved by the Department of the Interior and the Department
of Transportation: Provided^ That nothing in this section shall affect
the availability of such funds to carry out this study.
SEC. 311. The Governor of the Canal Zone is authorized to employ
services as authorized by 5 U.S.C. 3109, in an amount not exceeding
SEC. 312. Funds appropriated for operating expenses of the Canal
Zone Government may be apportioned notwithstanding section 3679
of the Revised Statutes, as amended (31 U.S.C. 665), to the extent
necessary to permit payment of such pay increases for officers or
employees as may be authorized by administrative action pursuant to
law which are not in excess of statutory increases granted for the
same period in corresponding rates of compensation for other employees
of the Government in comparable positions.
SEC. 313. Appropriations under this Act for the Federal Aviation
Administration may be expended for necessary expenses to establish,
conduct, and carry out the International Aeronautical Exposition in
an amount not to exceed $3,780,000: Provided^ That funds so expended
shall be reimbursed to the appropriation from which expended out of
revenues credited to the appropriation "Federal Aviation Administration/
United States International Aeronautical Exposition", in chapter
X I of Public Law 92-18.
This Act may be cited as the "Department of Transportation and
Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 1972".
Approved August 10, 1971.
Fiscal year
National Park, Fla.
Ecology study.
80 Stat. 416.
Aeronautical Exposition.
Ante, p. 5:
Short title.
August 10, 1971
[H. R. 19]
Public Law 92-75
To provide for a coordinated national boating safety program.
Be it enacted hy the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress asserribled^ That this Act may g ^^t^^A^^f^*
be cited as the "Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971". iliu
SEC. 2. I t is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress and the
214 PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 [85 STAT.
purpose of this Act to improve boating safety and to foster greater
development, use, and enjoyment of all the waters of the United States
by encouraging and assisting participation by the several States, the
boating industry, and the boating public in development of more comprehensive
boating safety programs; by authorizing the establishment
of national construction and performance standards for boats and
associ^ited equipment; and by creating more flexible regulatory authority
concerning the use of boats and equipment. I t is further declared
to be the policy of Congress to encourage greater and continuing
uniformity of boating laws and regulations as among the several
States and the Federal Government, a higher degree of reciprocity
and comity among the several jurisdictions, and closer cooperation
and assistance between the Federal Government and the several
States in developing, administering, and enforcing Federal and State
laws and regulations pertaining to boating safety.
SEC. 3. As used in this Act, and unless the context otherwise requires—
(1) "Boat" means any vessel—
(A) manufactured or used primarily for noncommercial use;
(B) leased, rented, or chartered to another for the latter's noncommercial
use; or
(C) engaged in the carrying of six or fewer passengers.
(2) "Vessel" includes every description of watercraft, other than a
seaplane on the water, used or capable of being used as a means of
transportation on the water.
(3) "Undocumented vessel" means a vessel which does not have and
is not required to have a valid marine document as a vessel of the
United States.
(4) "Use" means operate, navigate, or employ.
(5) "Passenger" means every person carried on board a vessel other
(A) the owner or his representative;
(B) the operator;
(C) bona fide members of the crew engaged in the business of
the vessel who have contributed no consideration for their carriage
and who are paid for their services; or
(D) any guest on board a vessel which is being used exclusively
for pleasure purposes who has not contributed any consideration,
directly, or indirectly, for his carriage.
(6) "Owner" means a person who claims lawful possession of a vessel
by virtue of legal title or equitable interest therein which entitles
him to such possession.
(7) "Manufacturer" means any person engaged in—
(A) the manufacture, construction, or assembly of boats or associated
equipment; or
(B) the manufacture or construction of components for boats
and associated equipment to be sold for subsequent assembly; or
(C) the importation into the United States for sale of boats,
associated equipment, or components thereof.
85 STAT. ] PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 215
(8) "Associated equipment" means—
(A) any system, part, or component of a boat as originally
manufactured or any similar part or component manufactured
or sold for replacement, repair, or improvement of such system,
part, or component;
(B) any accessory or equipment for, or appurtenance to, a boat;
(C) any marine safety article, accessory, or equipment intended
for use by a person on board a boat; but
(D) excluding radio equipment.
(9) "Secretary" means the Secretary of the Department in which
the Coast Guard is operating.
(10) "State" means a State of the United States, the Commonwealth
of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the
District of Columbia.
(11) "Eligible State" means one that has a State boating safety program
which has been accepted by the Secretary.
SEC. 4. (a) This Act applies to vessels and associated equipment used,
to be used, or carried in vessels used, on waters subject to the jurisdiction
of the United States and on the high seas beyond the territorial
seas for vessels owned in the L^nited States.
(b) Sections 5 through 11 and subsections 12(a) and 12(b) of this
Act are applicable also to boats moving or intended to be moved in
interstate commerce.
(c) This Act, except those sections where the content expressly indii*^
ates otherwise, does not apply to—
(1) foreign vessels temporarily using waters subject to United
States jurisdiction:
(2) military or public vessels of the LTnited States, except recreational-
type public vessels;
(3) a vessel whose owner is a State or subdivision thereof,
which is used principally for governmental purposes, and which
is clearly identifiable as such;
(4) ships'lifeboats.
SEC. 5. (a) The Secretary may issue regulations—
(1) establishing minimum safety standards for boats and associated
equipment, and establishing procedures and tests required
to measure conformance with such standards. Each standard
shall be reasonable, shall meet the need for boating safety, and
shall be stated, insofar as practicable, in terms of performance;
(2) requiring the installation, carrying, or using of associated
equipment on boats and classes of boats subject to this Act; and
prohibiting the installation, carrying, or using of associated equipment
which does not conform with safety standards established
216 PUBLIC LAW92.75-AUG. 10, 1971 [85 STAT.
under this section. Equipment contemplated by this clause
includes, but is not limited to, fuel systems, ventilation systems,
electrical systems, navigational lights, sound producing devices,
fire fighting equipment, lifesaving devices, signaling devices,
ground tackle, life and grab rails, and navigational equipment,
(b) A regulation or standard issued under this section—
(1) shall specify an effective date which is not earlier than
one hundred and eighty days from the date of issuance, except
that this period shall be increased in the discretion of the Secretary
to not more than eighteen months in any case involving
major product design, retooling, or major changes in the manufacturing
process, unless the Secretary finds that there exists
a boating safety hazard so critical as to require an earlier effective
date; what constitutes major product redesign, retooling, or
major changes shall be determined by the Secretary;
(2) may not compel substantial alteration of a boat or item of
associated equipment which is in existence, or the construction or
manufacture of which is commenced before the effective date of
the regulation; but subject to that limitation may require compliance
or performance to avoid a substantial risk of personal
injury to the public that the Secretary considers appropriate in
relation to the degree of hazard that the compliance will correct;
(3) shall be consistent with laws and regulations governing
the installation and maintenance of sanitation equipment.
SEC. 6. In establishing a need for formulating and prescribing regulations
and standards under section 5 of this Act, the Secretary shall,
among other things—
(1) consider the need for and the extent to which the regulations
or standards will contribute to boating safety;
(2) consider relevant available boat safety standards, statistics
and data, including public and private research, development,
testing, and evaluation;
(3) consider whether any proposed regulation or standard is
reasonable and appropriate for the particular type of boat or
associated equipment for which it is prescribed;
(4) consult with the Boating Safety Advisory Council established
pursuant to section 33 of this Act regarding all of the foregoing
SEC. 7. The Secretary may require or permit the display of seals,
labels, plates, i n s i ^ i a , or other devices for the purpose of certifying or
evidencing compliance with Federal safety regulations and standards
for boats and associated equipment.
SEC. 8. The Secretary may, subject to such regulations, supervision,
and review as he may prescribe, delegate to any person, or private or
public agency, or to any employee under the supervision of such person
