Vessel Safety Checks For Sports & Utility Boats (SUBs)
 

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is committed to reminding all recreational boaters to:

 BOAT SMART FROM THE START, WEAR YOUR PFD

 To award a VSC decal to a non-motorized (SUBS) boat:

REQUIRED ITEMS:

       1.   NUMBERING: Most states do not require registration numbers on non-motorized boats. If they are present, they must be 3" block letters of contrasting colors. Become familiar with your State Requirements.  Since the display of numbers is not required in many States, know where your hull identification number is located and keep a copy in a safe place.

 

2. REGISTRATION: These documents, if required by your State, must be available for examination. Most states do not require registration of SUBs. Check to see what YOUR State and Local requirements are.  If you are required to carry these documents aboard the SUB place them in a waterproof container that is tethered to the craft or stored in a dry bag.

 

3.    PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE: Each person must have an approved type I, II, III, or V PFD.  Kayak and canoe users need to consider the use of a comfortable fitting PFD that allow for a full range of arm movement, is not bulky and has pockets and D-rings to tether safety equipment. Experienced kayakers would rarely use a Type I offshore vest or the near shore Type II version because its sheer bulk could jeopardize safe operation in difficult sea conditions. Type III or Type V PFD’s tend to work best for SUB users. The PFD should be worn whenever under way.

 

4.      VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNALS: The SUB has to comply with same requirements that are specified for powered vessels.  When required they must have three flares on board or an equivalent number of alternative USCG approved signals.  A signaling mirror designed for marine use should be attached to each PFD along with a small, waterproof, strobe light to facilitate both day and night distress signaling.  Conventional flare guns or complicated flare launchers should be avoided because a person immersed in cold water may not be able to make effective use of these devices.  Small, waterproof, easy to launch flares are preferred.  

 

5.     SOUND PRODUCING DEVICE:  All vessels must have a means of signaling. Sail and paddle or oar powered vessels may meet this requirement by having a marine distress whistle on board.  Since accidental immersion and possible separation from the SUB is always possible the whistle should be placed on a lanyard that is attached to the PFD.

 

6.   .NAVIGATION LIGHTS: All vessels are required to display navigation lights at night and during periods of reduced visibility. Sail and paddle or oar powered boats of less than 22 ft. may meet this requirement by having a flashlight in good working order with spare batteries. Under no circumstances should a strobe light ever be used for night time navigation.  The strobe light is a distress device and should only be used in the event of a bonafide emergency.

 

7.  STATE AND LOCAL REQUIREMENTS:  the SUB must comply with all state and local safety and legal requirements.  Check the boating safety webpage for the State in which the vessel will be operated to determine if there are any additional safety requirements.  Some states have included paddle sports safety training modules for specialized sports such as canoeing and kayaking.

 

       8.  OVERALL VESSEL CONDITION: The boat must be well maintained and suitable for the area of use (as applies to non-motorized boats). 

ADDITIONAL ITEMS RECOMMENDED FOR ALL SPORT UTILITY BOATS:

· File a Float Plan.  A float plan contains information about the operator and the vehicle used to transport the vessel as well as the vessel itself.  The plan also includes the expected route of travel along with a date and time of arrival and departure. An overdue SUB is a high search and rescue priority because the effects of cold water and other climatic factors can quickly become life threatening.  Taking a few minutes to post a float plan with friends or loved ones is a great life insurance policy.

· Use a Spray Skirt.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than having the cockpit of a kayak filled with water from a passing boat wake or that wave that got by unnoticed. Learn how to properly attach the spray skirt and how to remove it in an emergency.

· Monitor and evaluate weather conditions.  Purchase a waterproof and portable weather radio or use a VHF radio that has a weather channel.  Check sky and sea conditions and never operate in an environment that exceeds personal capability.

· Pack a waterproof First Aid kit and insure that it is secured to your boat.  Paddle sports enthusiasts often operate in remote areas where medical attention is not readily available.  In addition to the kit consider completing basic first aid training and CPR.

· Bring drinking water, snacks and an extra layer of clothing. Kayak and canoe users need to dress properly for existing and expected weather conditions.  Cold water requires the use of wet or dry suits, but in more moderate conditions layered clothing is preferred. Fabric choices should include those that provide warmth even when wet.  Cotton materials should never be used in a cold weather situation because they wick heat away from the body when wet accelerating the effects of hypothermia.

