Welcome, Boaters!

Welcome to the US Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Recreational Boating Safety Outreach Directorate. We’re the part of the Auxiliary that works with other organizations to promote safe boating. This is a big site, so we’ll start with a few items you’re probably looking for (or should be). You can also click the links in the left-hand column to visit our main news page, document library, and other resources. If you can’t find what you need here, you can check out the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety, which houses another trove of safe boating information.

To find a boating safety course in your area, visit the Education Department’s class finder page.

As a boat operator, you’re expected to make sure your vessel carries the required safety equipment and complies with federal and state regulations. You can download a handy brochure detailing the minimum federal requirements for your boat here.

Please bear in mind that the brochure only covers federal laws and equipment carriage requirements for recreational vessels of the United States. These are minimum requirements and do not guarantee the safety of your vessel or its passengers. The owner/operator may also need to comply with additional regulations and/or laws specific to the state in which the vessel is registered or operated. A vessel in compliance with the laws of the state of registration may not meet the requirements of another state where the vessel is being operated.

Before you go out on the water, you should leave a Float Plan with someone you trust, so they’ll know what to do if you don’t come back on time. Your Float Plan could be in the form of a note or a voice-mail, but to be sure you’ve included all of the relevant information you should take a look at the Coast Guard Float Plan form (PDF). While you’re downloading documents, you might also want to grab a sample Pre-Departure Checklist (PDF) to keep on your boat. We also have separate equipment checklists and vessel system checklists.

Vessels over 26 feet need a placard explaining that oil discharge is prohibited. Check near the engine controls or engine compartment to see if it’s already installed on your boat. If it isn’t, you can get a copy of a standard placard here.

How about those expired flares? When you replace your pyrotechnic visual distress signals, do you just throw the old ones in the trash, or wait until July 4th and fire them across the harbor at your buddy’s boat? Well, don’t do either, unless you really want a Federal felony conviction. Check out our publication on flare disposal for much better ideas.

We also have memos explaining how to make a VHF radio call and what’s up with the new DSC (Digital Selective Calling) radios.

Is your organization interested in collaborating with the Coast Guard Auxiliary to teach and encourage boating safety? Take a look at our Boating Safety Partnerships wiki and see what we can do together.

Have you been involved in a boating accident? Submit a Recreational Boating Accident form. You can also download the latest recreational boating accident statistics from our Document Library.

There’s a lot of material here, so take your time. If you have questions, please feel free to use the “Contact” link to get in touch with us.