or agency, any work, business, or function respecting the examination,
inspection, and testing necessary for compliance enforcement
or for the development of data to enable the Secretary to prescribe
and to issue regulations and standards, under sections 5 and 6 of this
85 STAT. ] PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 217
SEC. 9. The Secretary may, if he considers that boating safety will
not be adversely affected, issue exemptions from any provision of this
Act or regulations and standards established thereunder, on terms
and conditions as he considers appropriate.
SEC. 10. Unless permitted by the Secretary under section 9 of this
Act, no State or political subdivision thereof may establish, continue
in effect, or enforce any provision of law or regulation which establishes
any boat or associated equipment performance or other safety
standard, or which imposes any requirement for associated equipment,
except, unless disapproved by the Secretary, the carrying or using of
marine safetj^ articles to meet uniquely hazardous conditions or circumstances
within the State, which is not identical to a Federal regulation
issued under section 5 of this Act.
SEC. 11. The Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary may, by
joint re^lationSj authorize the importation of a nonconforming boat
or associated equipment upon terms and conditions, including the furnishing
of bond, which will assure that the boat or associated equipment
will be brought into conformity with the applicable Federal
safety reflations and standards before it is used on waters subject
to the jurisdiction of the United States.
SEC. 12. (a) No person shall—
(1) manufacture, construct, assemble, introduce, or deliver for
introduction in interstate commerce, or import into the United
States, or if engaged in the business of selling or distributing
boats or associated equipment, sell or offer for sale, any boat,
associated equipment, or component thereof to be sold for subsequent
assembly, unless—
(A) it conforms with regulations and standards prescribed
under this Act, or
(B) it is intended solely for export, and so labeled,
tagged, or marked on the boat or equipment and on the outside
of the container, if any, which is exported.
(2) affix, attach, or display a seal, label, plate, insignia, or
other device indicating or suggesting compliance with Federal
safety standards, on, m, or with a boat or item of associated
equipment, which is false or misleading;
(3) fail to furnish a notification as required by section 15(a)
or exercise reasonable diligence in fulfilling the undertaking given
pursuant to section 15 (c) of this Act.
(b) No person shall be subject to any penalty contained in this
section if he establishes that he did not have reason to know in the
exercise of due care thalt a boat or associated equipment does not
conform with applicable Federal boat safety standards, or who holds
a certificate issued by the manufacturer of the boat or associated
equipment to the effect that such boat or associated equipment conforms
to all applicable Federal boat safety standards, unless such
person knows or reasonably should have known that such boat or
associated equipment does not so conform.
218 PUBLIC LAW 92.75-AUG. 10, 1971 [85 STAT.
(c) No person may use a vessel in violation of this Act or regulations
issued thereunder.
(d) No person may use a vessel, including one otherwise exempted
by section 4(c) of this Act, in a negligent manner so as to endanger
the life, limb, or property of any person. Violations of this subsection
involving use which is grossly negligent, subject the violator, in addition
to any other penalties prescribed in this Act, to the criminal
penalties prescribed in section 34.
(e) No vessel equipped with propulsion machinery of any type and
not subject to the manning requirements of the vessel inspection laws
administered by the Coast Guard, may w^hile carrying passengers for
hire, be used except in the charge of a person licensed for such service
under regulations, prescribed by the Secretary, which pertain to
qualifications, issuance, revocation, or suspension, and related matters.
(f) Section 12(e) of this Act shall not apply to any vessel being
used for bona fide dealer demonstrations furnished without fee to
business invitees. However, if on the basis of substantial evidence the
Secretary determines, pursuant to section 6 hereof, that requiring
vessels so used to be under the control of licensed persons is necessary
to meet the need for boating safety, then the Secretary may promulgate
regulations requiring the licensing of persons controlling such vessels
in the same manner as provided in section 12(e) of this Act for persons
in control of vessels carrying passengers for hire.
SEC. 13. If a Coast Guard boarding officer observes a boat being used
without sufficient lifesaving or firefighting devices or in an overloaded
or other unsafe condition as defined in regulations of the Secretary,
and in his judgment such use creates an especially hazardous condition,
he may direct the operator to take whatever immediate and reasonable
steps would be necessary for the safety of those aboard the vessel,
including directing the operator to return to mooring and to remain
there until the situation creating the hazard is corrected or ended.
SEC. 14, (a) Every manufacturer subject to the provisions of this
Act shall establish and maintain records, make reports, and provide
information as the Secretary may reasonably require to enable him
to determine whether the manufacturer has acted or is acting in
compliance with this Act and the regulations issued thereunder.
A manufacturer shall, upon request of an officer, employee, or agent
authorized by the Secretary, permit the officer, employee, or agent
to inspect at reasonable times factories or other facilities, books,
papers, records, and documents relevant to determining whether the
, manufacturer has acted or is acting in compliance with this Act
and the regulations issued thereunder.
(b) All information reported to or otherwise obtained by the
Secretary or his representative pursuant to subsection (a) of this
section containing or relating to a trade secret or other matter
referred to in section 1905 of title 18 of the United States Code, or
authorized to be exempted from public disclosure by subsection
552(b) of title 5, United States Code, shall be considered confidential
for the purpose of that section of title 18, except that, upon approval
by the Secretary, such information may be disclosed to other officers,
employees, or agents concerned with carrying out this Act or when
relevant in any proceeding under this Act.
62 Stat. 791.
81 Stat. 54.
85 STAT. J PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 219
SEC. 15. (a) Every manufacturer who discovers or acquires information
which he determines, in the exercise of reasonable and prudent
judgment, indicates that a boat or associated equipment subject to an
applicable standard or regulation prescribed pursuant to section 5 of
this Act either fails to comply with such standard or regulation, or
contains a defect which creates a substantial risk of personal injury to
the public, shall, if such boat or associated equipment has left the place
of manufacture, furnish notification of such defect or failure of compliance
as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, within
a reasonable time after the manufacturer has discovered the defect.
(b) The notification required by subsection (a) of this section shall
be given to the following persons in the following manner—
(1) by certified mail to the first purchaser for purposes other
than resale: Provided, That the requirement for notification of
such first purchaser shall be satisfied if the manufacturer exercises
reasonable diligence in creating and maintaining a list of such
purchasers and their current addresses and sends the required
notice to each person on said list at the address appearing thereon;
(2) by certified mail to subsequent purchasers, if known to the
(3) by certified mail or other more expeditious means to the
dealers or distributors of such manufacturer to whom such boat
or associated equipment was delivered.
(c) The notification required by subsection (a) of this section shall
contain a clear description of such defect or failure to comply, an
evaluation of the hazard reasonably related thereto, a statement of
the measures to be taken to correct such defect or failure to comply,
and an undertaking by the manufacturer to take such measures at his
sole cost and expense.
(d) Every manufacturer shall furnish to the Secretary a true or
representative copy of all notices, bulletins, and other communications
to dealers or distributors of such manufacturer or to purchasers,
or subsequent purchasers, of boats or associated equipment of such
manufacturer, regarding any defect relating to safety in such boats
or associated equipment or any failure to comply with a standard,
regulation, or order applicable to such boat or associated equipment.
The Secretary may publish or otherwise disclose to the public so much
of the information contained in such notices or other information in
his possession as he deems will assist in carrying out the purposes of
this Act, but shall not disclose any information which contain or
relates to a trade secret unless he determines that it is necessary to carry
out the purposes of this Act.
(e) If through testing, inspection, investigation, research, or examination
of reports carried out pursuant to this Act the Secretary
determines that any boat or associated equipment subject to this Act—
(1) fails to comply with an applicable standard or regulation
prescribed pursuant to section 5; or
(2) contains a defect which relates to safety,
