Are you a boat owner in Florida? Do you want to ensure that your boat is safe and up to code before you hit the water? If so, you’re in luck.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free Vessel Safety Checks (VSC) to all recreational boaters in Florida. The inspection can help you identify any issues with your boat and ensure that it meets all necessary safety requirements.
Even experienced boaters can benefit from this valuable service.
What to Expect During Your Free Boat Safety Check
Vessel Examiners come to your boat or paddle craft.
Vessel Examiners are from the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons. They are certified by the Coast Guard to perform safety checks. They’ll conduct the boat safety check at your boat – whether it’s in a marina or in your driveway.
It typically takes 15 to 30 minutes.
The Vessel Examiner looks for common safety problems and thoroughly inspects safety equipment. You may be asked to verify that your boat registration is up to date.
- If your boat passes all parts of the vessel check, you will be awarded a VSC decal.
The decal notifies the Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol, and other law enforcement or boating safety agencies that your boat is in compliance for the calendar year (until Dec. 31) of the inspection.
→ Pro-tip: Ask your boat insurance company if you get a discount for earning the decal! Many companies consider it reliable proof of safety compliance, and you may save a few bucks.
- If your boat doesn’t pass, you get off scot-free this time.
These free vessel checks are there to help you get on the road to safety and compliance. If there are any issues or safety violations, you will be notified of each, with a clear explanation of how to correct it. You will not be issued any citations for any safety violations found during the Vessel Safety Check.
You have an opportunity for one-on-one boat safety education.
Coast Guard Auxiliary conducts these free checks to improve boating safety and reduce tragic events on the water. At your safety check, your Vessel Examiner will answer any questions you have and discuss topics such as:
- Survival tips
- How to use each piece of safety equipment
- Boat fuel management
- Interpreting sea conditions
- How to report accidents
Preparing for Your Safety Check
Before you schedule your Vessel Examiner visit, make sure you’ve done your due diligence to prepare:
- Make sure all safety equipment is in good condition and working properly.
- Check the condition of your boat’s hull, engine, and other mechanical systems.
- Make any necessary repairs or upgrades before your safety check.
- Make sure your boat is clean and free of clutter.
- Gather all safety equipment, including life jackets, flares, fire extinguishers, and navigation lights.
Schedule Your Vessel Safety Check With The Coast Guard
- Schedule your VSC with the Coast Guard Aux through the online request form.
- Read more about VSCs on the Coast Guard Auxiliary website. (Bonus: Here’s the checklist that the Vessel Examiner is following.)
Common Violations Found During Boat Safety Checks
Here are some of the most common violations found during safety checks:
- Missing or expired flares
- Inadequate number or type of life jackets
- Missing or expired fire extinguishers
- Non-working navigation lights
- Inoperable horn or other sound-producing device
- Missing or expired distress signals
Fix Violations ASAP
If any safety violations are found during your boat safety check, it’s important to fix them as soon as possible.
- Purchase new safety equipment that meets Coast Guard requirements.
- Install new navigation lights or repair existing ones.
- Replace or repair non-working mechanical systems.
- Attend a boating safety course to learn how to properly use safety equipment.
- Follow any other recommendations given to you by your Vessel Examiner.
Benefits of Passing a Boat Safety Check
Passing has several benefits for boaters, including:
- Peace of mind knowing that your boat is safe and up to code
- Avoiding fines and other penalties for safety violations
- Lowering insurance premiums by demonstrating that your vessel is safe
- Increasing resale value by demonstrating that your boat is in good condition
Other Resources For Boat Safety
In addition to free boat safety checks, there are many other resources available to boaters in Florida to help ensure safe and enjoyable experiences on the water. Consider:
- Boating safety courses: The Coast Guard Auxiliary and Power Squadrons offer courses to help boaters learn about safety equipment, navigation, and other important topics.
- Vessel safety exams: The Coast Guard offers voluntary vessel safety exams to help boaters ensure that their boats meet all requirements for being on the water.
- Boating safety tips: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (at MyFWC.com) provides a wealth of information and resources on boating safety, including tips for safe boating, information on boating laws, and much more.
Boat safety checks are an essential step for all boaters in Florida. They can help ensure that your vessel is safe, up to code, and ready for a fun and worry-free day on the water. By taking advantage of the free boat safety check service offered by the Coast Guard, you can identify any safety issues with your boat and take steps to fix them before hitting the waves this summer. Remember to prepare your boat for the safety check, fix any violations found, and take advantage of other resources available for boating safety. Have safe fun!