Boating Safely At Put-in-Bay

Finally, it’s that time of year again…Boating Season! After one long hard Winter (for those of us who didn’t head south), it’s time to get things thawed out and shipshape. One of the keys to safe boating is making sure that your vessel is seaworthy and compliant with current boating laws governing the Great Lakes (where I presume that most of us do our boating). I STRONGLY urge that you have a vessel exam (called a Vessel Safety Check) performed by the United States Coast Guard-AUX before you head out on to the water this season.


Vessel Safety Checks performed by the Coast Guard Auxiliary ARE NOT a law enforcement action and you WILL NOT be cited if your vessel should happen to fail. Rather, these courtesy checks give you an opportunity to correct any issues or violations in advance of being stopped and perhaps fined by the Coast Guard while you are underway. If you do pass our safety check, you will receive a window decal to be affixed to your vessel alerting the Coast Guard that you have been inspected, are boating safely and perhaps averting a boarding.


I am officially back on the Island from now through October and I’m available to personally inspect your vessel free of charge. The best
way to reach me is via email: You can also call me at 419-379-9000 stating your name, your phone number, that you’re at the Put-in-Bay Marina and would like to have a Vessel Safety Check at the Put-in-Bay Docks.


In this three-part series, we are going to cover everything needed for Put-in-Bay residents to pass a Vessel Boating Safely Check (VSC). By understanding the examination requirements in advance, it is much more likely that your boat (or jet ski, etc) will pass the inspection which will also make the job a lot easier on the vessel examiner. Let’s get started

1) Registration. Make sure that the correct vessel registration is on board and is current. In addition to a valid date, the vessel’s state registration numbers, and hull identification number must match the registration document exactly.


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. You would be surprised at the number of people that I’ve encountered who can’t produce their boat registration or not even sure which document it is. Not producing the correct documentation has us off to a bad start and it’s usually downhill from there. PLEASE have your correct documentation on board.

2) Display of Numbers. This is the number one violation that I see around Put-in-Bay. Numbers must be permanently attached to each side of the forward half of the vessel. The numbers must be read from left to right, and of a color that is contrasting with the background color; for example, black numbers on a white hull. Lettering must be in plain, vertical block characters of not less than 3 inches in height. Spaces or hyphens between letter and number groupings must be equal to the width of a letter other than “I” or a number other than “1.” The validation stickers must be affixed within six inches of the registration numbers.

NOTE: The letters/numbers should be a plain block font like “Ariel” not cursive, swirly or otherwise. The letters/numbers should not
be multiple colors, fancy fadings, shadows or outlines. Caution: Even though there are local stores willing to sell you these types of lettering does not make it legal to display on your vessel.

3) Personal Flotation Devices. The USCG requires that there be a USCG approved PFD (in good condition) on board for each passenger.
Vessels 16’ – 65’ must also carry a Type IV throwable device such as a cushion or ring buoy. Children must have a PFD suitable for their size. In the state of Ohio, children under the age of 10 must be wearing their PFD while on board vessels 18’ or less.

4) Visual Distress Signals. Here are the basics. For vessels less than 16’ distress signals are only required when operating between sunset and sunrise. 3 combination day/night red flares or 1 electric distress light is required. For vessels 16’ or longer you are required to have 3 handheld or floating orange smoke signals and 3-night flares or 3 combination day/night flares, hand-held, meteor or parachute type or 1 orange distress flag and 1 electric distress light or 3 handheld or floating orange smoke signals and one electric distress light or flare gun with 3 day/night cartridges. NOTE: Make sure that your flares are not expired. There are other combinations possible. If you have any questions contact the USCG-AUX at 419-379-9000.

5) Fire Extinguishers. Fire extinguishers are required if one of the following conditions exist:

(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.

