You may use the guidelines presented on this page to examine
your own boat in preparation for your actual VSC.
We suggest you also print the form that we use to use as
a guide while performing this self-inspection. You may download
the form here
If you don't have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software,
you may download
. If you have trouble viewing the form, please
right-click and choose "Save Target As" to save
the file to your computer.
Item 1 - Display of Numbers:
The boat’s registration number must
be permanently attached to each side of the forward half
of the boat They must be plain, vertical, block characters,
not less than three (3) inches high, and in a color contrasting
with the background. A space or hyphen must separate the
letters from the numbers. Place State tax sticker according
to State policy.
(e.g. CF 1234 AB or CF-1234-AB)
Item 2 - Registration / Documentation:
Registration or Documentation papers must
be on board and available. Documentation numbers must be
permanently marked on a visible part of the interior structure.
The documented boat’s name and hailing port must be
displayed on the exterior hull in letters not less than
4 inches in height. To be documented a boat must be 5 net
tons or greater.
Item 3 - Personal Flotation Devices (PFD):
Acceptable PFDs (also known as Life Jackets)
must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, in good serviceable condition,
and of suitable size for the each person on the boat. Children
must have properly fitted PFDs designed for children. Wearable
PFDs shall be "readily accessible." Throwable devices shall
be "immediately available." PFDs shall NOT be stored in
unopened plastic packaging. For Personal Watercraft riders,
the PFD must be worn and indicate an impact rating. Boats
16 Feet or longer, must also have one Type IV.
Item 4 - Visual Distress Signals (VDS):
Recreational boats 16 feet and over used
on coastal waters or the Great Lakes are required to carry
a minimum of either 1) three day and three night pyrotechnic
devices, 2) one day non-pyrotechnic device (flag) and one
night non-pyrotechnic device (auto SOS light) or 3) a combination
of 1) and 2). Recreational boats less than 16 feet on coastal
waters or the Great Lakes need only carry night visual distress
signals when operating from sunset to sunrise.
It is recommended, but not required, that
boats operating on inland waters should have some means
of making a suitable day and night distress signal. The
number and type of signals is best judged by considering
conditions under which the boat will be operating. Alternatives
to pyrotechnic devices (flares) include:
||Red or orange flags
Item 5 - Fire Extinguishers:
Fire extinguishers are required if one
of the following conditions exists: (1) Inboard engine(s);
(2) Closed compartments that store portable fuel tanks;
(3) Double bottom hulls not completely sealed or not completely
filled with flotation materials (4) Closed living space
(5) Closed stowage compartments that contain flammable materials
or (6) Permanently installed fuel tanks
NOTE: Fire extinguishers must be readily accessible and
verified as serviceable.
number of extinguishers required
||Without Fixed System
||With Fixed System
|Less than 26’
|26’ to less than 40’
||two B-1 or one B-2
|40’ to 65’
||three B-1 or
one B-1 & one B-2
|two B-1 or
Item 6 - Ventilation:
Boats with gasoline engines in closed compartments,
built after 1 August 1980 must have a powered ventilation
system. Those built prior to that date must have natural
or powered ventilation.
Boats with closed fuel tank compartments
built after 1 August 1978 must meet requirements by displaying
a "certificate of compliance." Boats built before that date
must have either natural or powered ventilation in the fuel
Item 7 - Backfire Flame Control:
All gasoline powered inboard/outboard or
inboard motor boats must be equipped with an approved backfire
flame control device.
Item 8 - Sound Producing Devices / Bell:
To comply with Navigation Rules and for
distress signaling purposes all boats must carry a sound
producing device (whistle, horn, siren, etc.) capable of
a 4-second blast audible for ½ mile. Boats larger than 39.4
ft. are also required to have a bell (see Navigation Rules.)
Under a recent change, a vessel 12 meters (39.4 ft) to less
than 20 meters (65 ft) is no longer required to carry a
bell on board. This applies ONLY to those vessels operating
in International Waters. International waters for the purposes
of the Navigational Rules are those waters seaward of the
Line of Demarcation. For those vessels operating in Inland
Waters, a bell is STILL REQUIRED.
Item 9 - Navigation Lights:
All boats must be able to display navigation
lights between sunset and sunrise and in conditions of reduced
visibility. Boats 16 feet or more in length must have properly
installed, working navigation lights and an all-around anchor
light capable of being lit independently from the red/green/white
Item 10 - Pollution Placard:
Boats 26 feet and over with a machinery
compartment must display an oily waste "pollution" placard.
Item 11 - MARPOL Trash Placard:
Boats 26 feet and over in length must display
a "MARPOL" trash placard. Boats 40 feet and over must also
display a written trash disposal plan.
Item 12 - Marine Sanitation Devices:
Any installed toilet must be a Coast Guard
approved device. Overboard discharge outlets must be capable
of being sealed.
Item 13 - Navigation Rules:
Boats 39.4 feet and over must have on board
a current copy of the Navigation Rules.
Item 14 - State and/ or Local Requirements:
These requirements must be met before the
"Vessel Safety Check" decal can be awarded. A boat must
meet the requirements of the state in which it is being
to view the State's ABCs of the California Boating Law.
Item 15 - Overall Vessel condition:
As it applies to this Vessel. Including,
but not limited to:
a. Deck free of hazards and clean bilge:
The boat must be free from fire hazards,
in good overall condition, with bilges reasonably clean
and visible hull structure generally sound. The use of automobile
parts on boat engines is not acceptable. The engine horsepower
must not exceed that shown on the capacity plate.
b. Safe Electrical and Fuel Systems:
The electrical system - Must be protected
by fuses or manual reset circuit breakers. Switches and
fuse panels must be protected from rain or water spray.
Wiring must be in good condition, properly installed and
with no exposed areas or deteriorated insulation. Batteries
must be secured and terminals covered to prevent accidental
arcing.. If installed, self-circling or kill switch mechanism
must be in proper working order. All PWCs require an operating
self circling or kill switch mechanism.
Fuel Systems - Portable fuel tanks (normally
7 gallon capacity or less) must be constructed of non-breakable
material and free of corrosion and leaks. All vents must
be capable of being closed. The tank must be secured and
have a vapor-tight, leak-proof cap. Each permanent fuel
tank must be properly ventilated.
c. Safe Galley and Heating Systems:
System and fuel tanks must be properly
secured with no flammable materials nearby.