Flotilla 19 of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is offering free vessel safety checks for recreational boats at the St. Andrews State Park boat ramp from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The Flotilla will also conduct checks at the MWR Marina on board the Naval Support Activity Panama City from 8 a.m. to noon on March 14.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Spring boating season launches soon, and safety is the first item on the checklist.


Flotilla 19 of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is offering free vessel safety checks for recreational boats at the St. Andrews State Park boat ramp from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The Flotilla will also conduct checks at the MWR Marina on board the Naval Support Activity Panama City from 8 a.m. to noon on March 14.


“Trained Coast Guard Auxiliary members will check for various items of safety equipment to verify they both meet the requirements for the size of your boat and check to determine they are in good working order,” according to a release from Daniel Berry, division commander. “Safety equipment should be checked annually. Life jackets tend to deteriorate over time. Fire extinguishers can lose their charge.”


► ALSO: 5 tips for safe boating


Additionally, as boats are stored during the winter, some safety items can be moved or misplaced, and wind up missing from their designated storage area in the boat. Navigation lights and batteries can become corroded, especially after periods of non-use.


The auxiliary has a standard checklist of safety items that each boat should carry, including: life jackets, fire extinguishers, navigation lights, distress signals, registration, anchors, line and first aid kit.


These vessel safety checks usually take 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the boat. There is no cost for the service and no penalties for anything that is deficient or absent.


► ALSO: Officials raise boat safety awareness


“Having your boat checked for safety equipment could very well save the life of one or more of your passengers, as well as keep you from being given a citation from a law enforcement officer,” Berry said in the release.


In addition to the scheduled dates above, the Coast Guard Auxiliary will come to wherever a boat is to check for safety equipment. Go online at www.cgaux.org to request an examiner to check your boat. They will schedule an appointment at the marina, driveway, slip or storage facility where a boat is kept.


Created by the U.S. Congress in 1939, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed volunteer component of the U.S Coast Guard and supports the Coast Guard in nearly all its service missions. For more information, visit www.cgaux.org.