I own a 24′ Proline hardtop center console with a 225 Honda. I just love it! I do my best to keep it in good shape and to make sure we have all the gear and safety equipment we need on board. However, I’d be the first to admit that I get a bit nervous when I spot a Fish & Wildlife or USCG boat in the area. What if I get stopped? Is everything really up to date and ready to go?
While having breakfast at my favorite local spot on Big Pine in the Florida Keys, I ran into a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary member. After a short chat, he recommended that Fishwithme.net members should get the USCG Vessel Safety Check. That way, he suggested, fishing buddies could rest assured that their buddy’s boat was safe and ready to go.
I thought it was such a great idea that I went home and filled out the USCGA online request form. Immediately, I received a response email with a list of local inspectors. Within minutes, one of the inspectors called me and we set an appointment that same day. Best of all – he came right to my house where my boat is docked in the backyard.
Virgil, the volunteer inspector from the local U.S. Power Squadron, brought along a clipboard with the official USCG inspection sheet. The USCG Auxiliary member assured me that almost everyone fails the first time around and to not be too worried about preparing extensively. I literally did nothing to prepare. I mean, I had no time as the appointment was set so fast! (Please know you can set your appointment at any mutually agreeable time. There is also a great online virtual inspector tool that can prepare you for your inspector’s visit).
Virgil was great and the inspection took only minutes. However, he didn’t rush and took the time to educate me on various safety methods, tools, and tips. He also let me know about upcoming boating courses, some of which he taught. You can go to this U.S. Power Squadron website to search for courses and seminars offered in your area. The courses are available to anyone for a small fee.
I failed one point on the inspection sheet; I had no signal flares. He gave me a copy of the inspection sheet and said to call him back as soon as the flares were in hand. He even advised me that flares expire in 4.5 years and to check the expiration date before I purchase. I then simply ran down the street to my local marine supply store and picked up a package of new flares. I texted Virgil and he stopped back within minutes. He updated my inspection sheet and I had my badge! It is now proudly displayed on the port side of my center console.
The next time I spot that Fish & Wildlife or Coast Guard Officer or, even more importantly, welcome a new Fishwithme.net fishing buddy onto my boat, I can feel confident that my boat is safety checked and ready to go! I’m even going to incorporate a little safety briefing before we head out just so everyone knows where all the safety gear is located and how to quickly access it in the case of emergency.
Thank you U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and special thanks to our local U.S. Power Squadron volunteer, Virgil.