Boater Safety Q&A With the Port Jeff Flotilla of the Coast Guard Auxiliary

Vessel safety checks and boater safety courses are among the public services of the local Auxiliary.

Shelley Lee Johnson, with the Port Jefferson Flotilla of the United States Coast Guard’s Auxiliary (USCGAUX) spoke to Patch recently about boater safety and having your vessel inspected.

The Auxiliary was at the this past weekend to raise awareness about the organization and to sign up boaters to a at the at 55 Cliff Road in Belle Terre from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $35.

Anyone interested should go to their website and register. You can also set up a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) through the USCGAUX.

What is a Vessel Safety Check (VSC)?

A Vessel Safety Check is a courtesy examination of your boat (Vessel) to verify the presence and condition of certain Safety Equipment required by State and the Federal regulations. The Vessel Examiner is a trained specialist and is a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. They will also make certain recommendations and discuss certain safety issues that will make you a safer boater. The items checked by the examiner include:

  • Proper Display of State Registration Numbers
  • State Registration Information on the boat
  • Personal Flotation Devices (life jackets) on the boat
  • Visual Distress Signals (flares)
  • Ventilation of enclosed areas where the engine is located
  • Backfire Flame Control (if required)
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Sound Producing Devices
  • Navigation Lights
  • Pollution or Trash Placards (if required)
  • Marine Sanitation Devices (if required)
  • Navigation Rules
  • Specific NYS requirements, including Anchor and sufficient Anchor Line.
  • Overall Vessel Condition

This is not boarding or a law enforcement issue. No citations will be given as a result of this encounter. We will supply you with a copy of our evaluation so that you may follow some of the suggestions given. Vessels that pass will be able to display our distinctive VSC decal. This does not exempt you from law enforcement boarding, but you can be prepared to make this a positive encounter.

Why is it important to have your boat inspected by the Coast Guard before the boating season begins? (What types of things do you look for?)

A critical mission of the USCGAUX is the promotion of recreational boating safety through courtesy Vessel Safety Checks performed by trained, qualified volunteer Vessel Examiners.  If a sailboat, motorboat or paddle craft has all the required safety items the owner is awarded a VSC Sticker for posting to their vessel’s port side. If items are missing or not functioning, the examiner will be happy to return when the owner has those missing items in place.  No tickets are issued by USCGAUX.

The importance of the annual VSC is to make sure that the vessel is in compliance with both federal and local regulations that season, to provide a safety checklist for the boater and guests to review before getting underway each trip, and to allow for discussion of general topics related to recreational boating safety in the local area.

Boater owners with children are encouraged to include the kids in the VSC to help educate them.

One of the topics of discussion is America’s Waterways Watch.

Click here to schedule a VSC with a local examiner.

What's the number one rule when out on the water?

Keep a vigilante watch. Maintain situational awareness at all times. 

Be on the lookout for approaching vessels, vessels at anchor or unmanned, obstacles/obstructions (rocks, lobster floats, etc.) Follow aids to navigation.  Review local marine charts for knowledge of depths and other hazards.  Know the rules of the road including right of way rules.

What does the Coast Guard Auxiliary do and how does one become a member? Do I have to be in the Coast Guard?

Auxiliary members are authorized to participate include, but are not limited to:

  • Administrative support to the Coast Guard
  • Aids to Navigation verification (ATON)
  • Assistance to local government (e.g., Small Boat Course for Local Law Enforcement)
  • Augmentation of Coast Guard billets
  • Bridge administration
  • Auxiliary Air ("AuxAir") - USCG aircraft support
  • Contingency preparedness
  • Licensing of merchant mariners
  • Marine Safety and Environmental Protection (MSEP)
  • Operational support to the Coast Guard (OPS): This includes radio watchstanding (RWS).
  • Port Safety and Security (PS&S)
  • Public Affairs support (PA)
  • Recreational Boating Safety (RBS)
  • Recruiting
  • Search and rescue (SAR)
  • Vessel inspections in partnership with the United States Power Squadrons
  • Waterways management

US Coast Guard Auxiliarists are the all volunteer component of the US Coast Guard and force multiplier that frees up the enlisted & reservist (paid) Coast Guard personnel to perform law enforcement and life saving activities.  On an average day nationally the USCG:
Responds to 64 search and rescue cases

  • Keeps 842 pounds of cocaine off the streets
  • Services 116 buoys and fixes 24 discrepancies
  • Screens 720 commercial vessels & 183,000 crew & passengers
  • Issues 173 credentials to merchant mariners
  • Investigates 13 marine accidents
  • Inspects 68 containers
  • Inspects 29 vessels for compliance with air emissions standards
  • Performs 28 safety and environmental examinations of foreign vessels
  • Boards 13 fishing boats to ensure compliance with fisheries laws
  • Responds and investigates 10 pollution incidents

American citizens over 17 with no criminal record who have an interest in maritime safety and preservation of the environment may apply to join the USCGAUX. There are several mission areas to choose from: boat crew, public education, public affairs, marine domain awareness, vessel examinations and others.

Anything else?

Port Jefferson Flotilla will be offering the “About Boating” 8-hour public course at the Belle Terre Community Center on Saturday, May 19 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Click here to register for the class go to.


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