Do I need a oar or paddle?

Question: I have heard that an oar/paddle is required safety equipment on power boats up to a certain length. I cannot find any reference to this requirement and am wondering if this is really a required item?

Answer: This was a requirement years ago, before 2000 and this is what I found:

"All boats less than 16 feet in length must carry a second method of propulsion. A paddle, oar, water ski, or other suitable device meets this requirement."

It is no longer a requirement for the award of our VSC Decal.

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)

Mail me a VSC Decal?

Question: I just had my boat checked last weekend at Lake Washington. It passed but they said that they didn't have any safety check stickers for my window. They said that one could be mailed. How would I get it?

Answer: The Vessel Examiner should have left you a copy of the Vessel Safety Check with his or her name and phone number on it. It is against our policy to mail or simply give the VSC decal to the boater without actually being there to personally apply the decal or supervise it being applied.

Call the volunteer and tell him or her what I said in this reply and that it must be either applied or supervised by the volunteer.

What Authority For Random Boardings?

Question: I know the Coast Guard and other Federal agencies acting under your authority can conduct random stops for vessel safety checks of recreational boats, but I cannot find the legal authority for these stops. Can you point me in the direction of the appropriate Code of Federal Regulations?

Answer: Any law enforcement agency can stop a vessel under a state or local authority or like the Coast Guard, a federal authority. Those stops are not "Vessel Safety Checks" which we in the Auxiliary do and we only perform them with the permission of the boater and we are not to do them on the water while underway. When we do a vessel safety check, there is no "ticket" given nor is the information turned over to the Coast Guard for any violations we may find, we simply show the boater what they need to do to be compliant and not get a ticket on the water for non-compliance.

An important Coast Guard mission is maritime law enforcement on the high seas and on water subject to Federal laws. Of particular interest are laws dealing with the 200-mile Fishery Conservation Zone, drug smuggling, illegal immigration, and safety and water pollution.

To enforce these laws, the Coast Guard is empowered to board and inspect vessels. Many of the laws can be successfully enforced only by boarding a vessel while it is underway. Boarding's are not necessarily based on suspicion that a violation already exists aboard the vessel. Their purpose is to prevent violations. The courts have consistently upheld this authority. All Coast Guard officers and petty officers are Federal law enforcement officers and they may board any United States vessel anywhere.

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.

Portable Toilets

Question: Will a small 2 1/2 self contained portable toilet pass Coast Guard vessel check?

Answer: The Coast Guard does not inspect portable toilets, since they are not "installed" on a vessel. Those MSDs which have the ability to pump waste overboard are inspected.

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.

Florida State Sticker

Question: Does a documented boat still need a current Florida registration sticker to pass a safety check?

Answer: The Florida law requires the sticker be affixed to the hull, therefore it is required for the award of the Deal.