Now is a Good Time to Get Your Free Vessel Safety Check
By Captain Scott H. Evans
Chief, Office of Boating Safety
United States Coast Guard

Are your fire extinguishers operative and mounted?
Are you displaying all of the numbers and placards required by law?
Is the backfire flame arrestor on your engine working properly?
Are you sure?

Sailors are known for their caution and attention to safety -- but dangerous mechanical problems can crop up on the best-maintained boat. That's why the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters -- including sailors -- take advantage of the free Vessel Safety Check (VSC) program every year. Why not ensure that your boat is in the best shape possible by winterizing it and getting a VSC?

Vessel Safety Checks are provided by experienced members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. They are by far your best way of learning about problems that might put you in violation of state or federal laws or, worse, create danger for you or your passengers on the water.

All you have to do to get a Vessel Safety Check is to contact your local unit of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. A qualified, volunteer Vessel Examiner will meet you at your boat at a prearranged time, any time during the year -- or you may be able to take advantage of a VSC event at a marina, boat ramp, or dealership. A typical Vessel Safety Check takes only about twenty minutes.

The examiner will check the presence and condition of fifteen items required by state and/or federal regulations. The examiner will discuss items that are recommended but not required, and answer your questions on boating safety. At the conclusion of the VSC, you'll receive a copy of the official safety check form and -- if your boat successfully meets all the requirements - your boat will have a VSC decal placed on it.

Again, there's no charge for a VSC -- and vessel examiners do not issue fines or citations. If your boat does not successfully pass the VSC for any reason, you can fix the problem at your own discretion, have an Examiner verify that the item or items have been corrected, then you'll receive your VSC decal. While the VSC decal won't necessarily preclude boardings by law enforcement authorities, it can give you confidence that such encounters are as positive as possible.

Vessel Examiners have found potential life-threatening safety problems even on boats owned by safe, responsible boaters, including:

“Inoperative bilge pumps, leading to potential danger of sinking.
"Lack of proper backfire flame control devices, leading to potential danger of explosion.
"Inoperable fire extinguishers.
"Corroded fuel tanks and fuel lines.
"Automobile parts used on boat engines.
"Missing visual distress signals, or inoperable navigation lights.
"Life jackets not properly sized for children and adults.

If you need one more reason to get a Vessel Safety Check, remember that many insurers offer discounts to boaters who successfully pass a VSC.

Getting a VSC is one more way boat owners and operators can help the Coast Guard prevent accidents and fatalities on the water. That's why we say: You're In Command. Boat Safely!

To get your free Vessel Safety Check, contact your local unit of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, or visit to locate a vessel examiner near you. For more information about boating safety, visit, or call the Coast Guard Infoline at 1-800-368-5647.