A vessel safety check (VSC) is a courtesy examination of your boat to verify the presence and
condition of certain safety equipment required by state and the federal
regulations. The vessel examiner is a trained specialist and is a member of the
Coast Guard Auxiliary. They will also make certain recommendations and discuss
certain safety issues that will make you a safer boater.
This is not boarding or a law enforcement issue. No citations will be given as a result of this encounter. We
will supply you with a copy of our evaluation so that you may follow some of the
suggestions given. Vessels that pass will be able to display our distinctive VSC
decal. This does not exempt you from law enforcement boarding, but you can be
prepared to make this a positive encounter. Your local division and its constituent flotillas
periodically offer vessel safety check opportunities free of charge.
Click on the region locality nearest to your location below
to view safety check offerings in the surrounding area.
Lives are property are often
risked because of small oversights. Having a good pre-float checklist can help
minimize the risk of overlooking important steps in trailering and launching. Click here to download a checklist developed by local
Auxiliarists (Adobe Acrobat format, 1.3 MB).
In addition, for a complete security you should file a float plan prior to getting underway, please visit the Float Plan Central for additional information.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE VSC DECAL
You can use the following guidelines to pre-examine your boat. It's suggested that you print out this page
while performing your self-inspection. While it is not an exhaustive list, it
will point out any major deficiencies ahead of your VSC.
1. Display of Numbers. The boat’s registration number must be permanently attached to each
side of the forward half of the boat They must be plain, vertical, block
characters, not less than three (3) inches high, and in a color contrasting with
the background. A space or hyphen must separate the letters from the numbers.
Place state tax sticker according to state policy (e.g., FL 1234 AB or
2. Registration / Documentation. These papers must be on board and available.
Documentation numbers must be permanently marked on a visible part of the
interior structure. The documented boat’s name and hailing port must be
displayed on the exterior hull in letters not less than 4 inches in height. To
be documented a boat must be five (5) net tons or greater.
3. Personal Flotation
Devices (PFDs). Acceptable PFDs (also known as life jackets) must be
U.S. Coast Guard approved, in good and serviceable condition, and of suitable
size for the each person on the boat. Children must have properly fitted PFDs
designed for children. Wearable PFDs shall be "readily accessible." Throwable
devices shall be "immediately available." PFDs shall not be stored in unopened
plastic packaging. For personal watercraft (PWC) riders, the PFD must be worn
and indicate an impact rating. Boats 16 feet or longer must also have one Type
4. Visual Distress Signals (VDS). Recreational boats 16 feet or longer used on coastal waters or
the Great Lakes are required to carry a minimum of either (1) three daytime and
three nighttime pyrotechnic devices, (2) one daytime non-pyrotechnic device
(e.g., flag) and one nighttime non-pyrotechnic device (auto SOS light), or (3) a
combination of items (1) and (2). Recreational boats measuring less than 16 feet
on coastal waters or the Great Lakes need only carry nighttime visual distress
signals when operating from sunset to sunrise.
It is recommended, but not required, that boats operating on inland waters should have some means of making
a suitable daytime and nighttime distress signal. The number and type of signals
is best judged by considering conditions under which the boat will be operating.
Alternatives to pyrotechnic devices (flares) include:
Red or orange flags
5. Fire Extinguishers. These are required if one of the following conditions
exists: (1) an inboard engine, (2) closed compartments that store portable fuel
tanks, (3) double-bottom hulls not completely sealed or not completely filled
with flotation materials, (4) closed living spaces, (5) closed stowage
compartments that contain flammable materials, or (6) permanently installed fuel
tanks. Fire extinguishers must be readily accessible and verified as
serviceable. The following table shows the minimum number of extinguishers
required for vessels of variatious lengths:
No Fixed System
Less than 26 feet
26 to 39 feet
two B-1 or one B-2
40 to 65 feet
three B-1 or one B-1 and one B-2
two B-1 or one B-2
6. Ventilation. Boats with gasoline engines in closed compartments, built after 1 Aug, 1980, must have a
powered ventilation system. Those built prior to that date must have natural or
powered ventilation. Boats with closed fuel tank compartments built after 1 Aug
1978, must meet requirements by displaying a "certificate of compliance." Boats
built before that date must have either natural or powered ventilation in the
fuel tank compartment.
7. Backfire Flame Arrester. All gasoline-powered inboard/outboard or inboard motor boats
must be equipped with an approved backfire flame control device.
8. Sound-Producing Devices / Bell. To comply with Navigation Rules and for distress signaling
purposes, all boats must carry a sound-producing device (whistle, horn, siren,
etc.) capable of a four-second blast audible for one-half mile. Boats larger
than 39.4 feet are also required to have a bell (see Navigation
9. Navigation Lights. All boats must be able to display navigation lights between
sunset and sunrise and in conditions of reduced visibility. Boats 16 feet in
length or more must have properly installed, working navigation lights and an
all-around anchor light capable of being lit independently from the red, green
and white "running" lights.
10. Pollution Placard. Boats 26 feet or longer with a machinery compartment must
display an oily waste "pollution" placard.
11. MARPOL Trash Placard. Boats 26 feet or longer must display a MARPOL trash placard.
Boats 40 feet or longer must also display a written trash disposal
12. Marine Sanitation Devices. Any installed toilet must be a Coast Guard approved device.
Overboard discharge outlets must be capable of being sealed.
13. Navigation Rules. Boats 39.4 feet or longer must carry a current copy of the
Navigation Rules aboard.
14. State / Local Requirements. These requirements must be met before the VSC decal can
be awarded. A boat must meet the requirements of the state in which it is being
examined. Please check with your local marine law enforcement agency for
15. Overall Condition. Including, but not limited to:
(A) Deck free of hazards and
clean bilge. The boat must be free from fire hazards, in good overall
condition, with bilges reasonably clean and visible hull structure generally
sound. The use of automobile parts on boat engines is not acceptable. The engine
horsepower must not exceed that shown on the capacity plate.
(B) Safe electrical and fuel
systems. The electrical system must be protected by fuses or manual reset
circuit breakers. Switches and fuse panels must be protected from rain or water
spray. Wiring must be in good condition, properly installed and with no exposed
areas or deteriorated insulation. Batteries must be secured and terminals
covered to prevent accidental arcing. If installed, self-circling or kill-switch
mechanism must be in proper working order. All PWCs require an operating
self-circling or kill-switch mechanism. Portable fuel tanks (normally
seven-gallon capacity or less) must be constructed of non-breakable material and
free of corrosion and leaks. All vents must be capable of being closed. The tank
must be secured and have a vapor-tight, leak-proof cap. Each permanent fuel tank
must be properly ventilated.
(C) Safe galley and heating
systems. System and fuel tanks must be properly secured with no flammable
NOTICE/DISCLAIMER Links to non-Coast Guard entities are not
under the control of the United States Coast Guard or the United States Coast
Guard Auxiliary, and are provided for the convenience of our customers. They do
not, in any way, constitute an endorsement of the linked pages or any
commercial or private issues or products presented there. We cannot make any
warranty or representation concerning the content of these sites, or secondary
sites from the pages to which they link.
collect information about visitors. It has a page counter for tracking usage
stats. E-mail links are provided as a means to contact Auxiliary members for
additional information or to make comments. The sender's return e-mail address
is used to send responses by appropriate Auxiliary members.