Get a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Safety Check…It’s Free & Could Save Your Life!

Aug 30, 2020

Port Annapolis



You’ve taken the shrinkwrap off the boat, tested the engine and are about to get underway for the first time this year. You’ve taken the time to make sure you have the proper number of lifejackets for each passenger and inspected the boat from aft to stern to ensure it’s seaworthy. You cast off all lines and motor out into the channel at idle speed through the no wake area. But before you can even bring the boat up to speed, a Coast Guard boat crew turns on its lights and directs you to stop. As the crew draws near, you begin to wonder what you have done wrong. The officers ask you for your boat registration, immediately sending you into panic mode. You left it in your vehicle. You ask the Coast Guardsmen why they stopped you to which a crewman replies, “Your Maryland registration decal is out of date.”

To help you avoid this embarrassing, and potentially costly scenario, consider getting a free vessel safety check (VSC). The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons members help boaters inspect their vessels to ensure required safety equipment is in good, serviceable condition and that they have the required amount of each specific piece of safety gear on board. These volunteers are trained to inspect everything from fire extinguishers and lifejackets to navigation lights and ventilation systems. Not only will they inspect the equipment, they can give you a brief overview of what you should look for to determine if the equipment is in good and serviceable condition.

The free VSC is performed at your boat – whether in a slip, at the launch ramp, or in your driveway – by a certified vessel examiner, at a mutually-convenient time, and usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending upon the size of your boat. The main purpose of the VSC is to educate boaters and help them meet the state and federal inspection guidelines for safety equipment and vessel requirements. If any safety equipment or other important components of the inspection do not meet the guidelines, you will have to fix these items and reschedule another inspection, however there’s never a penalty if you don’t pass. Instead, you are provided a written report that aids you in correcting any discrepancies noted. Often, a quick trip to the local marina store is all that is necessary to obtain missing safety items and easily pass an inspection. Check out the Ships Store at Port Annapolis Marina—the personable, friendly staff will ensure that you find exactly what you need to complete your VSC certification process!

Boats that pass the examination are awarded a distinctive VSC decal that alerts the Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies that your boat was found to be in full compliance with all federal and state boating laws. Frequently, such agencies will not detain or board boats displaying a current-year decal that are otherwise operating safely.

Boat smart and have a VSC done sooner than later. You’ll be glad you did!


What’s in it For Me?

Vessels passing safety checks are awarded a U.S. Coast Guard/Auxiliary Decal that informs Coast Guard/Auxiliary, Harbor Patrol, Sheriff’s & Police, and other boating 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. Best of all, every Vessel Safety Check is 100% free of charge!

What if I Don’t Pass?

If your boat does not pass, no citation is issued at that time. Instead, you are provided a written report in how to correct any discrepancies.

Why Receive a Vessel Safety Check? 

Safety! The peace of mind that your boat meets federal safety standards and that in an emergency you will have the necessary equipment to save lives and summon help. In many cases, boating insurance agencies offer discounts for vessels which undergo a Vessel Safety Check every year. All decals and safety checks are void on December 31st of the year they are inspected, they are also void should the owner or operator fail to maintain the vessel’s equipment, or the vessel itself, to the standard at the time of the safety check.

How Do I Find an Examiner

Are you ready to get started on your path to safer boating? CLICK HERE, then fill out the short request form and click the submit button. The site will locate the closest volunteer vessel examiners within 30 miles of your location and request that they contact you and set up a Vessel Safety Check for your boat.

What Type of Items Are Checked?

  • Lifejackets
  • Registration and numbering
  • Navigation lights
  • Ventilation
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Distress signals (flares, horn, etc.)
  • Battery cover and connections

These items are currently required by Maryland State and Federal Laws and, if missing or non-operating, can result in a citation if your vessel is inspected by the Coast Guard.

If you have any questions, our friendly staff is happy to assist! We’ll be hosting U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Safety Checks at Port Annapolis Marina on Friday, June 9th from 12:00 – 5:00 PM. To schedule your 2017 check, email Ron Ricketts at

Post by Port Annapolis

On an impeccably landscaped 16-acre site, Port Annapolis Marina features over 250 deep-water slips in the shelter of Back Creek, conveniently located, just off the Severn River.

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