America's Boating Club of Central Pennsylvania

Picture of Vessel Safety Check decal

FREE Vessel Safety Check (VSC) Program

NOTE: SAFETY CHECKS ARE AVAILABLE AGAIN. However, our inspectors may elect not to conduct a check if they do not feel safe doing so. Be patient and understanding and we will try to assist you. Masks must be worn and social distancing practiced during the inspection.
What is a Vessel Safety Check (VSC)?
A Vessel Safety Check is a courtesy examination of your boat (Vessel) to verify the presence and condition of certain Safety Equipment required by State and the Federal regulations. The Vessel Examiner is a trained specialist and is a member of the United States Power Squadrons and/or the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. They will make recommendations and discuss safety issues that will make you a safer boater.

You can use this page to examine your own boat. We suggest you print the form that we use to also use as a guide while performing this self-inspection. You can get the VSC checklist form
here and it requires that you have the free Adobe Acrobat reader installed on your computer. If you do not have the reader, you can download a copy from here: Adobe Acrobat Reader. After you complete the self-examination, you may request that one of our examiners perform an actual Vessel Safety Check by clicking here or on the link at the bottom of this page.

Do you check small boats, too?
YES! We check canoes, kayaks, row boats, dinghys, sail boats, fishing boats, personal watercraft ("jet skis") and power boats of any size and type. There may be a few exceptions, but if it floats we usually can inspect your craft and we try to inspect the boat at a location that is convenient to you. Contact one of our examiners for the non-powered vessel checklisst.

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What do we check?

1 - Display of Numbers: The boat’s registration number must be permanently attached to each side of the forward half of the boat They must be plain, vertical, block characters, not less than three (3) inches high, and in a color contrasting with the background. A space or hyphen must separate the letters from the numbers. Place State tax sticker or usage sticker according to State policy.

2 - Registration / Documentation: Registration or Documentation papers must be on board and available. Documentation numbers must be permanently marked on a visible part of the interior structure. The documented boat’s name and hailing port must be displayed on the exterior hull in letters not less than 4 inches in height. To be documented a boat must be 5 net tons or greater.

3 - Personal Flotation Devices (PFD): Acceptable PFDs (also known as Life Jackets) must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, in good serviceable condition, and of suitable size for the each person on the boat. Children must have properly fitted PFDs designed for children. Wearable PFDs shall be "readily accessible." Throwable devices shall be "immediately available." PFDs shall NOT be stored in unopened plastic packaging. For Personal Watercraft riders, the PFD must be worn and indicate an impact rating. Boats 16 Feet or longer, must also have one Type IV.

4 - Visual Distress Signals (VDS): Recreational boats 16 feet and over used on coastal waters or the Great Lakes are required to carry a minimum of either 1) three day and three night pyrotechnic devices, 2) one day non-pyrotechnic device (flag) and one night non-pyrotechnic device (auto SOS light) or 3) a combination of 1) and 2). Recreational boats less than 16 feet on coastal waters or the Great Lakes need only carry night visual distress signals when operating from sunset to sunrise.
It is recommended, but not required, that boats operating on inland waters should have some means of making a suitable day and night distress signal. The number and type of signals is best judged by considering conditions under which the boat will be operating. Alternatives to pyrotechnic devices (flares) include:

Night Day
Strobe light Signal mirror
Flashlight Red or orange flags
Lantern Hand signals

5 - Fire Extinguishers: Fire extinguishers are required if one of the following conditions exists: (1) Inboard engine(s); (2) Closed compartments that store portable fuel tanks; (3) Double bottom hulls not completely sealed or not completely filled with flotation materials (4) Closed living space (5) Closed stowage compartments that contain flammable materials or (6) Permanently installed fuel tanks NOTE: Fire extinguishers must be readily accessible and verified as serviceable.

Minimum number of extinguishers required
Boat Length No Fixed System With Fixed System
Less than 26’ one B-I/5-B* none
26’ to less than 40’ two B-I/5-B* or one B-II/20-B* one B-I/5-B*
40’ to 65’ three B-I/5-B* or one B-I/5-B* & one B-II/20-B* two B-I/5-B* or one B-II/20-B*

* Effective June 03, 2020 the Coast Guard adopted the UL rating system and changed the portable fire extinguisher requirements. Vessels built after August 22, 2016 must have portable extinguishers with the new ratings. The B-I rating is replaced by a 5-B rating; the B-II rating replaced by a 20-B rating. Older vessels are not affected but should obtain extinguishers with the new rating when replacing or adding extinguishers.

