Safety Checks

United States Power Squadron Safety Checks
by Dave Wiborg

The Minnetonka Power Squadron, which is a unit of the United States Power Squadron, conducted free vessel safety checks at the Rendezvous in Red Wing this past August. The United States Power Squadrons are well known for their work in the field of boater safety education and have joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in the Vessel Safety Check program.

Members of the U.S. Power Squadrons are now eligible to become vessel examiners in an effort to increase the number of trained persons conducting vessel safety checks.

What is a Vessel Safety Check? It is a free check of a
vessel’s equipment for compliance with federal and state safety requirements. The vessel examiners performing this service have been trained to look for some of the more common problems, which might occur in your boat or its associated safety equipment. Some of the items we check are:

  • Proper display of numbers
  • Registration/documentation
  • Visual Distress signals
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Ventilation
  • Backfire flame control
  • Sound producing devices
  • Navigation lights
  • State requirements
  • Overall vessel condition
  • Personal Flotation Devices (Life Jackets)

    If a vessel meets all of the vessel safety check (VSC) requirements, it is awarded a VSC decal. During the Vessel Safety Check, the examiner will discuss with the recreational boater, the purpose of specific marine safety equipment, clarify various federal and state regulations, discuss certain safety procedures and practices, and will answer any boating-related questions. Some of the topics discussed are: charts and aids to navigation, survival tips, fueling and fuel management, float plans, weather and sea conditions, availability of boating safety classes

    The top five items that have failed in vessel safety checks are:

1. Visual distress signals
2. State and/or local regulations
3. Navigation lights
4. Registration/Documentation
5. Display of numbers

You may sign up for a vessel safety check with your registration materials or call the Minnetonka Power Squadron at 612-253-BOAT.

Addendum from the Editor:
The Power Squadron conducted 25 safety checks to those requesting it over the course of the Rendezvous weekend. We’re happy to report that there were only minor infractions.
Some were reluctant to have the check because they didn’t have a registration. Minnesota rules do not require antique and classic boats to have a registration permanently affixed to the hull. The registration can be mounted on plywood or encased in plastic and hung over the side while the boat is in motion.
One of the requirements is that there be covers on the battery terminals. This is obviously a safety issue.
The following items are not required for a VSC decal, but as a courtesy they are strongly recommended.

  • First aid kit – reasons here are obvious.
  • An anchor – you may have no intention of anchoring your boat, but should you have a problem, you need to stay fixed – either until you get the boat going again – or you call for help. If not anchored, depending on where you are, you can drift quite a way in a short span of time.
  • An alternate de-watering device (a bucket.) Should you take on water and your battery shorts out – the bilge pump will do you no good. You need to be able to bail out the water that’s filling your bilge.

Our thanks to the Power Squadron for conducting these checks. I know several who took advantage of it and felt a lot better knowing they “passed” or were made aware of what was needed. We look forward to continued partnership; we both have the same objectives.