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May 18 – 24 is National Safe Boating Week. As you prepare for the boating season, check to be sure your equipment meets State and Federal safety requirements. You can review the safety equipment requirements at United Marine Underwriters’ Boating Safety page or LakeBrowser’s Boating Resources.

While reviewing the list, remember that just placing items aboard is not enough to ensure your safety or ability to meet standards.

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadron will provide a free boat safety check for any recreational boat.

Both programs will verify all safety equipment is on board and in good working condition. You can qualify for a safety decal if you meet certain requirements. Visit U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron websites for additional details.

Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs)

Inspect the material for tears, discoloring or rot from the sun and moisture. Grip the material and try to tear it. If it tears, it won’t pass. Rub the material. If it produces a fine dust, a breakdown of the floatation material inside has occurred and it will need to be replaced.

Squeeze jackets with kapok cylinders while holding to your ear. If there is an air leak, or cylinders are hard, replace the jacket. Tug on straps or fasteners. If they pull loose, replace the jacket. Use your thumbnail to try to separate the strap material. If it separates, replace the jacket. Inflatable PFDs have manufacturer’s instructions. If you lost them, get a replacement and follow directions.

Check zippers and snaps to be sure they work smoothly and hold firmly. A touch of clear silicone spray will help preserve and loosen them.


Just looking at the gauge is not enough. If it has a dry chemical, it may have settled or compacted in the base and may not expel its total contents. Invert the canister with one hand and tap the side firmly with the palm of your other hand.

If your extinguisher does not have a gauge or green button, it needs a tag showing it has been checked within the past six months. Without it, the extinguisher will be unacceptable. If you find rusted or bent parts, replace the extinguisher immediately.


You may not be required to carry a horn, bell or whistle, but you are required to have a signaling device capable of producing a four second blast audible for half a mile. Many boaters carry canister-type blast horns, but fail to carry an extra canister. If you use this type of horn, be sure to carry an extra canister on board.


Visual Distress Signals (VDS) are required in many areas. They have expiration dates. If your flares are inspected and the dates have expired, the VDS will not be acceptable. We’re told this is the most common infraction cited.

After checking all of your boat’s equipment, replace or repair questionable items. Once you are satisfied that everything is in good condition, you will enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re prepared for a SAFE BOATING SEASON!

United Marine Underwriters is more than just boat insurance. Browse our Boats For Sale at BoatBrowser or our Lake Resource Guide at LakeBrowser or share your fishing stories and photos at True Fish Tales – the ones that did not get away.

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