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Free Courtesy Safety Check of Your Boat


Safety and peace of mind that your boat meets all Federal and State safety standards and that in an emergency you will have the necessary equipment to summon help and save lives.

Vessel Safety Checks are 100% free of charge and vessels that pass are awarded a U.S. Coast Guard / Auxiliary Decal.


You are only issued a written list of needed corrections.  If remedied, you will be provided a decal.


Display of numbers and state registration decal:

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 (e.g., ME 1234 AB or ME-1234-AB).  A current state registration decal must also be displayed within six (6) inches after the registration number.

Registration / Documentation:

State Registration or U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation papers must be current, on board, and available.
A vessel may be documented if measures at least five net tons and is wholly owned by a citizen of the U.S.  Only vessels of five net tons or more used in fishing activities on navigable waters of the U.S. or in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or used in coastwise trade must be documented unless the vessel is exempt from documentation.
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.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD):

PFDs (also known as Life Jackets) must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, in good serviceable condition, and of suitable size for each person on the boat. Children must have properly fitted PFDs. Wearable PFDs shall be "readily accessible." Throwable PFDs shall be "immediately available." For Personal Watercraft riders, the PFD must be worn in accordance with state law. Boats 16 feet in length or longer must also have one Throwable PFD, except for canoe and kayaks, which are exempt.

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.

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 on board and in good and serviceable condition.

New Requirement after April 20, 2022: If your disposable (non-rechargeable) fire extinguisher has a date of manufacture stamped on the bottle (example: “05” means 2005), and it is older than 12 years, the extinguisher is considered expired and must be removed from service. 

Minimum number of B-I fire extinguishers
Length (in feet) no fixed fire extinguishing system in machinery space if fixed fire extinguishing system in machinery space
Under 16 1 0
16 but less than 26 1 0
26 but less than 40 2 1
40 up to 65 3 2

Note: One B-ll fire extinguisher may substitute for two B-l extinguishers.


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.

Backfire Flame Control

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

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 65 ft. are also required to have a bell (see Navigation Rules).

Navigation Rules

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

State and/or Local Requirements

These requirements must be met before the "Vessel Safety Check" decal can be awarded. A boat also must meet the requirements of the state in which it is being examined.

Overall vessel condition, including but not limited to:

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

Engine Cut-Off Switch

Operators of recreational vessels less than 26 feet in length will be required to use an engine cut-off switch (ECOS) and associated ECOS link (ECOSL) as of April 1, 2021, as the U.S. Coast Guard implements a law passed by Congress.

 Vessel Safety Check Request Form