The most cautious boaters can sometimes experience unexpected problems on the water. That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that all recreational boaters, including personal watercraft and paddle sport users, take advantage of the free Vessel Safety Check program every year.

The courtesy Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is performed at your boat – whether in a slip, at the launch ramp, or in your driveway – by a certified Vessel Examiner, at a mutually-convenient time, and usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending upon the size of your boat. All certified Vessel Safety Examiners (VSE) are members of either the United State Power Squadron or the USCG Auxiliary.

What’s In it For Me?

Boats that pass the examination are awarded a distinctive VSC Decal that alerts the Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol, and other law-enforcement agencies that your boat was found to be in full compliance with all Federal and State boating laws. Frequently, such agencies will not detain or board boats displaying a current-year decal that are otherwise operating safely.

What If I Don’t Pass?

If your boat does not pass, no report is filed. Instead, you are provided a written report that aids you in correcting any discrepancies noted. Often, a quick trip to the local marine chandlery is all that is necessary to obtain missing safety items and easily pass a re-inspection. And if you show your examiner-signed VSC report, you may receive a discount on your missing or discrepant items.  West Marine offers coupons.

Why Do This?

In a word – safety. You are left with the peace of mind that your boat meets minimum safety standards and that in an emergency, you will have the necessary equipment to save lives and summon help. Additionally, you will avoid substantial fines should you ever be boarded by law enforcement and found to be in violation. A boarding by the U.S. Coast Guard is a totally different experience if you have a VSC Decal.  In fact displaying a VSC Decal greatly reduces the likelihood of a Coast Guard boarding.  Finally, your insurance rates may be lowered – check with your agent.

Where Can I Get More Information?

If you want to see whether or not your vessel could pass a VSC, you can take a Virtual Vessel Safety Check by clicking here. The Bellingham Sail and Power Squadron as well as the Bellingham and Blaine Flotillas U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary have multiple VSE’s available.  Whether you use the Power Squadron or U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary the examination is identical.  You can contact them at via their website shown below.

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