The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free
to boaters who wish to be sure that their boats meet all federal and
state requirements. The Vessel Examiners who
these checks are specially trained Auxiliarists who are kept informed on
the latest legal requirements for boaters. Vessel
Examiners have no legal authority - their goal is to prevent boaters
from getting equipment-related citations and to prevent
safety-related accidents. These safety checks are meant to
educational experience. The Vessel Examiners will check for all
required items on board your boat and if everything is present
and in good working order they will award a decal to affix to
your boat. If you wish, they will also gladly explain the reason
for the various safety equipment requirements and explain how
safety equipment works. The following is an explanation
of each item included in a Vessel Safety Check:
1. NUMBERING: The
boat’s registration number must be permanently attached to each side of
forward half of the boat. They must be plain, vertical,
block characters, not less than three (3) inches high, and in a color
contrasting with the background. A space or hyphen must
separate the letters from the numbers. Place state tax sticker
according to state policy. (e.g. OH 1234 AB or OH-1234-AB)
or documentation papers must be on board and available. Documentation
numbers must be permanently marked on a
part of the interior structure. The documented boat’s name
hailing port must be displayed on the exterior hull in letters not
less than 4 inches in height. To be documented a boat
must be 5 net tons or greater.
Acceptable PFDs (also known as Life Jackets) must be U.S. Coast Guard
in good serviceable condition, and of suitable size for the
each person on the boat. Children must have properly
fitted PFDs designed for children. Wearable PFDs shall be
"readily accessible." Throw able devices shall be "immediately
PFDs shall NOT be stored in unopened plastic
packaging. For Personal Watercraft riders, the PFD must
be worn and indicate an impact rating. Boats 16 feet or longer
must also have one Type IV.
All recreational boats used on coastal waters or the Great Lakes are
required to carry a minimum of three Coast Guard approved
(current dated) day and night visual distress signals. Some
signals (e.g. red flares) can serve for both day and
night. Boats operating on inland waters should have some means of
making a suitable day and night distress signal. The
number and type of Visual Distress Signals is best judged by
considering conditions under which the boat will be
operating. Alternatives to pyrotechnic devices (flares) include:
5. FIRE EXTINGUISHERS:
Every power boat requires a minimum of one Coast Guard approved "B-1"
extinguisher. Only row boats and sailboats less than 16
feet with no mechanical propulsion are exempt. NOTE: Fire
extinguishers must be readily accessible and
one B-1 and 1 B-2
gasoline engines in closed compartments, built after 1 August 1980
must have a powered ventilation system. Those built prior
to that date must have natural or powered ventilation. Boats with
closed fuel tank compartments built after 1 August 1978 must
meet requirements by displaying a "certificate of compliance."
Boats built before that date must have either natural or
powered ventilation in the fuel tank compartment.
7. BACKFIRE FLAME ARRESTER:
All gasoline powered inboard/outboard or inboard motor boats must be
equipped with an approved backfire flame control device.
8. SOUND PRODUCING DEVICES:
To comply with Navigation Rules and for distress signaling purposes all
boats must carry a sound producing device (whistle, horn,
siren, etc.) capable of a 4-second blast audible for 1/2 mile.
Boats larger than 39.4 ft. are also required to have a bell
(see Navigation Rules).
9. NAVIGATION LIGHTS:
All boats must be able to display navigation lights between sunset and
sunrise and in conditions of reduced visibility. Boats 16
feet or more in length must have properly installed, working navigation
lights and an all - around anchor light capable of being lit
independently from the red/green/white "running" lights.
10. POLLUTION PLACARD:
Boats 26 feet and over with a machinery compartment must display an
oily waste "pollution" placard.
11. MARPOL TRASH PLACARD:
Boats 26 feet and over in length must display a "MARPOL" trash
placard. Boats 40 feet and over must also display a
written trash disposal plan.
12. MARINE SANITATION
Any installed toilet must be a Coast Guard approved device.
Overboard discharge outlets must be capable of being sealed.
13. NAVIGATION RULES:
Boats 39.4 feet and over must have on board a current copy of the
14. STATE AND LOCAL
These requirements must be met before the "Vessel Safety Check" decal
can be awarded. A boat must meet the requirements of the
state in which it is being examined.
15. OVERALL BOAT
As it applies to this Vessel. Including, but not limited to:
and clean bilge -
The boat must be free from fire hazards, in good overall condition, with
bilges reason-ably clean and visible hull
sound. The use of automobile parts on boat engines is not accept-able.
engine horsepower must not exceed that shown on the capacity plate.
Systems - The
electrical system must be protected by fuses or manual reset circuit
breakers. Switches and fuse panels must be protected from
rain or water spray. Wiring must be in good condition, properly
installed and with no exposed areas or deteriorated
insulation. Batteries must be secured and terminals covered to
prevent accidental arcing. If installed, self-circling or
kill switch mechanism must be in proper working order. All PWC
require an operating self circling or kill switch mechanism.
Fuel Systems - Portable fuel tanks
(normally 7 gallon capacity or less) must be constructed of
non-breakable material and free of corrosion and leaks.
All vents must be capable of being closed. The tank must be secured and
have a vapor-tight, leak-proof cap. Each
tank must be properly ventilated.
Galley and Heating Systems -
System and fuel tanks must be properly secured with no flammable
RECOMMENDED AND DISCUSSION
(Not required for the award of the "Vessel Safety
For the very best boaters, we recommend these
additional items. Meeting these requirements reflects your
for Boating Safety:
line for area
water (PIW) kit (one extra
and a throw able type IV
visual distress signals
Capacity / Cert. of Compliance
Items are educational
in nature and add
value to the Vessel Safety Check program:
reporting / Owner responsibility
charts / Navigation aids
tips / First aid
/ Fuel management
plan / Weather & sea conditions
For more information regarding Vessel Safety
Vessel Safety Check Web Site
Contact: Flotilla Vessel Safety Check Officer
to Home Page
Return to Top
Contact the webmaster
Ed Holliday,FSO/CS 0608
Last Update 01 January 09