and if the Secretary determines that notification provided under this
section is appropriate, he shall notify the manufacturer of the boat or
associated equipment of such defect or failure to comply. The notice
shall contain the findings of the Secretary and shall include a synopsis
of the information upon which the findings are based. Upon receipt
of such notice, the manufacturer shall furnish the notification
described in subsection (c) to the persons designated in subsection (b),
unless the manufacturer disputes the Secretary's determination, in
Public disclo'
220 PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 [85 STAT.
Publication in
Federal Register.
Vessel operator,
which case the Secretary shall afford such manufacturer an opportunity
to present his views to establish that there is no failure of compliance
or defect relating to safety. Where the Secretary determines
it is in the public interest, he may publish notice of such proceeding in
the Federal Register and afford interested persons, including the Boating
Safety Advisory Council, an opportunity to comment thereon. If
after such presentation by the manufacturer the Secretary determines
that such boat or associated equipment does not comply with an
applicable standard or regulation, or that it contains a defect related
to safety, the Secretary may direct the manufacturer to furnish the
notification specified in subsection (c) of this section to the persons
specified in subsection (b) of this section.
(f) For purposes of section 15, the term "associated equipment"
includes only such items or classes of associated equipment as the Secretary
shall by regulation or order prescribe after determining that
the application of the requirements of this section to such items or
classes of associated equipment is reasonable, appropriate, and in furtherance
of the purposes of this Act.
(g) The Secretary is authorized to promulgate regulations defining
and establishing procedures and otherwise furthering the purposes of
this section.
SEC. 16. (a) The operator of a vessel, including one otherwise
exempted by subsection 4(c) of this Act, involved in a collision, accident,
or other casualty, to the extent he can do so without serious danger
to his own vessel, or persons aboard, shall render all practical and necessary
assistance to persons affected by the collision, accident, or casualty
to save them from danger caused by the collision, accident, or
casualty. He shall also give his name, address, and the identification
of his vessel to any person injured and to the owner of any property
damaged. The duties imposed by this subsection are in addition to any
duties otherwise imposed by law.
(b) Any person who complies with subsection (a) of this section or
who gratuitously and in good faith renders assistance at the scene of
a vessel collision, accident, or other casualty without objection of any
person assisted, shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a
result of the rendering of assistance or for any act or omission in providing
or arranging salvage, towage, medical treatment, or other assistance
where the assisting person acts as an ordinary, reasonably prudent
man would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
SEC. 17. An undocumented vessel equipped with propulsion machinery
of any type shall have a number issued by the proper issuing
authority in the State in which the vessel is principally used.
SEC. 18. (a) The Secretary shall establish by regulation a standard
numbering system for vessels. Upon application by a State the Secretary
shall approve a State numbering system which is in accord with
the standard numbering system and the provisions of this Act relating
to numbering and casualty reporting. A State with an approved system
is the issuing authority under the Act. The Secretary is the issuing
authority in States where a State numbering system has not been
85 STAT. ] PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 221
(b) If a State lias a numbering system approved by the Secretary
under the Aot of September 2,1958 (72 Stat. 1754), as amended, prior
to enactment hereof, tlie system need not be immediately revised to
conform with this Act and may continue in effect without change for
a period not to exceed three years from the date of enactment of this
(c) When a vessel is actually numbered in the State of principal
use, it shall be considered as in compliance with the numbering system
requirements of any State in which it is temporarily used.
(d) When a vessel is removed to a new State of principal use, the
issuing authority of that State shall recognize the validity of a number
awarded by any other issuing authority for a period of at least
sixty days before requiring numbering in the new State.
(e) If a State has a numbering system approved after the effective
date of this Act, that State must accept and recognize any certificate
of number issued by the Secretary, as the previous issuing authority
in that State, for one year from the date that State's system is
approved, or until its expiration date, at the option of the State.
(f) Whenever the Secretary determines that a State is not administermg
its approved numbering system in accordance with the standard
numbering system, or has altered its system without his approval,
he may withdraw his approval after giving notice to the State, in
writing, setting forth specifically whei-ein the State has failed to meet
the standards required, and the State has not corrected such failures
within a reasonable time after being notified by the Secretary.
46 u s e 527
SEC. 19. (a) The Secretary, when he is the issuing authority, may
exempt a vessel or class of vessels from the numbering provisions of
this Act under such conditions as he may prescribe.
(b) When a State is the issuing authority, it may exempt from the
numbering provisions of this Act any vessel or class of vessels that has
been exempted under subsection (a) of this section or otherwise as
permitted by the Secretary.
SEC. 20. (a) A certificate of number granted under this Act shall be
pocket size, shall be at all times available for inspection on the vessel
for which issued when the vessel is in use, and may not be valid for
more than three years. The certificate of number for vessels less than
twenty-six feet in length and leased or rented to another for the latter"s
noncommercial use of less than twenty-four hours may be retained on
shore by the vessel's owner or his representative at the place from
which the vessel departs or returns to the possession of the owner or
his representative. A vessel which does not have the certificate of number
on board shall be identified while in use, and comply with such
other requirements, as the issuing authoiity prescribes.
(b) The owner of a vessel numbered under this Act shall furnish
to the issuing authority notice of the transfer of all or part of his
interest in the vessel, or of the destruction or abandonment of the vessel,
within a reasonable time thereof, and shall furnish notice of any
change of address within a reasonable time of the change, in accordance
with prescribed regulations.
SEC. 21. A number required by this Act shall be painted on, or
attached to, each side of the forward half of the vessel for which it was
222 PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 [85 STAT.
issued, and shall be of the size, color, and type as may be prescribed by
the Secretary. Xo other number may be carried on the forward half of
the A'essel.
SEC. 22. When a State is the issuing authority it may require that
the operator of a numbered vessel hold a valid safety certificate issued
under terms and conditions set by the issuing authority.
SEC. 23. The issuing authority may prescribe regulations and
establish fees to carry out the intent of sections 17 through 24 and section
37 of this Act. A State issuing authority may impose only terms
and conditions for vessel numbering (1) which are prescribed by this
Act or the regulations of the Secretary concerning the standard numbering
system, or (2) which relate to proof of payment of State or
local taxes.
SEC. 24. Any person may request from an issuing authority vessel
luunbering and registration information which is retrievable from
vessel numbering system records of the issuing authority. When the
issuing authority is satisfied that the request is reasonable and
related to a boating safety purpose, the information shall be furnished
upon payment by such persion of the cost of retrieval and furnishing
of the information requested.
SEC. 25. In order to encourage greater State participation and consistency
in boating safety efforts, and particularly greater safety patrol
and enforcement activities, the Secretary may accept State boating
safety programs directed at implementing and supplementing this
Act. Acc€.ptance is necessary for a State to receive full rather than
partial Federal financial assistance under this Act. The Secreltary may
also make Federal funds available to an extent permitted b^^ subsection
27(d) of this Act to national nonprofit public service organizations for
national boating safety programs and activities which he considers to
be in the public interest.
SEC. 26. (a) The Secretary shall accept a State boating safety program
(1) incorporates a State vessel numbering system previously
approved under this Act or includes such a numbering system as
part of the proposed boating safety program;
(2) includes generally the other substantive content of the
Model State Boat Act as approved by the National Association
of State Boating Law Administrators in conjunction with the
Council of State Governments, or is in substantial conformity
therewith, or conforms sufficiently to insure uniformity and promote
comity among the several jurisdictions;
