Your Safe Boating Should Include a Vessel Safety Check 

Make the SEAL OF SAFETY a part of your boat by getting a Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Safety Check examination.  It is a free check of your boat’s equipment covering federal and state safety related requirements, plus additional standards recommended by the Auxiliary.  The examiners performing this service are all members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary who have been carefully trained to look for some of the more common problems which might occur in your boat of it’s associated safety related equipment.  If your boat meets the VSC requirements, the award of the decal is your assurance that your boat is properly equipped for fun and safety on the water.  Please keep this pamphlet on your boat for future reference. 

At the conclusion of the examination, a copy of the checklist is given to you.  A Vessel Safety Check Examination is not a law enforcement activity.  No report of you or your boat is made to any law enforcement agency.  Only a statistical count of the number of examinations
is made to the Coast Guard. 

In addition to federal requirements, a vessel must meet the following 2004 Coast Guard Auxiliary standards for award of the VSC decal.


The boat’s registration number must be permanently attached to each side of the forward half of the boat. Characters must be plain, vertical block style, not less than three (3) inches high, and in a color contrasting with the background. A space or dash must separate
letters from numbers. Place state validation sticker according to state policy. [FL-1234-AB] 


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. Don’t forget the State of Illinois is no longer sending out registration renewal notices, It is your own responsibility to phone: 1-866-867-3542 or go to internet.


Acceptable PFD’s (also known as life jackets) must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, and in good serviceable condition. A wearable PFD of suitable size is required for each person on the boat. Children must have properly fitted PFD’s designed for children.  Wearable PFD’s shall be readily accessible. Boats 16 feet or longer, must also have one Type IV throwable device, which shall be immediately available. PFD’s shall not be stored in unopened plastic packaging.  For personal watercraft riders, the PFD must be worn.  An impact rating is recommended but not required.

All 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, etc), or 3) a combination of 1 and 2.  Recreational boats less than 16 feet on coastal waterways 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.

Fire extinguishers are required if one of the following conditions exists: 1) Inboard engines(s); 2) Double bottom hulls not completely sealed or not completely filled with flotation materials; 3) closed living spaces; 4) closed stowage compartments containing flammable materials, or 5) permanently installed fuel tanks. Recreational boats less than 26 feet, and propelled by outboard motors are not required to have fire extinguishers unless one or more of the conditions (2-5) listed above applies. Fire extinguishers must be readily accessible and verified as serviceable.

Boats with gasoline engines in closed compartments, built after August 1, 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 August 1, 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.

All gasoline powered inboard/outboard or inboard motorboats, must be equipped with an approved backfire flame control device.


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 a half mile. Boats larger than 39.4 feet are also required to have a bell.

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.

Boats 26 feet and over with a machinery compartment must display the oily waste “pollution” placard

Discharge of Oil Prohibited

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of oil or oily waste
into or upon, or discoloration of the surface of the water, or cause a sludge of emulsion beneath the surface of the water. Violators are subject to a penalty of $5,000.


Boats 26 feet and over in length, operating in U.S. navigable waters, must display a “MARPOL” trash placard.


Any installed toilet must be a Coast Guard approved device. Overboard
discharge outlets must be capable of being sealed.

Boats 39.4 feet and over must have on board, a current copy of the Navigation Rules.

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.

MARPOL Annex V restricts the discharge of vessel-generated garbage to the following:

Plastic Disposal prohibited into any waters. 
The discharge of all garbage is prohibited in the navigable waters of the United States and, in all waters, within three nautical miles of the nearest land.

Dunnage, lining, and packing materials that float

Disposal prohibited less than 25 miles from nearest land and in U. S. Navigable Waters

Unground Garbage

Disposal prohibited less than 12 miles from nearest land and in U.S. Navigable waters

Garbage ground to less than one inch

Disposal prohibited less than 3 miles from nearest land and in U.S. Navigable Waters


Deck Free of Hazards

The boat must be free from fire hazards, in good overall condition, with bilges reasonable 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.

Electrical 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.

Portable 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.  All tanks must be secured and have a vapor-tight, leak-proof cap. Each permanent fuel tank must be properly ventilated.

Galley Appliances/Heating Systems

Appliances and their fuel tanks must be properly secured, with no flammable materials nearby.  Adequate ventilation must be provided for appliances and their fuel supply. Appliance fuel shut off valves must be readily accessible.

Anchor and Anchor Line

The boat must be equipped with an adequate anchor and line of suitable size and length for locality.

Alternate Propulsion

Boats less than 16 feet in length must carry a second method of propulsion; (paddle, oar, etc).  If an alternate means of mechanical propulsion is carried (another outboard or trolling motor), it must use a separate fuel and starting source from the main propulsion.

Dewatering Device

All boats must carry at least one effective manual dewatering device (bucket, can, scoop, etc.).  This requirement is in addition to any installed, satisfactory operating electrical bilge pump the vessel may
have on board.

First Aid Kit

All boats should carry a Coast Guard approved first aid kit.

© 2000 - 2022 powered by
Doteasy Web Hosting