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
"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 www.vesselsafetycheck.org to locate a vessel
examiner near you. For more information about boating safety, visit
www.uscgboating.org, or call the Coast Guard Infoline at 1-800-368-5647.