(3) provides for patrol and other activity to assure enforcement
of the State boating safety laws and regulations;
(4) provides for boating safety education programs;
85 STAT. ] PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 223
(5) designates the State authority or agency which will
administer the boating safety program and the allocated Federal
funds; and
(6) provides that the designated State authority or agency will
submit reports in the form prescribed by the Secretary.
(b) The requirements of subparagraph (a) (2) of this section shall
be liberally construed to permit acceptance where the general intent
and purpose of such requirements are met and nothing contained
therein is in any way intended to discourage a State program which
is more extensive or comprehensive than suggested herein, particularly
with the regard to safety patrol and enforcement activity commensurate
with the amount and type of boating activity within the State,
and with regard to public boat safety education, and experimental
programs which could enhance boating safety.
SEC. 27. (a) The Secretary shall allocate the amounts appropriated
to the several States as soon as practicable after July 1 of each fiscal
year for which the funds are appropriated.
(b) In order to encourage and assist the States in the development
of boating safety programs during the first three fiscal yeare for which
funds are available under this Act, the funds shall be allocated among
applying States having a boating safety program, or which indicate
to the Secretary their intention to establish boating safety programs
in accordance with section 25 of this Act. One-half of the funds shall
be allocated equally among the applying States. The other half shall be
allocated to each applying State in the same ratio as the number of
vessels propelled by machinery numbered in that State bears to the
number of such vessels numbered in all applying States.
(c) In fiscal years after the third fiscal year for which funds are
available under this Act the moneys appropriated shall he. allocated
among applying States. Of the total available funds one-third shall
be allocated each year equally among applying States. One-third shall
be allocated so that the amount each year to each applying eligible
State will be in the same ratio as the number of vessels numbered in
that State, under a numbering system approved under this Act, bears
to the number of such vessels numbered in all applying eligible States.
The remaining one-third shall lye allocated so that the amount each
year to each applying eligible State shall be in the same ratio as the
State funds expended or obligated for the State boating safety program
during the previous fiscal year by a State bears to the total
State funds expended or obligated for that fiscal year by all the applying
eligible States.
(d) The Secretary may allocate not more than 5 per centum of funds
appropriated in any fiscal year for national boating safety activities
of one or more national nonprofit-public service organizations.
SEC. 28. (a) Notwithstanding the allocation ratios prescribed in
section 27 of this Act, the Federal share of the total annual cost of a
State's boating safety program may not exceed 75 per centum in fiscal
year 1972, 66% per centum in fiscal year 1973, 50 per centum in fiscal
year 1974, 40 per centum in fiscal year 1975, and SSy^ per centum in
fiscal year 1976. No State may receive more than 5 per centum of the
Federal funds appropriated or available for allocation in any fiscal
224 PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 [85 STAT.
(b) Amounts allocated to a State sliall be available for obligation by
that State for a period of three years following the date of allocation.
Funds unobligated by the State at the expiration of the three-year
period shall be withdrawn by the Secretary and shall be available
with other funds to be allocated by the Secretary during that fiscal
(c) Funds available to the Secretary which have not been allocated
at the end of a fiscal year shall be carried forward as part of the total
allocation funds for the next fiscal year for which appropriations are
authorized by this Act,
SEC. 29. In accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary
computation by a State of funds expended or obligated for the boatingsafety
program shall include the acquisition, maintenance, and operating
costs of facilities, equipment, and supplies; personnel salaries
and reimbursable expenses; the costs of training personnel; public
boat safety education; the costs of administering the program; and
other expenses which the Secretary considers appropriate. The Secretary
shall determine any issues which arise in connection with such
SEC. 30. For the pui"pose of providing financial assistance for State
boating safety programs there is authorized to be appropriated
$7,500,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1972, and $7,500,000 for
each of the four succeeding fiscal years, such appropriations to remain
available until expended.
SEC. 31. (a) Amounts allocated under section 27 of this Act shall
he computed and paid to the States as follows:
(1) During the first three fiscal years that funds are available
the Secretary shall schedule the initial payment to each State at
the earliest possible time after application and compliance with
subsection 27(b) of this Act.
(2) For fiscal years after the third fiscal year for which funds
are available, the Secretary shall determine during the last quarter
of a fiscal year, on the basis of computations made pursuant to section
29 of this Act and submitted by the States, the percentage of
the funds available for the next fiscal year to which each eligible
State shall be entitled. Notice of the percentage and of the dollar
amount, if it can then be determined, for each State shall be
furnished to the States at the earliest practicable time. If the Secretary
finds that an amount made available to a State for a prior
year is greater or less than the amount which should have been
made available to that State for the prior year, because of later
or more accurate State expenditure information, the amount for
the current fiscal year may be increased or decreased by the appropriate
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary shall
schedule the payment of funds consistent with the program purposes
and applicable Treasury regulations, so as to minimize the time
elapsing between the transfer of funds from the United States Treasury
and the subsequent disbursement thereof by a State.
85 STAT. ] PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 225
(c) Whenever the Secretary, after reasonable notice to the designated
State authority or agency, finds that—
(1) the boating safety program submitted by the State and
accepted by the Secretary has been so changed that it no longer
complies with this Act or standards established by regulations
thereunder; or
(2) in the administration of the boating safety program, there
has been a failure to comply substantially with the standards
established by the regulations;
the Secretary shall notify the State authority or agency that no further
payments will be made to the State until the program conforms to the
established standards or the failure is corrected.
(d) The Secretary shall, by regulation, provide for such accounting,
budgeting, and other fiscal procedures as are necessary and reasonable
for the proper and efficient administration of this section. The Secretary
and the Comptroller General of the United States shall have
access for the purpose of audit and examination, to any books, documents,
papers, and records that are pertinent to Federal funds allocated
under this Act.
payment termination.
Records, availability.
SEC. 32. (a) In carrying out his responsibilities under this Act the
Secretary may consult with State and local governments, public and
private agencies, organizations and committees, private industry, and
other persons having an interest in boating and boating safety.
(b) The Secretary may advise, assist, and cooperate with the
States and other interested public and private agencies, in the planning,
development, and execution of boating safety programs. Acting
under the authority of section 141 of title 14, United States Code,
and consonant with the policy defined in section 2 of this Act, the
Secretary shall insure the fullest cooperation between the State and
Federal authorities in promoting boating safety by entering into
agreements and other arrangements with the State whenever possible.
Subject to the provisions of chapter 23, title 14, he may make available,
upon request from a State, the services of members of the Coast
Guard Auxiliary to assist the State in the promotion of boating safety
on State waters.
Coast Guard,
63 Stat. 505.
14 u s e 821.
SEC. 33. (a) The Secretary shall establish a National Boating
Safety Advisory Council (hereinafter referred to as "the Council"),
which shall not exceed twenty-one members, whom the Secretary considers
to have a particular expertise, knowledge, and experience in
boating safety. Insofar as practical, to assure balanced representation,
members shall be drawn equally from (1) State officials responsible
for State boating safety programs, (2) boat and associated equipment
manufacturers, and (3) boating organizations and members of
the general public. Additional persons from those sources may be
appointed to panels to the Council which will assist the Council in the
performance of its functions.
(b) In addition to the consultation required by section 6 of this Act
the Secretary shall consult with the Council on any other major boat
safety matters related to this Act.
226 PUBLIC LAW 92-75-AUG. 10, 1971 [85 STAT.
5 u s e 5332
80 Stat. 499;
83 Stnt. 190.
