It’s too easy for me to have a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) inspection conducted aboard my boat, Breakaway. Barbara Bedell, a certified United States Coast Guard Auxiliary VSC Vessel Examiner, lives in the house right beside my dock. Each year, Barbara simply strolls down in some spare moment, clipboard in hand, and takes me through the drill.
Having grown up aboard boats bearing the sticker, I never question the need for a VSC. And, like most boaters, at least part of my motivation for participating is the belief that displaying the sticker one is awarded for having passed the inspection makes it less likely that my boat will be boarded for routine inspection by the Coast Guard, harbormaster, marine patrol or other law enforcement entity. Feel free to substitute, “hope,” for, “belief,” since a VSC sticker is no guarantee against being boarded. A vessel that has a vessel safety check decal is not exempt from enforcement actions for obvious violations, the observance of unsafe practices, and boardings for random law enforcement purpose.
The real reason to have a VSC conducted aboard your boat is much more important.
Not to brag, but I have been at this boating game a while, and pretty much know what I need to know. Not to mention the fact that, as Editor-In-Chief of Boating, I need to read, talk, write and practice boating safety on a daily basis in the normal course of doing my job. Yet, as Barbara went through my boat with me, a hole in my safety preparedness became evident.
Oh, I have all the required equipment. My flares are not expired and my horn toots a blaring volume. No, what Breakaway’s safety complement lacked was a commitment on yours truly’s part to make sure that as my boating habits changed, so did the way I installed certain equipment. So it was, that while checking my fire extinguishers, I noticed that I had to remove several lifejackets from the locker before I could get to the extinguisher. The stowage of these lifejackets in this location was a new development; my kids now use the boat as a base for kayaking and paddleboarding.
Granted, it only took a few seconds to get the lifejackets out of the way. But in an emergency, seconds count. Later that day, I remounted the fire extinguisher.
Safety of my crew and boat is the best reason to have a Vessel Safety Check conducted.
Vessel Safety Checks are free. There is no reporting to authorities or other consequences for failure to meet all the VSC requirements. Inspectors from either the U S Coast Guard Auxiliary or US Power Squadrons will come to your boat by appointment to conduct a VSC.