Getting a Vessel
Safety Check Means Boating Smart
By Wayne Spivak and Robert Daraio - United States Coast Guard
It is a known fact that safe
boats do save lives. For recreational boaters, operating any size or type of
boat, safety should be an all-important part of the boating experience. In
addition to wearing lifejackets and completing a boating safety course,
getting an annual Vessel Safety Check of your boat is an ideal way to boat
smart from the start.
What is a Vessel Safety Check? A Vessel Safety
Check (VSC) is a free courtesy check of your boat (vessel) to verify
the presence and condition of specific safety equipment required by Federal,
state and local regulations. A Vessel Examiner is a certified member of the
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and/or the U.S. Power Squadrons who is trained to
conduct a VSC. He or she will perform the VSC on your boat, discuss the
purpose and value of required and optional marine safety equipment, answer
any boating related safety questions, and make recommendations that will
help make you a safer boater. In addition to boating safety education, some
important new Homeland Security rules for boaters are discussed.
�A VSC is a public service intended to serve
as prevention through education. It is also intended to help recreational
boaters gain a respect for the boating environment,� says Peter Urgola,
Department Chief of Vessel Examination for the Auxiliary. �What the boater
will receive is a copy of the safety check and basic evaluation so that the
boater can learn about safety equipment, safety precautions, and follow some
of the suggestions for a safe outing.�
It is important to note that a VSC usually
takes about 20-30 minutes to perform, is totally voluntary, is not a
boarding or a law enforcement action, and there are no citations ever given
as a result. Boats that �pass� a VSC will receive a distinctive VSC decal,
which is displayed on your boat. �The decal does not exempt the boater from
a law enforcement boarding, but it does indicate that the boat has received
a Vessel Safety Check and will better prepare the operator for a more
positive encounter should he or she get boarded by a law enforcement
officer,� says Urgola.
Obtaining a VSC has some great benefits.
According to Urgola, passing a VSC will qualify the boat for a discount from
some participating marine insurance companies. Additionally, if your
boat does not pass the VSC, you can receive discounts on missing or
replacement boating safety equipment items. Simply take a copy of the VSC
report to the nearest participating retailer, purchase those items, and
return to get another VSC completed.
A VSC can be a valuable
learning experience for the boater while providing some extra safety tips.
For example, putting plastic covers on boat battery terminals, carrying a
VHF marine radio, filing a float plan, de-watering devices, anchor and
lines, and carrying a toolkit and first aid kit are just a few.
Before venturing out on the
water each time, it is always a good idea to discuss safety and safe
operation procedures with your passengers. Fit each passenger with their
lifejackets making sure they are fit and snug. Then, locate and discuss the
operation of various safety items such as fire extinguishers, VHF radio,
flashlights, first aid kits, and life lines.
How do you obtain and
schedule a local Vessel Safety Check in your area? This year, from May 20th
through July 9th, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons
will be promoting its annual Vessel Safety Check Mega Weeks, where Vessel
Examiners will set up VSC stations in your area.
To contact a Vessel Examiner directly go to
www.vesselsafetycheck.org and click the �I
Want A VSC� button. You will also find a wealth of boating safety
information and more information about VSCs located there.
You can obtain additional
information about the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, boating safety education,
and Vessel Safety Checks, and can locate a flotilla unit nearest you, by
and going to the �visitors� section.
Wearing lifejackets, taking
a boating safety course, boating sober, and getting an annual Vessel Safety
Check are important points that will make you a safer boater and a more
confident skipper. More importantly, these behaviors and routine practices
will help save lives. Perhaps it is true that, �An ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure.� Nevertheless, your family and friends will enjoy
themselves knowing your boat has all the appropriate safety gear, is
operating safely, and that you are a responsible boater. They will thank you
for it, too.
For more information about
boating safety from the Coast Guard and Federal boating requirements, visit
Command - Boat responsibly and Boat Smart From the Start � Get A Vessel