6 - Ventilation: Boats with gasoline engines in closed compartments, built after 1 August 1980 must have a powered ventilation system. Those built prior to that date must have natural or powered ventilation.
Boats with closed fuel tank compartments built after 1 August 1978 must meet requirements by displaying a "certificate of compliance." Boats built before that date must have either natural or powered ventilation in the fuel tank compartment.

7 - Backfire Flame Control: All gasoline powered inboard/outboard or inboard motor boats must be equipped with an approved backfire flame control device.

8 - Sound Producing Devices / Bell: To comply with Navigation Rules and for distress signaling purposes all boats must carry a sound producing device (whistle, horn, siren, etc.) capable of a 4-second blast audible for ½ mile. *Boats larger than 39.4 ft. are also required to have a bell (see Navigation Rules.)
*Under a recent change, a vessel 12 meters (39.4 ft) to less than 20 meters (65 ft) is no longer required to carry a bell on board.
The Coast Guard said: "The bottom-line, a bell is no longer required on a vessel less than 20 meters in length. That of course means a bell is not required for those same vessels for successful completion of a VSC."

9 - Navigation Lights: All boats must be able to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and in conditions of reduced visibility. Boats 16 feet or more in length must have properly installed, working navigation lights and an all-around anchor light capable of being lit independently from the red/green/white "running" lights.

10 - Pollution Placard: Boats 26 feet and over with a machinery compartment must display an oily waste "pollution" placard.

11 - MARPOL Trash Placard: Boats 26 feet and over in length must display a "MARPOL" trash placard. Boats 40 feet and over must also display a written trash disposal plan.

12 - Marine Sanitation Devices: Any installed toilet must be a Coast Guard approved device. Overboard discharge outlets must be capable of being sealed.

13 - Navigation Rules: Boats 39.4 feet and over must have on board a current copy of the Navigation Rules. Click here to download a free copy.

14 - State and/ or Local Requirements: These requirements must be met before the "Vessel Safety Check" decal can be awarded. A boat must meet the requirements of the state in which it is being examined.

15 - Overall Vessel condition: As it applies to this Vessel. Including, but not limited to:
a. Deck free of hazards and clean bilge:
The boat must be free from fire hazards, in good overall condition, with bilges reasonably clean and visible hull structure generally sound. The use of automobile parts on boat engines is not acceptable. The engine horsepower must not exceed that shown on the capacity plate.

b. Safe Electrical and Fuel Systems:
The electrical system - Must be protected by fuses or manual reset circuit breakers. Switches and fuse panels must be protected from rain or water spray. Wiring must be in good condition, properly installed and with no exposed areas or deteriorated insulation. Batteries must be secured and terminals covered to prevent accidental arcing.. If installed, self-circling or kill switch mechanism must be in proper working order. All PWCs require an operating self circling or kill switch mechanism.
Fuel Systems - Portable fuel tanks (normally 7 gallon capacity or less) must be constructed of non-breakable material and free of corrosion and leaks. All vents must be capable of being closed. The tank must be secured and have a vapor-tight, leak-proof cap. Each permanent fuel tank must be properly ventilated.

c. Safe Galley and Heating Systems:
System and fuel tanks must be properly secured with no flammable materials nearby.

What happens if my vessel fails the inspection?

This is not boarding or a law enforcement issue. No citations will be given as a result of this encounter. We will supply you with a copy of our evaluation so that you may follow some of the suggestions given. Vessels that pass will be able to display our distinctive VSC decal. This does not exempt you from law enforcement boarding, but you can be prepared to make this a positive encounter.

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Who do I contact for a FREE inspection?

Contact: Jules deMackiewicz, SN-IN. Provide your vessel's type and location so that he may forward your request to the nearest Squadron inspector. We even inspect in the Harrisburg area, State College/Raystown area, Chesapeake Bay and in Florida and the Bahamas during the winter!

Click Here for Free VSC Informational Brochure
(Requires Adobe Reader)

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