Boat Safety: Is Your Watercraft Up to Snuff?

May 18, 2016

Boat safety

Summer is coming. Does your boat meet safety standards of the Coast Guard? Take this virtual safety test and schedule an inspection with your local Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron members.

15 Safe Boating Essentials

Here are the Coastguard’s minimum requirements. Go here to read the list in full.

# 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 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.

#2 – Registration / Documentation

Registration or documentation 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 5 net tons or greater.

#3 – Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

Acceptable PFDs (also known as Life Jackets) must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, in good 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 riders, the PFD must be worn and indicate an impact rating. Boats 16 Feet or longer, must also have one Type IV.

#4 – Visual Distress Signals (VDS)

Recreational boats 16 feet and over used on coastal waters or the Great Lakes are required to carry a minimum of either 1) three day and three night pyrotechnic devices, 2) one day non-pyrotechnic device (flag) and one night non-pyrotechnic device (auto SOS light) or 3) a combination of 1) and 2). Recreational boats less than 16 feet on coastal waters or the Great Lakes need only carry night visual distress signals when operating from sunset to sunrise.

#5 – Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are required if one of the following conditions exists: (1) Inboard engine(s); (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 space (5) Closed stowage compartments that contain flammable materials or (6) Permanently installed fuel tanks. Fire extinguishers must be readily accessible and verified as serviceable.

#6 – Ventilation

Boats with gasoline engines in closed compartments, built after 1 August 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 August 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. Make sure the blower is working properly

#7 – Backfire Flame Control

All gasoline powered inboard/outboard or inboard motor boats must be equipped with an approved backfire flame control device. This must be free of dirt and oil.

#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 4-second blast audible for ½ mile. Boats larger than 39.4 ft. are also required to have a bell.

#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 or more in length must have properly installed, working navigation lights and an all-around anchor light capable of being lit independently from the red/green/white “running” lights. Make sure all lights are working properly

#10 – Pollution Placard

Boats 26 feet and over with a machinery compartment must display an oily waste “pollution” placard.

#11 – MARPOL Trash Placard

Boats 26 feet and over in length must display a “MARPOL” trash placard. Boats 40 feet and over must also display a written trash disposal plan.

#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 and over must have on board a current copy of the Navigation Rules. Navigation Rules Booklet

#14 – State and/ or Local Requirements

These requirements must be met before the “Vessel Safety Check” decal can be awarded. A boat must meet the requirements of the state in which it is being examined. Contact your local marine law enforcement agency.

#15 – Overall Vessel Condition

As it applies to this Vessel. Including, but not limited to:

  • A deck free of hazards and a clean bilge
  • Safe electrical and fuel systems
  • Safe galley and heating systems

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