December 2012

Get a vessel exam

Schedule a USPS vessel safety check

USPS and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary help recreational boaters learn safe practices by performing free vessel safety checks, which ensure that a boat complies with federal and state boating laws.

A vessel exam typically takes 20 to 30 minutes, and there is no penalty if your boat doesn’t pass. Simple problems could be corrected on the spot; if not, the inspector will gladly reinspect your boat.

Seven-five percent of all boats pass and receive an official CGA/USPS VSC sticker. While having a sticker doesn’t guarantee your boat won’t be stopped by the Coast Guard, it does show your intent to be safe. 

VSC Checklist

Inspectors look at the following 15 items* during a vessel safety check:

  • Display of registration numbers
  • Registration and documentation
  • Personal flotation devices
  • Visual distress signals
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Ventilation
  • Backfire flame control
  • Sound producing device
  • Navigation lights
  • Pollution placards
  • MARPOL trash placards
  • Marine sanitation devices
  • Carriage of Inland Navigation Rules
  • State requirements
  • Overall vessel condition

*Depending on boat length and propulsion system, some items may not apply.

10 safe boating tips

  1. When you go boating, let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll return.
  2. Carry a handheld VHF radio in a waterproof bag. Cell phones don’t always work.
  3. Attach a loud whistle to your life preserver; keep a flashlight and mirror handy as distress signals.
  4. Never forget how flammable gasoline is. Be sure your tank vents are free of corrosion.
  5. Don’t smoke and pump gasoline! Always fill portable tanks off the vessel.
  6. I don’t care what kind of boat you have: If it’s motorized, keep a fire extinguisher aboard.
  7. For inboard motors, be sure the backfire flame arrestor is properly installed; clean as needed.
  8. Properly distribute weight in boat; don’t exceed capacity. Don’t move until everyone is seated.
  9. Never operate a boat under the influence of alcohol.
  10. Practice putting on your life jackets. Fit them to individuals before leaving the dock.




Ship's Store

Mastering Marlinespike

Painter's bowline

Boat painters use this handy bowline variation to support paint cans by quickly forming a loop in the middle of a line.


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