CLEVELAND — Coast Guard boatcrews throughout the Great Lakes region ordered a dozen mariners back to shore this weekend due to their lack of required safety gear.
The Coast Guard is reminding boaters that there are resources available to educate them and keep them in compliance with federal regulations.
When a vessel is found to be noncompliant with federal regulations, and the infraction is one that cannot be corrected on the spot, the Coast Guard has the authority to order the vessel back to shore until the violations can be remedied.
"Boaters must think seriously about the required and recommended safety equipment on their vessels," said Frank Jennings Jr., Recreational Boating & Water Safety Program manager for the 9th Coast Guard District.
"They need to ask themselves, 'What do I need if an emergency arises? What do I need to ensure my safe return after a day of boating?'"
"There are plenty of resources, many of which are free, that will help a boater ensure their vessel is in compliance with the most current state and federal boating safety requirements," said Jennings. "And, the most beneficial free resource is the vessel safety check, offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons."
Some of the most common safety violations that resulted in a voyage termination this weekend included insufficient life jackets, no throwable flotation device, no navigation lights during nighttime operation, no sound-producing device, no visual distress signals, no fire extinguisher, no engine compartment ventilation, no registration onboard, and no flares.
Boaters should thoroughly check over their boats prior to getting underway. Mariners should take advantage of free vessel safety checks.
VSCs, offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons, are performed at the vessel, and take about 15-30 minutes to complete, depending on the size of the vessel. Depending on availability of inspectors, VSCs can be conducted anywhere — from the marina to the boat owner's driveway.
Mariners whose vessels pass the inspection are awarded a decal that informs the Coast Guard, harbor patrol, sheriffs, police and other boating law enforcement and safety agencies that the mariner’s boat was found to be in full compliance with all federal and state boating laws during a safety check for that year. Additionally, many insurance agencies offer discounts for vessel owners who undergo annual vessel safety checks.
If a vessel does not pass the safety check, a citation or notice of violation is NOT issued. Instead, mariners are provided a written report detailing how to correct any discrepancies.
VSCs may be scheduled online by clicking here.
The Coast Guard also recommends mariners take boater education courses, offered by their state or the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Across the U.S., there were 758 deaths in 2011 as a result of recreational boating accidents. Only 11 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received formal boating safety instruction.