Requirements for USCG Safety Gear

Question: Where do I find requirements for USCG safety gear (PFD's, vests, throw ring, placard requirements etc.) for a 38' vessel (recreational boat)?

Answer: Go to our "Virtual VSC" page and then use the Virtual Vessel Examiner tool linked in the second paragraph on that page answering questions about your boat and it will tell you if you pass or not and if not tell you what you still need.

Does a Life Jacket Expire?

Question:Does a life jacket expire?

Answer: There is no expiration date but you should learn to inspect your PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices) as seen below I will show you some of the things we look for when checking them. If you have torn, worn and rotted PFDs you may say they have "expired".

Verify that all PFDs for recreational boats have a fully legible instruction label and the Coast Guard approval number is listed. If not, the device does not meet carriage or VSC decal requirements.

Regardless of the number required, examine ALL PFDs on board. PFDs must be free of rips or tears and the flotation material must be free of any indication of deterioration. In PFDs that use kapok, the kapok is enclosed in plastic sacks. Give each compartment the "squeeze" test. Air leaks in the sacks, evidence of moisture, exposure or hardening disqualifies the PFD. Straps and belts on PFDs must be unaltered, free of dry rot, and in perfect working condition. Metal rings or adjusting buckles must be free of excessive rust and corrosion.

Does a Fire Extinguisher Expire?

Question: How long is a 2006 extinguisher whose gauge is "still in the green" acceptable for a passing inspection?

Answer: Current guidance from the USCG Office of Boating Safety directs that the following items should be included in the annual maintenance of non-rechargeable portable extinguishers:

1. Verify that 12 years has not lapsed from the manufacture date marked on the extinguisher (date stamped on the bottom of the cylinder).
2. Check that the pressure gauge or pressure indicator is in the operable range.
3. Verify there is no physical damage to the extinguisher or discharge hose (if provided).
4. Check for missing or broken safety seals or tamper indicators.
5. Examine the extinguisher for obvious signs of corrosion, leakage or clogged discharge nozzle.

If any deficiencies are noted, the non-rechargeable extinguisher should be replaced.

Click here for a PDF file titled Portable Fire Extinguisher Inspection And Maintenance FAQ. (PDF | requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

PFD Speed Rating For PWC

Question: Is a PFD for a PWC operator required to be strength tested to 100mph if the PWC can exceed 50mph? Most life vests are rated at 50mph, but my ski will exceed 60mph.

Answer: Not required but recommended that the PFD should be strength tested for 100 MPH. Keep in mind, that is the test of the PFD and you don't want to think of that rating as a "human safety" function as the label states "Not tested for personal protection from impact."

However, for award of the VSC Decal, our instructions say: "For Personal Watercraft riders, the PFD must be worn. An impact rating is recommended, but not required."

Safety Items in Florida

Question: I have a 18' bass boat in Florida, what safety items do I have to have on board?

Answer: See the Virtual VSC link on our menu on this website as it shows you all the items needed. You can self-inspect your boat by using the Virtual VSC and then request a local volunteer using the I Want a VSC link using your ZIP Code.

Safety Lanyards

Question: I typically I wear a lanyard while underway, I believe it has saved me from serious mishap on several occasions. The USCG and USCGA never recommend wearing the lanyard, does that mean you do not think it is necessary? Should people not wear it?

Answer: In many Public Education programs, safety Lanyards are discussed and endorsed. New electronic proximity devices are also now popular. The USCG always encourages the use of all devices which make boating safer.

Horsepower Hike

Question: Where can I find the boat motor weight transom requirements for my boat. I have an 18' aluminum bayrunner that is rated for a 60 horsepower motor. Can I go up in horsepower since a newer motor is lighter in weight but higher in horsepower.

Answer: Your best bet is to ask the manufacturer of the vessel. The rise in horsepower might be dangerous as it puts extra strain on the vessel and the transom under way.

Capacity of Boat and Size of Engine for Boat

Question: I need the weight and motor specs and size on a 1968 bonito 14ft any info would be great.

Answer: For the capacity of your boat:

If the boat does not have a capacity plate, the following formula would be used:

Boat length multiplied by boat width divided by 15
(L x W/15)=
Number of people that can be safely carried in calm waters.

A suitable motor for the size of the boat:

15 - 20 hp (80-120 lbs)
Powerful workhorses that are still considered a part of the small outboard hp class. Outboard engines in this hp range are available primarily in 4-stroke configurations but may limited availability in 2-stroke configurations. Due to 2006 EPA regulations, outboard manufacturers are now required to build cleaner more efficient engines that meet strict emission standards. This hp range is quite popular for use with inflatable boats 10-14ft, aluminum fishing boats 12-16ft, jon boats 12-16ft in length, fiberglass boats 12-16ft in length. These hulls typically require a 15” short shaft length but may require a 20” shaft length as you approach 16ft in length. These hulls typically range in weight from 125-575+ lbs.

Outdated Flares

TYPE IV Personal Flotation Device

Question: What is a TYPE IV life jacket?

Answer: The Type IV PFD is a throwable device like Buoyant Life Ring, Horseshoe, or a Cushion which are designed to be grasped and held by the user until rescued, as well as thrown to a person who has fallen overboard. It's best to have a line tied to it so you can retrieve the person in the water by pulling them in.