(c) Members of the Council or panels may be compensated at a rate
not to exceed the rate provided for Federal classified employees of
grade GS-18 when engaged in the duties of the Council. Members,
while away from their homes or regular places of business, may be
allowed travel expenses, including a per diem in lieu of subsistence as
authorized by section 5703 o;f title 5, United States Code, for persons
in the Government service employed intermittently. Payments under
this section shall not render members of the Council employees or
officials of the United States for any purposes.
SEC. 34. Any person who willfully violates section 12(c) of this Act
or the regulations issued thereunder shall be fined not more than
$1,000 for each violation or imprisoned not more than one year, or
SEC. 35. (a) In addition to any other penalty prescribed by law any
person who violates subsection 12(a) of this Act shall be liable to a
civil penalty of not more than $2,000 for each violation, except that
the maximum civil penalty shall not exceed $100,000 for any related
series of violations. Whenever any corporation violates section 12(a)
of this Act, any director, officer, or executive employee of such corporation
who knowingly and willfully ordered or knowingly and willfully
authorized such violation shall be individually liable to the civil penalties
contained herein, in addition to the corporation: Provided^ however^
That no such director, officer, or executive employee shall be
individually liable under this subsection if he can demonstrate, by a
preponderance of the evidence, (1) that said order or authorization
was issued on the basis of a determination, in the exercise of reasonable
and prudent judgment, that the nonconformity with standards and
regulations constituting such violation would not cause or constitute a
substantial risk of personal injury to the public, and (2) that at the
time of said order or authorization he advised the Secretary in writing
of his action under this proviso.
(b) In addition to any other penalty prescribed by law any person
who violates any other provision of this Act or the regulations issued
thereunder shall be liable to a civil penalty of not more than $500 for
each violation. If the violation involves the use of a vessel, the vessel,
except as exempted by subsection 4(c) of this Act, shall be liable and
may be proceeded against in the district court of any district in which
the vessel may be found.
(c) The Secretary may assess and collect any civil penalty incurred
under this Act and, in his discretion, remit, mitigate, or compromise
any penalty prior to referral to the Attorney General. Subject to
approval by the Attorney General, the Secretary may engage in any
proceeding in court for that purpose, including a proceeding under
subsection (d) of this section. In determining the amount of any
penalty to be assessed hereunder, or the amount agreed upon in any
compromise, consideration shall be given to the appropriateness of
such penalty in light of the size of the business of the person charged,
the gravity of the violation and the extent to which the person charged
has complied with the provisions of section 15 of this Act or has otherwise
attempted to remedy the consequences of the said violation.
85 STAT. ] PUBLIC LAW 92-75-.AUG. 10, 1971 227
(d) When a civil penalty of not more than $200 has been assessed Federal magisunder
this Act, the Secretary may refer the matter for collection of *'^^'^'''°
the penalty directly to the Federal magistrate of the jurisdiction
wherein the person liable may be found for collection procedures under
supervision of the district court and pursuant to order issued by the
court delegating such authority under section 636 (b) of title 28, United
States Code. 82 stat. i i u.
SEC. 86. The United States district courts shall have jurisdiction to u.s. district
restrain violations of this Act, or to restrain the sale, offer for sale, or ^°^^^^' •'""^'^i'=-
the introduction or delivery for introduction, in interstate commerce,
or the importation into the United States, of any boat or associated
equipment which is determined not to conform to Federal boat safety
standards, upon petition by the Attorney (xeneral on behalf of the
TTnited States. Whenever practicable, the Secretary shall give notice Notice, hearing
to any person against whom an action for injunctive relief is con- °pp°'''""ity*
templated and afford him an opportunity to present his views, and
except in the case of knowing and willful violation, shall afford him
a reasonable opportunity to achieve compliance. The failure to give
notice and afford such opportunity does not preclude the granting of
appropriate relief.
SEC. 87. (a) The Secretary shall prescribe a uniform vessel casualty
reporting system for vessels subject to this Act, including those otherwise
exempted by paragraphs (1), (8), and (4) of section 4(c).
(b) A State vessel numbering system and boating safety program
approved under this Act shall provide for the reporting of casualties
and accidents involving vessels. A State shall compile and transmit to state reports
the Secretary reports, information, and statistics on casualties atnd '° secretary.
accidents reported to it.
(c) A vessel casualty reporting system shall provide for the report- . ^^'^^ casuaiing
of all marine casualties involving vessels indicated in subsection
(a) of this section and resulting in the death of any person. Marine
casualties which do not result in loss of life shall be classified
according' to the gravity thereof, giving consideration to the extent
of the injuries to persons, the extent of property damage, the dangers
which casualties create, and the size, occupation or use, and the means
of propulsion of the boat involved. Regulations shall prescribe the
casualties to be reported and the manner of reporting.
(d) The owner or operator of a boat or vessel indicated in subsection
(a) of this section and involved in a casualty or accident shall
report the casualty or accident to the Secretary in accordance with
regulations prescribed under this section unless he is required to
report to a State under a State system approved under this Act.
(e) The Secretary shall collect, analyze, and publish reports, Reports and
• ^ ,• J. x- !• i J.1 -/i 1 r. T 1 -I recommendations,
miormation, or statistics together with such nndmgs and recommenda- publication.
tions as he considers appropriate. If a State accident reporting system
provides that information derived from accident reports, other than
statistical, shall be unavailable for public disclosure, or otherwise prohibits
use by the State or any person in any action or proceeding
against an individual, the Secretary may utilize the information or
material furnished by a State only in like manner.
SEC. 38. There is authorized to be appropriated amounts as may be
necessary to administer the provisions of this Act.
75-432 O - 72 - 17
70 Stat. 154;
72 Stat. 1756
46 u s e 527,
527a, 527e, 527h
46 u s e 526u.
228 PUBLIC LAW 92.75-AUG. 10, 1971 [85 STAT.
SEC. 39. The Secretary may issue regulations necessary or appropriate
to carry out the purposes of this Act.
SEC. 40i Compliance with this Act or standards, regulations, or
orders promulgated hereunder shall not relieve any person from liability
at common law or under State law.
Repeals. gjj^^ ^^^ ^^'^ rj,^^ followiug are repealed:
(1) Section 7, as amended, and sections 13 and 14 of the Motorboat
Act of 1940, Public Law 76-484, April 25, 1940 (54 Stat.
. _ 165);
46 use 526f, (2) The Federal Boating Act of 1958, Public Law 85-911,
5 26j.j26m.^^ September 2, 1958 (72 Stat. 1754), except subsections 6(b) and
note. 6(c) thereof;
(3) The Act of March 28, 1960, Public Law 86-396 (74 Stat.
46USC526U. 10); a ud
(4) The Act of August 30,1961, Public Law 87-171 (75 Stat.
(b) Subsection (c) of section 6 of the Federal Boating Act of 1958,
September 2,1958 (72 Stat. 1754), is amended to read as follows:
'Vc) Such Act of April 25, 1940 (46 U.S.C. 526-526t), is further
amended by adding at the end thereof the following new section:
" ' S EC 22. (a) This Act applies to every motorboat or vessel on the
navigable waters of the United States, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, and
every motorboat or vessel owned in a State and using the high seas,
except that the provisions of this Act other than sections 12, 18, and
19 do not apply to boats as defined in and subject to the Federal Boat
Safety Act of 1971.
" ' (b) As used in this Act—
"^*^*^"" " 'The term "State" means a State of the United States, Guam, the
Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of
(c) Any vessel, to the extent that it is subject to the Small Passenger
Carrying Vessel Act, May 10, 1956 (70 Stat. 151), or to any
other vessel inspection statute of the United States, is exempt from the
provisions of this Act.
(d) Nothing contained in this Act shall be deemed to exempt from
the antitrust laws of the United States any conduct that would be
unlawful under such laws, or to prohibit under the antitrust laws
of the United States any conduct that would be lawful under such
(e) Regulations previously issued under statutory provisions
repealed, modified, or amended by this Act continue in effect as though
promulgated under the authority of this Act until expressly abrogated,
modified, or amended by the Secretary under the regulatory authority
of this Act.
(f) Any criminal or civil penalty proceeding under the Motorboat
54 Stat. 163. ^Q^ of 1940, as amended, or the Federal Boating Act of 1958, as
72 Stat. 175*4. amended, for a violation which occurred before the effective date of
46 use 5 27 this Act may be initiated and continue to conclusion as though the
former Acts had not been amended or repealed hereby.
Approved August 10, 1971.