Power vessels <26’ or are required to have 1 B-I fire extinguisher. Power vessels 26’ to <40 are required to have 2 B-1 or 1 B-2 extinguisher. Power vessels 40’ to 65’ are required to have 3 B-1 or 1 B-1 and 1 B-2 extinguisher. The fire extinguisher gauge should be in the green and the unit should not be more than 10 years old. A 2-digit date is often stamped on the bottom of the extinguisher. A fixed system such as “Halon” replaces 1 B-1 extinguisher. Make sure that your fixed system’s maintenance requirements are current and that the proper maintenance certificate is properly affixed.

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. The ventilation system is designed to remove potentially dangerous fumes. Usually, to the aft starboard and port are the intake and exhaust vents. Turn on your exhaust and place your hand over the exhaust port and make sure that it is blowing air out.

ADDITIONALLY: Boats with closed fuel tank compartments built after  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 tank compartment. Outboard equipped vessels are exempt.

7) Backfire Flame Control. Called a Flame Arrestor needs to be clean and oil free. HINT: The arrestor is situated on top of the carburetor and held in place by a single nut. Outboard and Diesel engines are exempt.

8) Sound Producing Device. This one is simple. All vessels to 65’ are required to have a sounding device such as an installed boat horn, whistle or air horn, etc. capable of a 4-second blast audible for a ½ mile. Vessels 65’ feet or more in length are required to carry a whistle or horn and a bell that are audible for 1 mile.

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 “running” lights.


Now is the time for island residents to schedule a free vessel boating safely check administered by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. Call Today 419-379- 9000. ——————————– For information about serving in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Contact the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary at 419-379-9000. Paul Bolden is the Vice Commander of the 9th Coast Guard District, Central Region, Division 16 and is a seasonal resident of Put-In-Bay.


Continuing from where we left off last month. Part 2 of this 3 part annual series will assist Put-in-Bay residents in understanding and passing a vessel inspection (VSC). Please remember that Vessel Safety Checks performed by the Coast Guard Auxiliary ARE NOT a law enforcement action and you WILL NOT be cited if your vessel should happen to fail. Rather, these courtesy checks give you an opportunity to correct any issues or violations in advance of being stopped and perhaps fined by the Coast Guard while you are underway.

1) Pollution Placard. Lake Erie, as well as all Great Lakes, are federally controlled waters and boaters are subject to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.. If your vessel is 26’ and over, you are required to have a Discharge of Oil Placard affixed in a conspicuous place in the machinery or bilge pump area of your vessel. The discharge of oil or oily waste into any navigable waters of the U.S. are strictly prohibited by law.

2) Marpol Trash Placard. Let’s make this one simple! Don’t throw any waste overboard okay! Vessels 26’ or greater are required to have a Trash Placard on display. Usual places to affix the placard are in the galley or head, etc. Vessels 40’ and over must additionally have a written trash disposal plan onboard.

3) Marine Sanitation Devices. On Lake Erie, you are prohibited from discharging waste into the water. If your vessel has a porta potty you are okay in that you will remove the unit for emptying once ashore or at a pump out station. If you have a flush toilet that empties into a holding tank that is a closed system and can not be discharged overboard you are okay as well. Here’s where it gets a little tricky. If your vessel’s head has or has had the capability of discharging waste overboard, that feature must be disabled. This is too complicated to fully discuss in this article. I would strongly advise that you contact the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and have a vessel examiner do an inspection to assure that you are in compliance with federal law. Islanders can have this inspection performed free of charge. Call (419) 379-9000.

4) Navigation Rules. Boats 39.4’ and over must have a current copy of the navigation rules on board.

5) State Requirements. Pick up a copy of “Ohio Boat Operators Guide.” Contact the USCG Auxiliary or the Department of
Natural Resources (ODNR).

6) Overall Vessel Condition. Your vessel must be free from fire hazards, in good overall condition, with bilges reasonably clean and visible hull structure generally sound. The engine horsepower must not exceed that shown on the capacity plate. 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 mechanisms must be in proper working order. 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. System and fuel tanks must be properly secured with no flammable materials nearby.

NEXT MONTH Next month, we will wrap up the series with a discussion of additional equipment and