Boating Safety

Recreational boats come in all sizes. They travel up and down the coasts, across the Great Lakes, and on many inland waters. What do they have in common? Their operators, who each need to take responsibility to transport their passengers safely while working with and around the boats they encounter.

Your Responsibilities According to the U.S. Coastal Guard
Understanding boating safety is a must. Boating safety certification is mandatory in many states and a good idea for all boat operators.

* Keep a clear forward view, scanning across the water
* Keep your boat maintained with clean bilges; eliminate any fire hazards and clear off all materials on the deck that someone may trip over
* Maintain and carry required safety equipment
* File a travel itinerary with someone staying on the land
* Understand how to handle and operate your boat
* Know where you are and where you are going
* Follow safe speeds at all times
* Watch for changing weather conditions and change your plans as needed
* Understand and follow all other federal, state, and local rules
* Don't forget that federal and state laws declare that operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal

The Vessel Safety Check (VSC) Program
Whether you are a new boat owner or an experienced sea captain, you need to know what safety gear to stow and how to maintain your boat according to federal and state regulations. A Vessel Safety Check (VSC) will certify that your vessel and gear meet those regulations.

* A voluntary, non-enforcing exam to show your courtesy when boating
* Examiners are trained members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons
* Examiners go through the check list to identify any dangers or violations of state or federal regulations -- not all categories apply to all sizes or types of boats
* Examiners discuss safety procedures, as well as explain federal and state regulations, the purpose behind certain equipment, and other boating related issues
* Vessels in compliance will receive a VSC decal to attach to the boat

VSC Categories
Here is what the VSC will cover to make sure you are running a tight ship:

1. Display of numbers
2. Registration/documentation
3. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
* U.S. Coast Guard Approved
* One for each person on the boat
* Children must have properly fitted PFDs designed for children, not adults
* Readily accessible and in serviceable condition
4. Visual distress signals, such as flares
5. Fire extinguishers
6. Ventilation
7. Flame control in case the engine backfires
8. Sound-producing warning devices such as a bell
9. Navigation lights
10. A visual pollution notice
11. A visual waste notice
12. Marine sanitation devices
13. Navigation rules
14. State and/or local requirements
15. Overall vessel condition
* Deck free of hazards and clean bilge
* Safe electrical and fuel systems
* Safe galley and heating systems

Boater safety education and a VSC are two tools for operating a safe vessel safely. Get prepared to have many safe voyages.

-- Trina Lambert

Related Links:
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