Chris Edmonston: Hi! My name is Chris Edmonston, President of the BoatUS Foundation. With the new boating season upon us, now it's a great time for you as a boat-owner to make sure that your boat is ready for the upcoming season. A perfect way to do that is to get a Vessel Safety Check.
A Vessel Safety Check or VSC is a completely free inspection of your vessel that will help you ensure that your boat has all the gear you will need out on the water. Some gear that will be inspected includes Personal Floatation Devices or PFDs. Acceptable PFDs also known as Life Jackets must be Coast Guard approved in good serviceable condition and of suitable size for each person on the boat.
Children must have probably fitted life jackets designed specifically for them. Throwable life jackets shall be readily accessible. Throwable devices shall be immediately available. Life jackets shall not be stored in unopened plastic packaging. For personal watercraft riders life jacket must be worn and indicate an impact rating. About 16 feet or longer must also have one Type IV throwable device.
Another item to be checked are Visual Distress Signals. Recreational boats 16 feet never use on coastal waters or the Great Lakes are required to carry a minimum of either three day and night pyrotechnic devices, one day non-pyrotechnic device, such as a flag, and one night non-pyrotechnic device such as an auto SOS light or a combination of any of the above.
Recreational boats less than 16 feet on coastal waters or the Great Lakes need only carry night visual distress signals when operating from sunset to sunrise. It is recommended, but not required, that boats operating on inland waters should have some means of making a suitable day and night distress signal.
The number and type of signals is best judged by considering conditions under which the boat will be operating. Alternatives to pyrotechnic devices such as flares include for night strobe lights, a flashlight or a lantern.
For daytime use you can use a signal mirror, red or orange flags or hand signals.
Fire extinguishers will also be checked. Extinguishers are required if one of the following conditions exists. If you have inboard engines, closed compartments that store portable fuel tanks, double-bottom hulls not completely sealed or not completely filled with flotation materials, a closed living space, closed stowage compartments that contain flammable materials or permanently installed fuel tanks.
One note: Fire extinguishers must be readily accessible and varied as serviceable.
Those are just a few of the safety items, you will need on board to pass a Vessel Safety Check.