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When Was the Last Time You Were Boarded by the Coast Guard?

Last Friday morning I was motoring out of South Beach Harbor aboard my 1972 Ericson 32 Sospiro, heading home to Alameda after taking my mom on an overnight trip to the city. While we were exiting, we passed a US Coast Guard vessel. I waved, they nodded, and we continued out of the marina into the flat calm of an early morning on the Bay.

Coast Guard approaches Sospiro.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

 

Suddenly, I noticed that same boat approaching my stern quickly. So quickly I could barely wrap my head around what was going on. All I could think was, “What did I do wrong?”

The Coast Guard pulled up alongside Sospiro and asked when she had last been boarded. The answer was never. They informed me they would be coming aboard for an inspection, so I slowed down and two officers came on deck. I asked my mom to take the helm, so I could focus on the inspection. Despite it being her first overnight adventure on the boat, my mom was cool, calm, and collected. I was the opposite of calm; quite flustered, in fact, while trying to quickly produce the required items.

The officers requested to see my driver’s license, registration, life vests, two fire extinguishers and a horn, and asked if I had a working marine head, and oil and waste discharge placards displayed in visible areas. The only thing I failed to locate was the registration, which I had pulled out the day before to show the marina. Luckily the displayed and current CF number was sufficient. All in all the inspection was quick, and Sospiro received a certificate of passing. I hear once you get inspected you can flash your inspection, should they come alongside to ‘pull you over’ again.

My mom Terrie taking the helm during the inspection.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

I asked the Coast Guard why they had chosen my boat to board, and they informed me that they are increasing routine inspections around the Bay. I have a great appreciation for the Coast Guard’s ensuring boaters are taking safety seriously. Two items I don’t recall being questioned about were my VHF, which was on, and flares, which I have in an easy-to-access compartment.

This incident got us thinking about how many of our readers have been boarded by the Coast Guard for a routine safety inspection, or perhaps something else.

Do you keep a checklist of safety equipment on your boat? Do you go through a check before you leave the dock?

We recommend all sailors get in the practice of doing checks every time they take their boat out. If you want to ensure you comply with the USCG, you can download and print this checklist that clearly outlines the required items: https://www.usps.org/national/vsc/formtool_files/a7012.pdf.

When is the last time you did a safety check?
© 2021 USCG

We firmly believe safety on the water should be the utmost priority for all sailors. For this reason, we have partnered with the Safe Boating Campaign, the National Safe Boating Council, and the US Coast Guard to bring you our new podcast Good Jibes. Good Jibes will launch next Wednesday, bringing you sailing stories, tips, and inspiration.

To ensure you and your crew have many more safe days on the water, visit https://safeboatingcampaign.com/ for resources, courses, and information. Safe days on the water equal more days on the water.

18 Comments

  1. Harry Mathias 3 months ago

    The last time I was boarded was 1981. And it was because I had a pretty girl in a bikini sunbathing on my deck. The all- male Coast Guard boarding crew even admitted that that was their motivation.

    We pass the safety inspection with flying colors.

  2. Dan Haynes 3 months ago

    I have owned 4 boats over the years. The only time I was boarded by the CG was on the last day I owned my last boat. I was underway in the south bay to Alameda for the haul out and surveyor’s inspection. It was early in the morning with no one in sight except for a CG rib. They turned around after passing me and came along side for a safety inspection. Everything was found in order around. They indicated that the purpose was for training.

    • Harvey Hoefer 3 months ago

      Hi Dan, always nice to hear from you through Latitude! Talking about being boarded by the CG: I was boarded once while underway, and the other time was actually the CG Auxiliary guys that did a “voluntary inspection” on my old Sabre. I got a sticker on the mast for the CG to see it next time they want to board you, but I don’t know if they still do that?

  3. Mark Blum 3 months ago

    We were boarded by a USCG vessel out of Station Golden Gate on a beautiful Autumn day about 10 years ago. After doing their routine inspection, they sped back to Golden Gate. About 30 minutes later I noticed they had left the spare battery for the Palm Pilot they had used for the inspection on the counter in my galley. By the time I called USCG back I was east of Treasure Island, on my way back to Emery Cove Marina. They quickly returned to retrieve the battery, running both high power outboards at high speed. I suspect the cost of fuel for the round trip was likely double the cost of the battery but was outweighed by the amount of paperwork they would have had to fill out to explain the lost battery and need for its replacement.

  4. Bernard Portet 3 months ago

    I have been boarded a 2-3 times in years earlier, by the Coast Guard and by Homeland Security. In fact twice in the same evening in the Tiburon area!
    What I remember is that they come fast and do not leave us time to hang our fenders and neither did use their own fenders.
    I do not mind the inspections but I mind the manners and lack of appreciation for our plastic hulls!
    And in both cases, they boarded and unboarded pretty fast because of some calls more urgent elsewhere in the bay!
    That must have been a busy evening! I suspect that the USCG were on a training session. I cannot say about Homeland.
    I have great respect fir the work the USCG does all over the area. But that was an unusual evening for me!

  5. Rich Jepsen 3 months ago

    I’ve been boarded a few times in my days on SF Bay. Always in a calm, easy to board area. The last one was 2016, returning from a four day practice coastal cruise to Monterey and back. After a stop in Pillar Point we within 500 yards of our slip in Alameda Marina. We were tired, salty and ready to bed and clean the boat, remove gear and provisions and get home.

