Tahoe Coast Guard reports big increase in free vessel checks | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Coast Guard reports big increase in free vessel checks

LAKE TAHOE and#8212; The North Lake Tahoe area U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is reporting a 500 percent increase this season in its Free Vessel Safety Check program on North Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake.

Vessel examiners have performed complimentary vessel checks at Meeks Bay, Obexterand#8217;s, Tahoe City Marina, Donner Lake, Lake Forest, Ski Beach (Incline Village) and numerous marine dealers, boat rental companies, and personal residences throughout the North Lake Tahoe area, said 11-01 Flotilla Commander Bruce McIntyre.

In 2008, the North Lake Tahoe Coast Guard Auxiliary completed 93 Vessel Safety Checks. This year 466 VSCs have been completed, as of Friday, July 17.

and#8220;Our mission is to prevent loss of life on the waters in North Lake Tahoe by educating boat operators about boating safety and checking their vessels to ensure their vessels have all the required safety equipment,and#8221; McIntyre said. and#8220;Most problems can be avoided if vessels have all the required safety equipment onboard, and the vessel operators know where all the safety equipment is located on their vessel.and#8221;

Motor powered vessels less than 26 feet in length require the following safety items onboard: visual distress signal device (like a ski flag), a sound producing device (whistle, horn, bell, etc.), fire extinguisher, properly fitting personal flotation device (PFD/life jacket) for all passengers and operators, a readily accessible throwable Type IV Cushion (not stowed), working ventilation system (inboard or I/O engines), working navigation lights and installed backfire flame control device on I/O or inboard engines. Mandatory equipment for kayaks and canoes are a properly fitting personal flotation device with a whistle attached to the PFD.

and#8220;We are very visible on and around North Lake Tahoe and area waters this year because we know our efforts at patrolling the lake, performing free vessel safety checks, and operating boating safety classes saves lives,and#8221; McIntyre said.

Vessel operators need to understand the difference from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Free Vessel Safety Check and an enforcement boarding by the regular Coast Guard or one of the police or sheriff boats. When a vessel operator receives a free VSC by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, there are no citations issued since the Coast Guard Auxiliary does not have enforcement powers. The VSC is more of an educational session.

The CG Auxiliary will issue a decal if the boat has all the required safety equipment. This announces to the enforcement agencies that that vessel has been checked this year and had all the safety equipment onboard.

However, if the regular Coast Guard or one of the police agencies finds a vessel does not have all the required safety equipment the infractions carry fines of hundreds or a few thousand dollars. As an example each person missing a properly fitted personal flotation device is a separate infraction that carries a separate fine.

For a free safety check, call Joe Harris at (650) 279-9159. Checks can be performed at personal residences, boat ramps or other location.

On Aug. 1, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will operate its and#8220;About Boating Safetyand#8221; class at the Kings Beach Event Center. For class reservations call Jerry Gilmore at ( 530) 587-3334.

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