20 minutes to a safer vessel

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Recreational boaters once again have access to free safety checks as a new season begins

The Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons are again offering free vessel safety checks. The Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters, including PWC operators, have these inspections performed.

A typical VSC takes about 20 minutes and involves an inspector checking the presence and condition of 15 items required by state and/or federal regulations. The inspector goes over a list of items that are recommended but not required, and answers any safety questions boaters might have. Inspectors also can direct novice boaters to boating safety courses.

“This program of free vessel safety checks serves not only to inform the boater as to whether or not they have the correct safety equipment on board and that the boat’s equipment is in a safe condition, but also serves as a one-on-one discussion about boating safety,” says Joseph L. Barcelo, chief of the Auxiliary’s National Department of Vessel Examination and Marine Dealer Visitation.

All participants receive a copy of the official safety check form, and those whose boats meet all requirements will receive a VSC decal. If a boat fails to meet the requirements, the owner can fix any problems at his or her discretion and have an inspector verify corrections. The owner then will receive a VSC decal good for that calendar year.

One of the important items the inspector will check is whether the state registration numbers are correctly displayed on the forward portion of the boat. “In today’s Homeland Security environment, the quick, accurate identification of any boat can be a critical issue,” says Barcelo.

In addition to potentially saving lives and providing confidence that any boardings by law enforcement will go as smoothly as possible, a successful vessel safety check may also qualify a boater for a discount on insurance.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons perform about 200,000 VSCs each year. A number of states also have been authorized to provide this free service. For more information or to meet with an examiner for a free vessel safety check, contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary unit or Power Squadron, or visit www.vesselsafetycheck.org.