    In the Estuary our offshore equipped Island Packet 37 and its crew of four were pulled over by very polite but direct USCG personnel. We passed. But, I can’t say I was equally polite…..

  6. tOm vArLeY 3 months ago

    …and don’t forget to have the current edition of “Navigation Rules & Regulations Handbook” prepared by the USCG! If it’s a thorough boarding, they will ask to see it – and for it to be valid it must be the latest edition. The handbook can be purchased at any chandlery or a marine box-store which used to sell boat stuff, which now only sells kayaks, SUPs, clothing, nautical-themed pet supplies, shoes and other stuff you don’t need. ;-p

  7. Ted Crocker 3 months ago

    In 18 years of ownership with my last boat, I was only boarded once, in 2014, for a routine inspection. The year before, I scheduled a USCG inspector come to my marina to inspect my boat to make sure I was in compliance, so the subsequent search was no big deal, and very professional. The day we were boarded, I was taking my son out to the Farallons and he got a big kick out of seeing the CG’s most intimidating machine gun mounted on the bow of their vessel. To me, it meant business.

  8. Murphy Sackett 3 months ago

    I am a charter Captain in San Diego.About 10 years ago on the 5 th of July I had six young couples on a 40 ft power boat. They were all very attractive. I was boarded for a safety check. The girls wanted photos with the young Coast Gaurd boys. Everyone had fun. I was boarded five times that day. Pink slip didn’t mean anything. It was photos and fun every time.

  9. Pete Adams 3 months ago

    I requested an inspection from our local CG Auxiliary . A nice gentleman met me at the boat, and it passed. Here’s the good part: I got a sticker placed on the mast that worked like garlic on vampires. On approach, the sticker was noticed and they went about their business while we continued on our way.

  10. Damon Cruz 3 months ago

    We were boarded as I motored down Gastineau Channel (Juneau, AK) trying to catch up to our club’s racing fleet; they admitted it was a training mission for their new crew, and I was picked because I was the only one motoring rather than sail-racing.

    The reason I had been trying to catch up with the fleet because my visiting mother and sister had delayed our departure, but it really made their day to be pulled over and boarded by a crew of handsome young men who even posed with them for pictures. The inspection itself was quick, courteous and painless, and my only “ding” was for having my USCG number applied with stick-on vinyl numbers rather than permanently sealed over.

  11. David Henry 3 months ago

    I was skipper on a boat charter out of OCSC two years ago, with several other members. We were boarded because the Coast Guard was cracking down on boat owners operating charters without their 6 Pack certification. Once they Petty Officer realized we were just day sailors out of Berkeley, they did a safety equipment check. One of my “friends” had to spout off to the Petty Officer , “You don’t think we’d pay him to take us out, do you?” Not helping.
    We saw the crew board several other boats that day.

  12. Al Fricke 3 months ago

    I’ve been boarded maybe seven or eight times in the last twenty years, twice in the open ocean with spinnaker up. I understand the need for boarding training, but it is an intrusion for sure. I wonder why they are stepping up boardings at this time? Anybody know?

  13. Cinde Lou Delmas 3 months ago

    I expect to be boarded and am prepared. My parents had a lot of colored boats; 3 reds, a deep orange red SC50, black, yellow, green, 2 whites and my boat is sparkling green. Magnet most especially back in the day when we had a Newport 41S, have tons of kids on board, no life jackets back then … my Dad was always prepared. We were boarded too many times to count. Two years ago we were boarded at the StFYC dock, (I think we were there for MAIDEN arrival) six Coast Guard, very official, turns out they were in training. I am ready! The leader kept saying, “this is highly unusual, seldom if ever will you board a boat this prepared”. They looked Another Girl up and found accommodations and a letter from the ‘powers that be’ for recognition during the America’s Cup for the manner in which we handled ourselves. We were boarded back then too. My Dad taught me to be prepared, not just for the Coast Guard, it is for an emergency. I get the “goody girl” award – my Dad would be proud. Personally I think it is good in the Bay to check the safety of boats, there are a lot of people learning; bumpers on while sailing and sails flogging; I can only imagine how scared the people must be. So to be checked, that would be a good thing, for them and us.

  14. Cinde Lou Delmas 3 months ago

    Keep it friendly 🙂 writing back to myself haha! Adding the fact we had life jackets on board but back then no one wore them.

  15. Steve Wolff 3 months ago

    We were boarded while crossing the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, at 0200hrs. Quite interesting as we were told not to slow while the crew of three boarded our vessel in moderately rough conditions. They were extremely polite and we were written up for expired flares, that’s all. The USCG are truly a great part of our military quietly doing their job to protect us.

  16. nicesailorette 3 months ago

    Back when I had my boat in Dana Point, I was taking friends out to watch Haley’s Comet. Night sails. The first time I was boarded, I offered the young men hot cocoa. They stopped us EVERY time we went out to watch the comet! They didn’t even inspect the boat, just drank the cocoa, LOL.

    Years later, when I was kayaking in LA harbor I was stopped for an inspection, I jokingly asked if they were going to board my kayak. They weren’t amused. They wanted to see my type 4 PFD even though I was wearing a life jacket. I wasn’t far from the Coast Guard station. Something tells me they were bored. They weren’t polite at all.

  17. Martin Thomas 3 months ago

    Been boarded twice in last 2-3 years. Not a very thorough inspection but they were polite.

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