Friday, November 24, 2017

Safety is Priceless

April 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

safety first 1

Let’s talk about a great deal — a no-cost, no-risk way to have the equipment and personal protection gear on your watercraft checked to make sure it complies with all applicable standards. There’s no catch beyond taking a half-hour or so to interact with a knowledgeable inspector who’ll also freely share safety tips and suggestions.

safety first 2How do you score such a deal? You request a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) administered by members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or the U.S. Power Squadrons®.

The VSC is available to operators of boats, paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, and jet skis. A trained examiner comes to your vessel to ensure that it has all the necessary safety equipment aboard to pass a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) inspection and that everything is up-to-date and in proper working condition.

With this kind of no-cost, no-risk service available to every boater, you might think that the wait time would be long. But that’s not the case, as many boaters don’t know about the service, or fear there’s a downside fraught with consequences.

Andrew Thurman, Vessel Examiner/Recreational Boating Safety Program Visitor of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary First District Southern Region, was an experienced boater unaware of the service. “I have been on boats for 49 years — since I was an infant. Until four years ago I had never heard of a Vessel Safety Check (I have owned three boats over the years, sailed over 14,000 ocean miles, and hold a USCG 100 ton master captain license).  How was it that I had never heard of this?”

safety first 3Some boaters think they may be inviting risk onto their vessel if they request a VSC, but nothing could be further from the truth. “This is not an official boarding for law purposes,” says U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary spokesperson John J. Gallagher. If you fail, “we don’t tell the cops,” he confirms. “What the boater will receive is a copy of the safety check and a basic evaluation so that the boater can learn about safety equipment, safety precautions, and follow some of the suggestions for a safe outing.”

Gallagher advises that one in four boaters flunk a VSC. The number one reason? “Skippers are ignorant of state and local regulations.” After that, having no visual distress signals aboard and a lack of working navigation lights are common reasons for failure.

There is physical and/or financial peril should a vessel owner decide to ignore an examiner’s recommendations, or if he or she never undergoes a VSC at all. The safety of everyone aboard is incalculable, and “if a boat is boarded by the USCG and the safety equipment required by the state and federal governments is not in compliance, it will result in a citation by the USCG. Citations carry expensive fines,” warns Anthony Carter, 05-03 Flotilla commander, the 2013 Auxiliarist of the Year.

Vincent Pica, assistant national commodore for the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary in Recreational Boating, explains that the VSC is not a casual once-over, but a personalized review of each watercraft.  The VSC is an opportunity for a vessel operator to speak one-on-one with an experienced boater who will share lots of helpful advice. “We give common sense advice about safety and decency to other boaters,” says Pica.

safety first 4For Stevie White, USCG Auxiliary Division 5 public affairs staff officer, the importance of a VSC comes down to being as safe as possible.  “There’s peace of mind knowing that your boat has met the minimum safety standards,” says White, “and that you have the necessary equipment to save lives and to summon help if it’s needed.”

There’s yet another upside to this VSC deal, adds White. “Boats that pass the examination are awarded a distinctive VSC decal that alerts the U.S. Coast Guard, harbor patrol, and other law-enforcement agencies that your boat is in full compliance with all federal and state boating laws.”

Why do the Power Squadrons and Auxiliary members volunteer to do VSCs? Carter says, “We feel if we can save one life by providing the Vessel Safety Check, then it was worth it. Every life is precious.”

Increase your likelihood of passing a real VSC by first going through a VSC online at  Once you believe your boat is in compliance, arrange for an in-person VSC by contacting your local Auxiliary or Power Squadron, or request an examination through this link:

Additional resources for safe boating

Safety Questions

15 Reasons Why Your Boat May Not Pass

New York State Boater’s Guide

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