Get a Vessel Safety Check before boating season
A preseason ritual for many North American recreational boaters, Vessel Safety Checks have become part of the spring commissioning process. Vessel exams have been available at no cost for many years from United States Power Squadrons, America’s Boating Club, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
How Vessel Safety Checks work
Vessel examiners are experienced boaters with specialized training in vessel exam requirements and procedures. They must pass a rigorous test and complete a series of exams under the supervision of a certified examiner before performing Vessel Safety Checks on their own.
During a vessel exam, examiners look for the critical items the U.S. Coast Guard requires on all recreational boats, from stand-up paddleboards to 65-foot yachts. If it floats, it can be checked. You can do a virtual VSC beforehand, which includes 15 required items plus a list of optional items. Some things may not apply to your boat.
A vessel exam normally takes 40 to 60 minutes to complete and gives you a chance to revisit where your safety equipment is stored, what you have and whether anything needs replacing, like an outdated set of flares. You can also ask the volunteer vessel examiner about related items not be on the list.
When you request a VSC, include the boat’s location, and the system will notify examiners within a 20-mile radius. An examiner will contact you to schedule a vessel exam.
If your boat has everything needed to meet requirements, the vessel examiner will affix a decal on your boat signifying that your boat was properly equipped during the Vessel Safety Check.
What happens if your boat doesn’t pass?
If your boat doesn’t pass, it won’t receive a decal. However, you’ll know what items to correct to keep your boat and passengers safe. There’s no penalty or fine for not passing an exam. Once you’ve corrected the safety deficiencies, you can request another exam. Be forewarned: The Coast Guard can board your boat to conduct a Vessel Safety Check at any time, even if it has a current decal. The Coast Guard often does this to train new personnel. If your boat is boarded and deficiencies are found, you could receive a citation or fine. –Jeff McKinney, manager of the USPS VSC program
Feel at home on the water
Learn to boat with confidence by taking the Boat Handling course online from America’s Boating Club.