The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the volunteer arm of the US Coast Guard. They are usually boaters with an interest in the Coast Guard and volunteer work or retired Coast Guard officers. They provide the Coast Guard with support for many activities, including safety patrols and search and rescue. However, the Auxiliary does not have law enforcement authority. Only the US Coast Guard has that. One of the services provided by the Auxiliary is voluntary vessel safety checks. We get one every year. The check covers basic safety requirements such as personal flotation devices, navigation lights, visual distress signals (flares), fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and overall vessel condition.
If something doesn’t work or flares are expired or some other exception is found, the vessel fails the safety check. But there are no fines or penalties. However it is a good idea to correct the exceptions because the Coast Guard may board the boat at any time, for any reason, and they will issue citations and fines if safety violations are found. When a boat passes the safety check, the Auxiliary issues a window sticker good for a year that says the vessel passed the inspection.
While this sticker shows we maintain a safe vessel, the Coast Guard may still board any vessel at any time for any reason. However, I think when they see the sticker in the window, the odds are in my favor that I will not be boarded, at least not for a safety-related reason.
We are good for another year!