Most folks have read about or witnessed boating incidents such as a collision, sinking/capsizing, man over board or fire. Many have the mindset “that will never happen to me” - wrong! It can and has happened to the most experienced recreational boaters and professional captains!
No matter how many years you have spent on the water, each time underway presents its own unique challenges and conditions. We all need to insure we are prepared!
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USCG Vessel Safety Standards
The U.S. Coast Guard and Massachusetts Environmental Police have established specific requirements defining vessel safety standards.
These standards include personal flotation devices, navigation lights, fire extinguishers, visual distress signals, sound producing devices and more.
The required equipment checklist used during vessel safety checks is provided at the end of this post.
A complete guide of Massachusetts boating laws and responsibilities including this checklist is available on the Massachusetts Environmental Police website @ www.mass.gov/ole. For federal boating laws, visit the U.S. Coast Guard’s boating safety website @
It’s important to insure you are in compliance with the requirements for your vessel and area of operation. Should you be boarded by the Coast Guard or Environmental Police and fail a vessel safety check, fines may result.
Wingman’s home port is Barnstable Harbor, and we primarily operate within Cape Cod Bay. Given the proximity of our area of operation to the Coast Guard stations at the canal and Provincetown, I am typically boarded at least twice a season by Coast Guard vessels on patrol or conducting crew training exercises.
Courtesy Vessel Checks
The way I ensure Wingman is in compliance is to request a courtesy vessel safety check before each season. These vessel checks are conducted by the Coast Guard auxiliary, are free and won’t result in a fine should a violation be found.
A follow-on inspection is scheduled to insure you have corrected the violation. When the vessel check is passed you receive a decal to display, indicating your vessel is compliant.
Then typically, as the Coast Guard or Environmental Police approach your vessel on the water and see this decal, they will give you a wave and be on their way. A courtesy vessel check can be requested by contacting your local Coast Guard auxiliary or via the Coast Guard auxiliary website @ www.cgaux.org/.
Required Equipment Checklist
To print this checklist, you can click here.
Please refer to the Massachusetts Environmental Police website @ www.mass.gov/ole for the guide to boating laws and responsibilities and the required equipment checklist established for powered vessel lengths and non-motorized vessels.
For federal boating laws, visit the u.s. coast guard’s boating safety website @ www.uscgboating.org .
Extra Safety Tips
Charter Boats are required to carry Type I PFDs for all on board. We mark our vessel’s name, and attach whistles and LED or cyalume light sticks to each PFD.
Having a light on your PFD greatly increases the ability for Search and Rescue (SAR) responders to locate you after dark. In addition, we also mark anything the floats with the vessel’s name such as life rings, first aid kits, coolers , cushions etc.
We do this based on a recommendation from the US Coast Guard safety office. In the event a vessel goes down, any floating debris the search and rescue folks find and can tie to your vessel, helps them determine the location of survivors.
I hope that you’ve found the information provided helpful. Implementing a safety based, preventative maintenance plan will increase trouble free time on the water and enhance the safety of those aboard should a situation arise.
Fair Seas and Tight Lines!