Free stuff to help you have a better summer

Tue, 05/23/2023 - 12:45pm

Everyone likes “free stuff” although in many cases, to get to the free stuff you have to buy something else first. Two free things that are really “free” and may save you money, your possessions, or maybe your life are free Paddlecraft “If Found” stickers (money and possessions) and free Vessel Safety Checks (money, possessions, and your life) by the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

If Found Stickers: The Coast Guard must treat every vessel found adrift and unoccupied as a “person in the water” (PIW) emergency because their guidelines state that the assumption must be made that the vessel left shore with someone aboard. Whether it’s a paddleboard or 40 ft cruiser, that assumption is the same. Larger vessels have registration and hull numbers that allow for a quick determination of who the owner is and how to contact them. Kayaks, skiffs, and paddle boards don’t; so, while you’re inside keeping warm on a rainy, windy day, your poorly secured and unlabeled kayak may be adrift and heading to parts unknown and destined to become a PIW Search and Rescue (SAR) evolution. It doesn’t take much to send an unsecured paddlecraft off on its own with failure to allow for high winds or tides being leading causes of adrift paddlecraft scenarios.

Taking a few minutes to fill out (with a permanent marker) an If Found sticker and attach it to your vessel may not only save you money by getting your vessel back but may also save the taxpayers money by not funding an unnecessary search for a nonexistent PIW.

If Found stickers are available at most Boothbay area post offices, town offices and marinas and dealers.

Vessel Safety Checks (VSC’s): Coast Guard Auxiliary members perform tens of thousands of VSC’s every year and have saved boaters not just money by avoiding fines for missing, expired, or damaged required safety equipment, but lives by ensuring onboard safety equipment is appropriate, in place and in good working order.

Few boaters pay attention to safety equipment until they need to use it, by which point the “I’ve been meaning to replace that” regret isn’t much help. Fire extinguishers lose pressure, stored life jackets deteriorate, flares expire or get wet, and batteries go dead; and until Walmart opens a “supercenter barge”, replacement safety items won’t be readily available once you leave the dock.

Power boaters have specific items that are also seldom checked like a buildup of oil and general crud on inboard engine backfire flame arrestors, leaky bilge exhaust blower ducting, improperly secured fuel tanks, and new for this year, a check of the Engine Cutoff Switch ECOS (if that boat meets the criteria for mandatory use).

All the items the CG Auxiliary checks are the same items the active-duty Coast Guard or Marine Patrol will check if you’re stopped and boarded, but unlike the other agencies inspections, the Auxiliary member will only either hand you a “good-to go” 2023 VSC sticker, or a list showing the items you need to get up to requirements. No one else sees that list so it’s up to the boater to decide how to proceed. The Vessel Safety Check calendar for the Boothbay area will be published in the next week.

So “Free” is not only “really free” but also a possible money, vessel, and life saver as well.

If you enter I want a “I Vessel Safety Check” in your search box and fill in the form, it’ll be sent to the nearest Vessel Examiners who can contact you to set up a VSC at your convenience.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard and supports the Coast Guard in nearly all mission areas. The Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939. For more information, please visit: