The Coast Guard and Marine Police have a responsibility to assist in keeping boaters safe. One of the ways they go about this is to verify that you have all the equipment on board for the safety of your family, friends and fellow boaters. Experience has shown that without the basic safety equipment aboard, boaters can experience tragic results before assistance can arrive on scene. So when members of the Coast Guard ask to board your boat, they are just checking to insure that you have the minimum amount of safety equipment on board to help you survive a bad event.
Things happen fast on the water and you can get into a situation that is not your fault. Someone not paying attention can hit you, a sudden leak could occur, or your electronics go out and a fog bank is quickly forming – all situations that might require you to fend for yourself for quite awhile before help arrives.
To get boaters’ attention and make them realize the seriousness of failing to have the proper safety equipment aboard, serious penalties can be imposed if you do not carry this equipment. Fines can be hefty or a good day can be ruined because you are forced to return to your dock (under escort) for failing an inspection.
Pat Hogan and Billy Ingram discussing fire extinguishers at a recent Vessel Safety Day at Ingram Bay Marina.
However, the Coast Guard Auxiliary has a program that offers free safety checks to all boaters and includes a check of all safety equipment that you are required to have on board. The big difference is that there are no fines if you do not have everything required. You may fail the free inspection, but it gives you the opportunity to get what you need and get reinspected – again for free and with no penalty.
Many Auxiliary members have been qualified to provide the free Vessel Safety Check on boats and PWCs. If you see an Auxiliarist at a Public Launch Ramp or at a marina, take advantage of a free safety check. Otherwise, you can call Pat Hogan, (804-435-1419) Flotilla 33’s VSC Officer and make an appointment for an examiner to come to your house or dock. Boats and PWCs can be inspected in the water or on a trailer.