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The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free safety checks to boaters who wish to be sure that their boats meet all federal and state requirements. The Vessel Examiners who perform these checks are specially trained Auxiliarists who are kept informed on the latest legal requirements for boaters. Vessel Examiners have no legal authority, their goal is to prevent boaters from getting equipment related citations and to prevent safety related accidents. These safety checks are meant to be an educational experience. The Vessel Examiners will check for all required items on board your boat and if everything is present and in good working order, they will award a decal to affix to your boat. If you wish, they will also gladly explain the reason for the various safety equipment requirements and explain how safety equipment works.
Examples of items examined during free Vessel Safety Check: 

1.NUMBERING: Boat registration number must be permanently attached, each side, forward half of boat. Numbers must be plain, vertical, block characters, not less than three (3) inches high, and in color contrasting with background. A space or hyphen must separate letters from numbers.

2.REGISTRATION/DOCUMENTATION: Registration or documentation papers must be on board, 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

3.PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICES (PFDs): 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 board. Children must have properly fitted PFDs, 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: Recreational boats used on coastal waters or the Great Lakes are required to carry a minimum of three Coast Guard approved (current dated) day and night visual distress signals. Some signals (e.g. red flares) can serve for both day and night. Boats operating on inland waters should have some means of making a suitable day and night distress signal. The number and type of Visual Distress Signals is best judged by considering conditions under which the boat will be operating.

5.FIRE EXTINGUISHERS: Every power boat requires a minimum of one Coast Guard approved "B-1" extinguisher. Only row boats and sailboats less than 16 feet with no mechanical propulsion are exempt. NOTE: 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

7.BACKFIRE FLAME ARRESTER: All gasoline powered inboard/outboard or inboard motorboats must be equipped with an approved backfire flame control device. 

8.SOUND PRODUCING DEVICES: To comply with Navigation Rules and for distress signaling purposes all boats must carry a sound producing device (whistle, horn, siren, etc.). 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. 

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 DEVICE: 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. 

14.STATE AND 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. 

15.OVERALL BOAT CONDITION: Including, but not limited to: deck free of hazards and clean; safe electrical and fuel systems.
Check out the 15 most common reasons a vessel fails a safety check.
Try doing a "VIRTUAL" vessel safety check yourself;

Then email a vessel examination officer to come and do one in person and award your decal.