So after reading that, now look at the information I received from Boat US.
From Boat US: Backfire Flame Arrestor

With some minor and technical exceptions, every inboard gasoline engine must be equipped with an acceptable means of backfire flame control-or "flame arrestor." This safety device prevents an exhaust backfire from causing an explosion. It operates by absorbing heat. Flame arrestors no longer require Coast Guard approval; the USCG now accepts flame arrestors complying with Underwriters Laboratories Standard 1111 or Society of Automotive Engineers J1928. When in use flame arrestors must be secured to the air intake of the carburetor with an airtight connection. Elements must be clean, and grids must be tight enough to prevent flames passing through. Cleaning with soap and water is the best way to maintain its effectiveness.

Example of boating regulations, (TWRA Example), which has similar if not identical reference to engine intake backfire control, which is somewhat relevant but not directly applicable to other ignition protected devices such as starters, alternators, distributors, pumps, fans, etc. because those are not gasoline fueled and subject to backfire flame.

One person I spoke with said that the regulations for new boats are quite clear, but ten minutes after you buy the boat you can basically put whatever you want to onto it, as long as it is for your own use; and it was implied but not stated, that you naturally avoid blatant use of automotive parts.
The issue I see is with insurance companies who may require a certification

Boat US representative said, “we generally rely on ABYC standards”, which we agreed many of which are for new boats. “I can not imagine we would take issue with anyone who decided to use an upgraded part for safety or reliability.” The individual mentioned they had looked at hundreds of cases, some of which were electronic systems that were past their “sell by” date, but nothing specific like this for our older boats. I explained that the old “crab caps” (flat style distributor caps) were a weak link in the old motors and that if you were out in the main shipping channel with that old equipment and you could not get your boat started it would be a serious safety issue, and this person agreed. I mentioned the new units are more reliable than the old equipment and this was understood, with no issue taken.

