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Paddle Craft Virtual Safety Check

You can use this page to check your own Kayak, Canoe, Row Boat or Paddle Craft.

We suggest you print the form that we use as a guide while performing this self-inspection. You can get the Official USCG Paddle craft Vessel Safety Check form here. It requires that you have the free Adobe Acrobat reader installed on your computer.

For Virtual Vessel Safety Checks, please use the Virtual Safety Check steps below.

After you have completed the self-examination, you can request that one of our examiners perform an actual Paddle Craft Vessel Safety Check by clicking on the following link I Want a Free Vessel Safety Check! to contact an examiner near you. Upon satisfactory completion of the VSC our Examiner will award a Vessel Safety Check sticker to affix to your vessel.

Note that in addition to the minimum federal requirements stated here, the owner/operator may be required to comply with other regulations and/or laws specific to the state in which their recreational vessel is registered or operated. To ensure compliance with state boating laws, boaters should contact the appropriate boating agency in their area for additional information.

View the Federal Vessel Requirements Brochure.

View the Massachusetts Boating Handbook 

View other State Boating Information & Regulations


Virtual Paddle Craft Safety Check Steps

Sound signal: (whistle, horn, etc) Ideally attached to your life jacket.
Life jacket (ideally adjusted to the wearer and USCG approved) 9 out of 10 boaters that drown were not wearing a life jacket. Make sure that you have a life jacket that is sized and fitted for you.

 Overall vessel condition (*as applies to your vessel)

 Leaky hull, lines or fittings in disrepair, leaky bulkheads - all are reasons for VSC failure.
 * Hull and deck are sound Even a small leak could impact vessel stability
 * Hatch covers in good condition and secure Submerge in controlled conditions and check hatch for water
 * Dock lines and bungee cords in good condition and secure.If you capsize, hold onto your paddle and craft, as they can potentially blow or surf away faster than you can swim after it
 * Hardware is secure and in working order A malfunctioning rudder, skeg, etc., can be a significant liability
 * Bulkheads, air bags, emergency flotation items are in good working order Many craft without flotation become unusable or sink completely when flooded. Flotation makes self or assisted rescues much easier. Unsecured flotation items can be lost.
* Paddle / oars are serviceable No visible cracks or fractures along the blade or shaft
Navigation lights sunset to sunrise If operating between sunset and sunrise, or in restricted visibility, one (1) white light (flashlight acceptable)
 Visual Distress Signals (VSD) (Sunset to sunrise) Applicable only to vessels operating on US coastal waters, the Great Lakes and territorial seas If operating between sunset and sunrise a VDS suitable for night use must be carried.  Either one (1) electric light (with S.O.S.) or three (3) combination day/night flares  Expired signals do not meet the requirement and are unreliable if used.


Open Water Recommendations

Pump or BailerRecommended to remove excess water from inside vessel.
Spray Skirt (Waterproof barrier worn to create a seal with the cockpit coaming)Make sure that the grab loop is on the outside and that the operator knows how to exit the boat while wearing the spray skirt.
Spare paddle/oarsMake sure you have one available if needed.
Compass/GPS/Navigation ChartsKnow how to use them and test in the conditions you expect to need them.
 Tow/Boat recovery system
Have a plan if you need help getting home?  Practice these skills.
 Marine radio (VHF), Cell phone, Personal Locator Device (PLB) Know how to use them and test in the conditions you expect to need them.


Other Recommendations

Always dress for an unexpected capsize, a helmet is necessary where upsets are likely.Cold water kills: cold shock - 1 minute, swimming failure -10 minutes, hypothermia - 1 hour. Resulting in unconsciousness/ death. Always wear your lifejacket.
Personal ID on operator
Driver’s license, credit card and medical ID is excellent.
Float plan with someone on shoreRoute, duration, craft description, bail out options, etc.
Appropriate food and water. 
Never Boat Under the Influence
Be prepared, you are completely dependent on the operator for mobility. Keep yourself well fueled.
Appropriate emergency kit (might include first-aid kit, knife, fire starter, boat repair, etc.)
When putting your kit together, bear in mind the type of activities you’ll be doing and the conditions you’ll expect to encounter.
Sun protection (sunglasses / hat)
Don’t forget your eyes and skin.
High visibility clothing, gear, etc.
Reflective , brightly colored, luminescent, etc.
Appropriate self rescue system/skills
Have a plan if you find yourself out of your boat. Practice self and assisted rescue techniques.
Contact information affixed to craft
Your name and phone number is sufficient.
Anchor Lights – if applicable
(sunset to sunrise)
Not required unless anchoring in or near a narrow channel, fairway, anchorage, or where other vessels normally navigate, or in restricted visibility – One (1) all around white light, or an electric torch or flashlight.