These few days of above-normal temperatures probably has your boating blood running hot.  You are thinking about all that has to be done before launching for the new season.  Wash and wax.  Install the new equipment you picked up at the boat show.  Check over all systems and make sure they are ready to go.  But there is one item a majority of people neglect – boating safety requirements.

Few boating folks realize there are laws identifying safety equipment that boats must carry.  These laws vary with the size of your boat and the waters you are boating on.  It is important that you know these laws and have your vessel so equipped or it could cost you big bucks if you happened to be stopped by marine law enforcement divisions while on the water.

To become familiar with these laws, check with your local DNR or Coast Guard Station.  They will have free booklets that will explain the local and federal laws pertaining to your area.  They will also identify the different requirements for vessels of different size.  All marine law enforcement detachments will do random stops on the water and inspect your vessel to see that you are carrying the proper equipment.  If the proper equipment is not on board, you are sure to receive a ticket.  The best way to prevent this unpleasant experience is to have your vessel inspected before you begin your boating season.

The Vessel Safety Check program established by the US Coast Guard is designed to be an educational experience that certifies your vessel to be in compliance with state and federal laws.  It is free.  It takes only 30 minutes on the average.  And, the best part it carries no fines if you are not up to code.  In fact it gives you an opportunity to correct the situation and get certified.  With certification you are awarded a display decal that is affixed to your vessel in described fashion so all marine law enforcement vessel can immediately recognize your vessel as being in compliance.  Both the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United Stated Power Squadron offer this program to the public.  Being most familiar with the USPS program, let me explain how to get in touch with these folks.

Two very dedicated members of the USPS in our area are the Vessel Safety Check Coordinators.  They head their respective squadron’s teams providing training, setting up events and administering the logistics of the checks.  Contact these folks to secure a VSC for your vessel regardless if it is a kayak or an 82 meter yacht.
Jack R Schulze (Green Bay Sail and Power Squadron)
John Hermann (Door County Sail and Power Squadron)

You can also request a VSC by going to the United States Power Squadron site at and clicking on “Vessel Safety Check.”  Follow the simple instructions and it will connect you to a vessel examiner in your area.  Yes, they do all recreational vessels. Trailerable and marina based.  Fuel prices will be sky high this summer.  Don’t add to your boating expenses by shelling out your boating bucks for fines.  Be a responsible boater.  Wax your boat, but be sure your family and passengers are safe as well.  You’ve got the helm.