I then contacted ABYC and was advised that all the boat and engine manufacturers basically knew what to do with new boats. I mentioned the tens of thousands of vintage boats out there with the old style ignition and flat caps, that were actually a safety issues if they were unreliable, and they agreed an upgrade to a newer modern-day system would be a safety improvement, and took no issue with that. The SAE J1294 standard was referenced, along with the same flame arrestor provisions everyone else was familiar with. SAE J 1294 is a “Recommended Practice” that covers distributors used on marine engines, to provide recommendations and guidelines for the evaluation, design, and testing of distributors to be used on marine engines. Therefore, there are numerous ways for a manufacturer to produce a marine product and be in full compliance with recommendations and requirements.

Electronic ignition and 4 stroke issues became issues sometime in the late 1980s?

During my internet search and phone call follow up with actual humans, I found the following information published by USCG on the Jamestown Distributors page.

United States Coast Guard Electrical Requirements for Recreational Boats

technical article from Blue Sea Systems
Recreational Vessels Electrical Requirements
By Captain Tony Ford USCG (Ret.)

Note: This paper is a summary of the Coast Guard regulations for electrical systems on recreational boats and those carrying less than 6 passengers for hire. Readers should not use this document as a compliance guideline and check the prime source - the regulations. There are three classes of Uninspected Vessels - Recreational, Fishing and Towing. Coast Guard officials do not look at fishing and towing vessels during their construction.
Recreational vessels and vessels carrying 6 or less passengers for hire may be covered by manufacturer standards. The Coast Guard has contracted with private companies for a nationwide Recreational Boat Factory Visit Program (RBFV). Qualified contractors will contact and visit recreational boat manufacturers and have been doing so since early 2001. The visits are intended to help manufacturers understand and comply with the standards but if they see violations, the representatives will make reports to the Coast Guard.
Electrical System Standards
Electrical standards are required on all boats, regardless of size, "..that have gasoline engines for electrical or mechanical propulsion, except outboard engines." If there is a gasoline engine on an inboard or inboard-outboard that is used as a generator or for propulsion, the boat must meet these standards.
Ignition Protection - Electrical components must be ignition protected if they are in a compartment with a gasoline engine or fuel tank. Inspectors will look for proof in the form of labeling. If the component is not labeled, the inspector generally will accept a statement in the manufacturer's catalog. If the component is isolated from the fuel source, ignition protection is not required. The regulations go to some length to define isolation.
It is noted, this is a summary written by Tony Ford, and not a “regulation” per se. Any USCG inspector coming aboard my boat looking at distributors, will either see an old crab style obsolete cap, which has no stamp of any kind, or a new unit that is clearly labled as a MARINE unit. At that point, I would not anticipate any issue what-so-ever according to the officials in Washington I spoke with.

Ignition-Protection Test for Marine Products UL 1500
1 Scope 1.1 This test procedure covers the basic test methods for determining ignition protection and is not to be considered as a test standard that will determine the acceptability of a product or component for use in marine service. The acceptability of a product or component in the intended application is judged in accordance with applicable requirements and tests for that component or product. 1.2 This test procedure does not cover explosion proof or intrinsically safe equipment as required by the U. S. Coast Guard and applied to U. S. Coast Guard inspected vessels or as defined in the National Electrical Code, ANSI/NFPA No. 70. 1.3 Products and components classified as ignition protected are intended to be installed and used in accordance with the applicable requirements to the U. S. Coast Guard, the Fire Protection Standard for Pleasure and Commercial Motor Craft, ANSI/NFPA No. 302, and the American Boat and Yacht Council, Inc. 1.4 This test procedure does not cover ignition protection procedures for products or components that may operate in hydrogen and air mixtures. 1.5 This test procedure does not cover: a) Mechanisms of ignition from external sources, such as static electricity, lightning, or other factors not related to the apparatus under test; b) Apparatus based on the use of high voltage electrostatic principles; c) The deterioration of external wiring; or d) Connections installed in accordance with applicable installation standards. 1.6 A product that contains features, characteristics, components, materials, or systems new or different from those covered by the requirements in this Standard, and that involves a risk of fire, electric shock, or injury to persons shall be evaluated using the appropriate additional component and end-product requirements as required to maintain the level of safety as originally anticipated by the intent of this Standard. A product whose features, characteristics, components, materials, or systems conflict with specific requirements or provisions of this Standard is not judged to comply with this Standard. Where appropriate, revision of requirements are proposed and adopted in conformance with the methods employed for development, revision, and implementation of this Standard.

183.410 Ignition protection. (a) Each electrical component must not ignite a propane gas and air mixture that is 4.25 to 5.25 percent propane gas by volume surrounding the electrical component when it is operated at each of its manufacturer rated voltages and current loadings, unless it is isolated from gasoline fuel sources, such as engines, and valves, connections, or other fittings in vent lines, fill lines, distribution lines or on fuel tanks, in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section
From NFPA 302 "1.5 Equivalency. Nothing in this standard shall prevent the use of systems, methods, or devices of equivalent or superior quality, strength, fire resistance, effectiveness, durability, and safety in place of those required by the standard, provided that technical documentation is submitted to the authority having jurisdiction to demonstrate equivalency" and "5.9* Distributors. Ignition distributors shall conform to UL 1500, Standard for Safety Ignition¬Protection Test for Marine Products."

