Coast Guard urges mariners to take advantage of free vessel safety checks, boater education

9th Coast Guard District NewsCLEVELAND — Following a day in which Coast Guard boarding officers from Station Belle Isle, near Detroit, issued notices of violations to three Great Lakes boaters and sent them back to the dock for lacking required safety equipment, the Coast Guard is urging mariners throughout the Great Lake to take advantage of free vessel safety checks and boating education courses.

The three vessels sent home early Wednesday were found to be in violation of the following federal safety regulations: not having the proper number of wearable life jackets onboard; not having a throwable flotation device onboard; and not having a usable fire extinguisher onboard.

“Checking safety gear before leaving the dock saves a boater the potential cost of a civil penalty and more importantly, ensures the necessary lifesaving equipment is available when something goes wrong,” said Frank Jennings Jr., recreational boating and water safety program manager for the 9th Coast Guard District. “Coast Guard boarding officers are not in the business of ruining a boater’s day on the water.  They’re working to prevent boating accidents by making sure federally required equipment is on board and boaters are operating sober.”

The Coast Guard wants boaters to return home safely.

With unseasonably warm air temperatures in the forecast, all boaters should ensure that they have all the required safety equipment and that it is in working order before heading out onto the water. Free vessel safety checks, offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons, are performed at the vessel, and take about 15-30 minutes to complete, depending on the size of the vessel.  Depending on availability of inspectors, VSCs can be conducted anywhere — from the marina to the boat owner’s driveway.

Mariners whose vessels pass the inspection are awarded a decal that informs the Coast Guard, harbor patrol, sheriffs, police and other boating law enforcement and safety agencies that the mariner’s boat was found to be in full compliance with all federal and state boating laws during a safety check for that year. Additionally, many insurance agencies offer discounts for vessel owners who undergo annual vessel safety checks.

If a vessel does not pass the safety check, a citation or notice of violation is NOT issued. Instead, mariners are provided a written report detailing how to correct any discrepancies.

Vessel safety checks may be scheduled online HERE.

The Coast Guard also recommends boaters take advantage of the many boating education courses offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Topics include boating safety, sailing and boating skills, seamanship, navigation by chart and GPS, paddlesports safety, operating a personal watercraft, and boating safety courses designed for children.

Descriptions of the courses, as well as where to find them, are available HERE.

The Coast Guard also welcomes feedback from recreational boaters about their interactions with the Coast Guard on the Great Lakes. Mariners can voluntarily submit feedback via the internet at

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