US Coast Guard Inspected My Vessel and I Failed!

05.06.23 04:11 PM By Richard Westrick

My vessel was inspected and I didn't pass. :(

While hanking on the sails on my boat, Providence, an Auxiliary US Coast Guard officer approached me and asked if I wanted my vessel inspected.  I thought this would be a good opportunity because I felt I had everything pretty well nailed on safety. Plus, if he did find anything, I wouldn't get fined since this is a "courtesy" inspection.

The officer was great, by the way. He went through and not only checked things but explained what was needed and why some things were close, but not in compliance. Then he either showed me how to fix it or told me how to remedy the problem.

First, I rather pride myself on being safe on the water. Sailing/boating is not without its risks, and mitigating those is necessary to make it fun.  So, when I did not pass, and when he found deficiencies, it was a blow to my ego. But, it was also an opportunity to remedy those things.

Besides the usual fire extinguisher check and PFDs, I learned a few things. Actually, more than a few things.  Here is what I learned:

  • While my safety equipment passed, ALL of my flares were expired.  Ouch. I confused replacing the ones on Providence with upgrading all my flares on Temptation Won.  Fortunately, I can use the Annual Safety Inspection template and copy it for each vessel so I can track them individually. BTW, I passed because I had the electric SOS beacon and two floating orange mats on board.  I'm still going to update my flares, though.
  • While I had the appropriate number of PFDs, the buckles were clipped and the straps wrapped around them. This no longer makes them "readily accessible". Simply un-clicking the buckles and unwrapping the straps and returning them to the lazarette remedied that.
  • I didn't have the Trash Placard mounted. Fortunately, the officer had an extra that he gave me to stick on the galley wall to make me compliant.  He admitted it is very ugly, though....
  • While I had a noise maker that worked, I did NOT have a bell.  In Massachusetts where I keep Providence, boats over 16 feet (unlike Federal law of boats 65 feet and over) must also have a bell.  That couldn't easily be remedied on the spot, so he had to fail me. Bummer.  The bad news is a new bell is around US$280; the good news is, Sailboat Parts, a "Friend of BoatProject" (check out our friends on our website) had a used one for US$35. It pays to have friends!

I created a public template for a USCG inspection in BoatProject. You can find it by creating a project and choosing "From Template". In the search box, type "USCG Safety Inspection" to pull up that template and copy it to your vessel.  It mirrors the checklist the Coast Guard uses, so if you address everything in it, you should be good to go (federally, at least).  I also loaded the MA Boating Regulations in the Library if you want a quick reference.

Once my bell arrives, I'll mount it and give the officer a call to come back and verify I remedied that deficiency. Then I'll get a decal to display on my mast.  That itself can discourage the Coast Guard from boarding you since they know that you have passed inspection and are, presumably, a safe boater.

Happy Boating and let me know your comments or if there are any enhancements to the template you think I should make!

Richard Westrick