So here we are, after all that time searching and calling around, not one single comment of a concern about a waterproof product manufactured in the United States with a built in flame arrestor, and a sticker on top declaring it was a Marine distributor.

There was nobody I spoke with willing to take any issue with that. However, more than one person I corresponded with over the years said they called the manufacturer, and the manufacturer said their unit did not have a USCG stamp on it, was not USCG certified per se, but was built in accordance with the required standards, or something like that. THAT appears to be perfectly legal, and the fact that they have been doing it for 30+ years must say something.

For someone to call the manufacturer and hear that, and then take it upon themselves to bad-mouth the product being produced and spread it around on boating web sites, suggesting or outright saying it is either dangerous or liabilous, is not trusting the manufacturer to build their product in compliance with requirements, and is in my opinion, may be incurring some slanderous liability upon themselves. I have tried to find “anyone” who will take issue with the new style HEI one-wire, waterproof distributors we have been discussing here on The Forum, and after contacting numerous top officials in the USCG, ABYC, Boat US, and doing my own research all I can find are a few guys who appear to be repeating things they’ve heard on the docks, and don’t have anything to actually back it up.

So in closing, if you buy an aftermarket distributor and plug it in and blow yourself up, it’s your own fault because this information I have provided here is not a recommendation, it is information I have found that I am sharing, so you must make decisions on your own boat, with your own money, yourself.

This is the end of my report



This message has been edited by FEfinaticP on Sep 18, 2017 3:46 PM

 Respond to this message   
Ron Zick
(Login rzick)


September 19 2017, 12:01 AM 

Thanks Paul. That is some rather thorough research.

Common sense prevails once again.

I find it somewhat amusing that some people would think that the old original equipment would be less of an ignition hazard than the current well designed newer technology.

A cracked or leaky crab cap system would be much more of an ignition hazard in an engine room than almost anything manufactured today in addition to all of the reliability issues that the old crab caps have..

The conversion kits for the old distributors are not also without their combustion ignition issues when combined with the seemingly preferred high voltage coils. I suspect a lot of these boat owners would be shocked if they fired their engines up in the dark and watched the spark show from all of the high voltage leakage in their old style of distributors.

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Steven F.
(Login lucid484)

Re: Thanks

September 19 2017, 9:21 AM 

Agreed, Thanks for all the research and information! There was so much misinformation going around I didn't know what was true and what was untrue. I have learned and continue to learn so much from this site!

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(no login)

A learning experience

September 19 2017, 10:06 AM 

I agree Steven, I have also learned so much from this site, it's the sharing of information that is so great. I have had to deal with so many building specifications and agency codes over the years, I always like to verify things instead of trying to go by memory. In architecture if you go by memory it can get pretty expensive.

On one project in California many years ago, we won the job from Nashville (I as an architect working for a development firm as the overall development project manager), and we hired an Atlanta firm to produce the architectural documents for us, and when the building was finished the local inspectors would not approve it because the Atlanta firm designed to NFPA-101, which is sort of a universal building code with regards to distance to stairs, fire seperations, etc., but in California they don't recognize NFPA-101 because they have their own code that addresses a higher earthquake risk. Come to find out, with six weeks left before opening date, we had to go in and build fire walls from the ground floor all the way to the roof, at two positions on each floor, segregating the building into three fire zones per floor to establish a "horizontal exit equivalency", because as it turned out, the stairs at each end of the building were not wide enough to meet the code. lol What a mess that was, and yes, the Errors and Omissions insurance policy kicked in for that firm who did the work.

Based on a few experiences like that over the years, I never try to memorize or "remember" the codes, I always look them up and read them. There are so many variations.

Reading the code is one thing, but asking the officials who enforce the codes for an interpretation is another thing and good policy. They know the codes better than anyone else and they know the loopholes, equivalencies, and what they will or will not approve, and what happens in the real world.

The other thing that is so important with codes and inspections, as long as we're on the topic, is the fact that during a building inspection, if a code inspector misses something in his walk-through inspection and it is a code requirement, that does not obsolve the designer/contractor/owner from meeting that code because it is still a requirement.

On a boat if you were inspected and the inspector missed a code violation, you are still liable for it especially if you knew about it and did not fix it. Naturally, we do not EVER suggest subverting any code or regulation.

With these distributors and all marine equipment, it is against the codes and very bad policy to use automotive equipment in a boat, like carburetors, fuel pumps, starters, distributors, etc. As Ron Zick so aptly pointed out, the old equipment is pretty obsolete these days, and I can only imagine how many sparks my starboard 427 was tossing around when it had the popping fit years ago with a bad ground or whatever it was with the ignition. In addition, the 427 manual gives strict instructions to be sure you do NOT let plug wire 7 and 8 touch, because they fire sequentially and that can cause detonation and popping (in which case there must be one heck of an induction spark there too). Upgraded equipment for reliability makes a lot of sense, especially when I remember how many times I had a negative experience trying to make the motors run properly, and the hot spark helps an older engine get good combustion.

There are a variety of upgrade distributors on the market. The DUI system is one I am familiar with because it was the only marine unit I could find for the FE Ford motors, but some of the other guys have had very good results with other systems on GM motors too. I noticed on their literature the other day, they have a smaller unit for areas where the big chunk won't fit, but I don't know if that comes in a marine package or not.


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thank you

September 19 2017, 11:07 AM 


you're a better man than i for running the gauntlet of bureaucracies. you might remember i made the switch near the end of last year so i'm over a year in.
i should have done it 10 years ago. what a difference. push the button, they start and run till you turn them off. the peace of mind is priceless.

"SALTY" 1973 hatteras aft cabin

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(Premier Login FEfinaticP)

Glad to hear good news anytime !

September 19 2017, 11:36 AM 

Hey Jim, I am really glad to hear someone has benefited from making this change, and I appreciate the good news. I also wish I had done it ten years earlier than I did, it is the biggest benefit to a vintage engine I can think of, because the ignition is the weak link in the system. It's not the pistons, crankshaft, engine block, valve train, cylinder heads,'s the obsolete tractor-grade flat cap, coil, etc., and I think that cap was originally designed for the 1932 Ford or a Ford tractor. In any case, glad to hear you are seeing good running in your boat.


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