How do you know whether your boat is ready for a safe summer boating season and complies with new U.S. Coast Guard regulations? A no-cost, no-penalty vessel safety check from the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and US Power Squadrons/America’s Boating Club can help. 

vessel safety check
Why not get a free, no-penalty safety check to start boating season? Photo courtesy of US Power Squadrons

It’s a hassle-free process. Scheduled inspections are often offered at launch ramps, marinas and boat clubs, or appointments can be made for a vessel examiner to come to your boat. Upon successful completion of the exam, which typically takes less than 30 minutes, the vessel is awarded a decal that informs law enforcement and safety agencies that your boat was in full compliance with all federal and state boating laws during a safety check for that year. If your boat does not pass, you are provided with a written report stating how to correct any discrepancies.

So just what items do vessels typically fail on this important early season inspection? According to the US Power Squadrons/America’s Boating Club, the top three reasons are: navigation lights, 19 percent; fire extinguishers, 18 percent; and distress signals,16 percent.

“The numbers tell us a vessel safety check can help owners of every type of boat,” said BoatUS Foundation assistant director of boating safety Ted Sensenbrenner. “Nearly as many ‘open’ type vessels fail vessel safety checks (44 percent) as those with enclosed cabins (47 percent). A vessel safety check on either type can help a bad day get a lot better, or potentially save a life.”

Boat clubs, marinas, boat yards, and municipalities with launch ramps are encouraged to schedule a vessel safety check day at their property. Go to to learn more. The program is sponsored by the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water.

For more information on boating safety, visit