Coast Guard inspection on the high seas

The local Coast Guard inspection force is in  frenzy mode.

Here we come, ready or not.

We were boarded last week

Why us?

Because we were there. Not many choices that day, we were the only ones on the horizon.

BUT we’d just gone through our annual Coast Guard Auxiliary inspection just a few weeks before, (we semi-pleaded) when they asked if they could board.

No point in saying no, so we extended an invitation.

As always, the “coasties” were polite and very respectful of our boat.  And the boarding party from the cutter Halibut completed the inspection in 20 minutes. (The old men in the auxiliary took an hour plus.)


What were they looking for? It was primarily a safety check: They looked in the bilges to see if we were sinking, they checked our flares, wanted to see our sound signaling devices, they  jiggled our fire extinguishers and looked at the gauges, noted that we were all wearing life jackets, checked our documentation then quizzed us on holding tank procedures.

For a complete rundown on what you need to have, download

Coast Guard inspection protocol

When you see the blue lights, and last weekend there were many blue lights on multiple Coast Guard craft in the harbor,  here’s what you do:

Maintain course and speed unless directed otherwise. No matter what they direct, you’re in charge of your boat and they can’t see what you see. So don’t put yourself in danger by cutting someone off or getting closer to a dock than you’d like. If you’re sailing, a close reach is probably easiest for boarding. It’s critical that you hold everything constant as they board. Before they come along side and once they’re aboard, if you need to maneuver, just tell them what you intend to do.

Guns: if you have any aboard, let them know. It’s probably best to let them know before they board. They didn’t ask us until they were on Sancerre, but we don’t have anything more sinister than a flare gun.

Why so many inspections?

They may be filling some sort of training quota and/or inspection/ticket quota. In any event they’ve been out there in force. We were boarded about three miles out, but most of the action last weekend was in the harbor.

Save your Coast Guard Inspection form

According to the guys who boarded us, it’s sort of a get-out-of-jail ticket. Good for one year, they won’t board you without a specific cause if you can produce the form.

Probable cause?

Apparently doesn’t apply in the case of stopping you for a safety inspection. On the other hand, I’d bet 95% of the boats they stop have multiple discrepancies, so think of it as a service.