Whether you’ve had your boat for a while or you just bought your first boat, a free coast guard vessel safety check can save you heartache and maybe just save your like and that of your loved ones. Just about any place you boat be it on inland lakes or rivers or along the coastline there will be a local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit available to perform a free vessel safety check on your boat. No matter the size or location the USCG Auxiliary team will come to your boat free of charge and inspect your boat.

Who is the USCG Auxiliary

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary was established in 1939 by Congress not just for the sole purpose of performing vessel safety checks but to operate:
•Safety and Security Patrols
•Search and Rescue
•Mass Casualty or Disasters
•Pollution Response & Patrols
•Homeland Security
•Recreational Boating Safety
•Commercial Fishing and Vessel Exams
•Platforms for Boarding Parties
•Recruit for all service in the Coast Guard

In addition to the above, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary operates in any mission as directed by the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard or Secretary of Homeland Security. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is made up of civilians who use their own boats in the performance of their duties.

Why Do I Need a Coast Guard Vessel Safety Check?
If you are ever stopped by local marine law enforcement or the actual U.S. Coast Guard they will want to inspect your boat for compliance with State and Federal rules and regulations. A vessel safety check will ensure you are ready and will successfully pass their inspection. A vessel safety check is conducted to observe the following items are in compliance with USCG rules and regulations including:
•Life Jackets
•Registration and numbering
•Navigation lights
•Ventilation
•Fire extinguishers
•Distress signals (flares, horn, etc.)
•Battery cover and connections
All of these items are currently required by state and federal laws and, if missing or non-operating, can result in a citation if your vessel is inspected by the Coast Guard.

What are the Requirements to satisfy a Coast Guard Vessel Safety Check?
Life Jackets – The size of your boat will determine the quantity of life jackets you will want to have onboard but the bottom line is there must be one for each person onboard. To meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, a boat must have a U.S. Coast Guard Approved life jacket for each person aboard. Boats 16 feet and over must have at least one Type IV Throwable device as well.

Life Jackets come in various styles but all must be U.S. Coast Guard approved for use. All states have requirements regarding life jacket wear for children. These regulations, particularly the age at which it is no longer required for a young child to wear a life jacket at all times while onboard vary by state. To check what is appropriate for your area here is a link to let you check by state:
http://www.boatus.org/life-jacket-loaner/staterequirements.asp

Even if you are of an age that you are not required to constantly wear a life jacket while onboard it is a best practice to always know where the life jackets are stored on your boat and to let everyone onboard know the location and how to use them. Children’s like jackets are designed differently than those for adults. A child’s life jacket is designed to keep their head above water not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through.

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