· Store small items such as sunscreen, bug repellent, first aid items, food and snacks in a waterproof dry-bag tethered to the boat.  When tying down these items make sure they are stowed in an area that will not interfere with users ability to exit the vessel in the event of a capsize situation.

· Emergency signaling gear should be placed within the pockets of your PFD and tied down so that when accessed these items will not be lost.

· If you wear eyeglasses or sunglasses you’ll need a strap for attaching them to your head. This is particularly important during a kayak capsize where eyewear can easily come off when you are immersed in water upside down.

· Wear a hat to provide protection from the sun.  A wide brimmed hat or a specially designed hat that protects the back of the neck, ears and head are the best.  Use sun sunscreen for additional protection.

· Carrying a small PVC type bilge pump with a floatation collar is absolutely essential to get a kayak cockpit pumped out before the next wave breaks.  These devices work well in combination with the spray skirt that keeps the cockpit of a kayak watertight. A large car-washing sponge and towel are good for eliminating small amounts of water but for best results should be used with a portable hand pump.

· Rescue gear such as throw bags, tow lines or other devices should be carried particularly when traveling in groups.  Just having these items on board is not really good enough.   Paddle sports enthusiasts should be familiar with the deployment and use of this gear. This is best accomplished through constant practice. 

· Pack a spare paddle and secure it to the boat.  Use a paddle leash attached to a forward fitting or bungee cord to prevent loss of the paddle in rough water.

· Practice wet exits from a kayak or canoe in safe, calm, shallow water.  This will allow you to gain confidence and capability in the event capsizing occurs on open deeper waters.

· Bring along electronic communication and navigation devices such as a VHF Radio, GPS, and Cellular Phone but place them in waterproof bags. Include a waterproof hand held compass as a back up in case the GPS fails.

· When operating in coastal waters or navigable rivers carry a chart and try to obtain local knowledge of waterway conditions. Familiarize yourself with basic coastal navigation procedures.

· Pack a trash bag. Take all refuse away with you. Leave every stop or camp site cleaner than when you found it.

· Bring a friend. It is always safer to paddle in a group.

Additional Items Suggested for Canoes:

• BAILER:                   A scoop can be made by cutting the bottom off of a one-gallon plastic milk, or bleach bottle (leave the lid on). It comes in handy for getting water out of your boat.;

• KNEELING PAD:    An optional but much-appreciated comfort item for canoeists, some of whom glue theirs into their boat. Use non-absorbent, waterproof foam, like the kind found in sleeping pads.

• THWART BAG:       Accessible to the paddler and attached to the boat, this is a prime place store sunscreen, raingear, jellybeans, and other small items.

Additional Items Suggested for Kayaking:

• SPRAY SKIRT:                    A spray skirt keeps water out of your kayak, but be sure you know how to attach it and practice detaching it quickly. Made of coated nylon or neoprene, spray skirts have specific sizes for both kayakers and their boats.

• PUMP:                                  A hand pump helps get water out of recreational and touring kayaks. Make sure it has a floatation collar.

• PADDLE LEASH:                By attaching your paddle to your touring boat, you can keep better track of it when you drop it, or when you stop to take photos or pass out cookies.

• PADDLE FLOAT:               An inflatable or foam device that assists in the solo re-entry of a kayak. In cold  water the inflatable device should not be used. It takes too long to deploy and inflate. The foam device is ready to go and can be installed on the paddle blade very quickly.

• HELMET:                           A helmet should be used by paddle sports enthusiasts venturing onto whitewater or into rapids. also be used when kayaking through a surf zone.

Thanks to the many USCG Auxiliary Members, especially Alex Cascione, Paul Leuchner, and Lenore J. Combs, 
who shared their valuable insight to help produce this document.
 

Vessel Examinations

Peter Urgola, Department Chief - Vessel Examinations
Send email to DC-V

Richard Myrick, Division Chief - Vessel Examinations
Send email to DVC-VE

Alexander Cascione, Branch Chief - Sports & Utility Boats Program
Send email to BC-VES

Pages prepared by: Robert Daraio, DVC-VE 2006

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