Prompted by recent violations, Coast Guard urges boaters to take advantage of free safety checks

9th Coast Guard District NewsCLEVELAND — Following a weekend during which Coast Guard boarding officers issued notices of violation to six Great Lakes boaters and sent them back to the docks early for lacking required safety equipment, the Coast Guard is urging mariners Monday to take advantage of the many boater education courses and free vessel safety checks offered throughout the Great Lakes region.

Just like routinely changing the batteries in a home’s smoke detector or checking tire pressure and fluid levels in a car before a road trip, boaters should make a habit of ensuring they have all the required safety equipment and that it is in working order before the first boating trip of the season.

Of the six vessels sent home early during the weekend, four were in violation of more than one safety requirement and were not carrying sufficient life jackets for everyone aboard.

“Checking your gear ahead of time not only saves you the cost of a potential Coast Guard civil penalty, but far more importantly it could also save your life if something goes wrong,” said Frank Jennings Jr., recreational boating and water safety program manager for the 9th Coast Guard District. “Boarding officers don’t enjoy terminating someone’s voyage early, but it’s much better than telling family members their loved ones didn’t survive a boating accident.”

Free vessel safety checks are offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, are performed at the vessel, and take about 15 to 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, Coast Guard Auxiliary, 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 through the Coast Guard Auxiliary HERE.

The Coast Guard also recommends boaters take advantage of the many boating education courses offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Topics include boating safely, sailing and boating skills and 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.

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