A Public-Private Partnership — Safety of Life at Sea and Boat Dealers

VINCENT PICA, Division Commander, Division-18 (1SR), United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

There is a lot of talk these days out of Washington regarding "public-private" partnerships in solving the economic difficulties our economy is in. And it makes a lot of sense for government and business to work together to maximize the effect of programs and policies. There is another public-private partnership that works well together but can be even more effective if boat dealers thought more about it - US Coast Guard Forces and boat dealers working together to raise boating skills and seamanship levels at the point of purchase. This column is about that.

All It Takes To Buy a Boat Is Money ...
In many states, including New York, there are no state licensing requirements for boat drivers. The old saying goes, "Any idiot can buy a boat and some do!" and it often rings true when you read about some of these horrific accidents at sea - usually encompassing boating and alcohol. What's a body to do? Well, how about getting your body into a USCG boating safety class?

Point of Purchase = Point of Maximum Impact
There would be little argument that the best place to instill a deep need for boating skills and seamanship abilities, other than at the dinner table while growing up, is right at the point of purchase. Now some boat dealers might think that bringing up such a subject as boating skills and seamanship will scare off a buyer or cause the buyer to buy a smaller, more manageable boat instead of the battle-wagon being eyed... There may be some argument to that but most boat dealers know that showing such concern for the safety of the client creates a client for life. And that means follow-on sales and deep, satisfying relationship. Less "altruistically", a guy who wrecks his expensive boat, or worse, is more likely to sell the boat and never come back.

So what should the dealer be recommending? Two things - skipper education and vessel safety checks annually. All you need to remember is one web site - www.uscg.mil - and click on boating information! This link will lead you to boating safety classes in the owner's locale as well as the ability to schedule a vessel safety check online. It can't be much easier!


If the skipper is knowledgeable and the boat meets USCG standards, that is a great mix.

But There Is a Bigger Idea!
There is a much bigger idea than just referring the customer to the internet. What about classes at the show room? Some boat dealers also have marinas. In our division (USCG Auxiliary Division 18 covers the eastern half of Long Island, NY, encompassing 3 USCG stations and tens of thousands of boaters), we have run boating safety classes in many dealer show rooms or their conference rooms and all the boat owners walk out waving at the dealer saying "thanks so much for arranging this!" And the boaters pay a fee for the class which goes towards further boating safety activities. Out of pocket for the dealer - coffee and cookies?

Another big idea - how about scheduling a vessel exam day at the marina? The downside is that you run out of flares (the #1 reason for a boat failing to be awarded a Vessel Safety Check windshield emblem is expired flares - so if you are going to run a vessel exam day, store up extra flares ahead of time! See SSP, "No Fuss, No Muss - and your Favorite Price - Free! The Vessel Safety Check!" April 2008 [http://www.atlanticmaritimeacademy.com/vsc.html ]


Here is what the Vessel Examiner will look for - and remind your clients that this is NOT a regulatory event. If the boat doesn't meet a requirement(s), the examiner is very likely going to say, "Here is what you need to address. Here is my cell phone #. When you are ready for me to come back, call me!" And it ends there. No one "turns you in"...

Item 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.

Item 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.

Item 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. Type V PFD must be one the person or they don't count as being on board!

Item 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

Item 5 - Fire Extinguishers:
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-1 None
26' to less than 40' two B-1 or one B-2 one B-1
40' to 65' three B-1 or one B-1 & one B-2 two B-1 or one B-2

Item 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.

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

Item 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.

Item 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.

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

Item 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 and under the control of the captain.

Item 12 - Marine Sanitation Devices:
Any installed toilet must be a Coast Guard approved device. Overboard discharge outlets must be capable of being sealed. Inside the demarcation line the discharge outlet must be in the closed position and locked. A wire cable tie would be a suitable lock.

Item 13 - Navigation Rules:
Boats 39.4 feet and over must have on board a current copy of the Navigation Rules.

Item 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. NYS, must have an anchor and anchor line, If a VHF radio is installed it must be operable.

Item 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.

Discussion Items

The Vessel Examiner will also conduct a discussion with the skipper and the crew about the following safety items which are not required by regulation but still considered highly desirable by the USCG:

1. If a life raft is on board be certain it has a current inspection on the raft and hydrostatic release mechanism.

2. If an EPIRB is on board, be certain it is registered to the boat and that the registration is current. If it is hydrostatically deployed be certain the hydrostatic release mechanism is in date. Be certain the battery is in date and working.

3. If survival suits are on board, unpack them and be certain there are no tears or dry rot. Be certain working lights and a whistle are attached. Be certain the zipper is operable (if it needs waxing, wax it!). Be certain the vessel name is stenciled on the back of them as well as on your life jackets.

4. How about a VHS radio? Cell phones are nice but unlikely to save your life! See SSP, "Sounding Smart on the Radio", 8/1/2007, http://www.atlanticmaritimeacademy.com/radio.html and SSP, "Can You Hear Me Now - Boats and Cell Phone", 1/7/09, http://www.atlanticmaritimeacademy.com/cellphones.html

5. Where's your anchor?
BTW, if you are interested in being part of USCG Forces, email me at JoinUSCGAux2009@aol.com or go direct to Lisa Etter, who is in charge of new members matters, at FSO-PS@emcg.us and we will help you "get in this thing..." If you'd like a copy of any of the columns cited, email me and I'll send it to you.

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