Deck the Hulls: Vessel Safety Check

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Post co-authored by Michael Baron, USCG Recreational Boating Safety Specialist.

Looking for the perfect gift for the boater on your holiday list? The holiday season is a perfect time to arm your friends and family with safe boating essentials. No matter what the time or temperature, it is always important to encourage your loved ones to “boat responsibly.” Over the next two weeks the Compass will feature gift-giving ideas that every boating enthusiast will love, but more importantly will keep them safe.

Vessel Safety Check decal
When a Vessel Safety Check is completed and all requirements are met, a decal like the one above will be issued.

A Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is an excellent way to assure your boat, or the boat of someone you love, has the necessary equipment to be safe on the water and could one day save a life. VSCs are provided by qualified examiners from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons or a participating state agency at no cost to the boat owner.

When a vessel meets all the safety requirements a VSC decal indicating a successful check will be issued and proudly displayed. The decal may be small, but it represents a major commitment to boating responsibly.

To find out what you need to pass a VSC, you can click here or here. The gift items listed below are not all inclusive however they represent items that will put a boater well on their way to receiving their VSC decal.

Life jackets:
Coast Guard approved life jackets come in many shapes and sizes, so it’s easy to find one that is comfortable and stylish without sacrificing safety.

Life jackets
Inflatable life jackets are compact, lightweight and comfortable and in some instances have the best in-water performance. A Type III vest is an excellent choice for general use.

Statistics show drowning accounts for as many as 75% of boating fatalities and over 80% of those were because someone was not wearing a life jacket… making a life jacket the “must have” of the holiday – and boating – season.

Life jackets also make a perfect gift for the younger boater in your family, as federal guidelines require all children under 13 to wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket whenever a vessel is underway and they are not below decks or within an enclosed cabin.

Fire extinguisher:
Sadly, fire extinguishers don’t make for very good stocking stuffers. But, not only are fire extinguishers a requirement for many types of vessels, they can save your life when disaster strikes. Even if your favorite boater has a fire extinguisher, make sure you check the expiration date, and that it is in good working order.

Purchasing the right extinguisher can be confusing, because extinguishers are approved for fighting different types of fires. To keep it simple, look for a U. S. Coast Guard approved, marine type fire extinguisher with an official “USCG approval number.” These extinguishers will be handheld and have either a B-1 or B-II classification.

Visual distress signals
Visual distress signals include pyrotechnic style day and night flares, smoke flares, signal flags and electric distress lights.

Visual distress signals:
Visual distress signals may sound elaborate, but in fact, they are a simple and effective means to signal other boaters or responders for help in the event of an emergency.

Federal law only requires certain vessels to carry visual distress signals. Regardless if distress signals are a requirement on your vessel or not, you should consider them for all the boaters on your list.

You can even purchase a watertight case especially designed to keep flares and other distress signals cool and dry so they operate at full capacity should they ever be needed.

The U.S. Coast Guard asks all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to “Boat Responsibly!

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