Coast Guard offers free boat safety checks prior to Gasparilla Pirate Invasion

TAMPA - Calling all boat owners - the United States Coast Guard is offering you the chance to participate in free vessel safety checks on the weekends in January leading up to the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion.

Recreational boat owners planning to participate in the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion on Saturday, January 28, can avoid potential sizeable fines for outdated or missing safety equipment by getting a safety check.

Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 79 will offer the no-cost, non-punitive, 15-minute checks at the Gandy Boat Ramp located at 5108 West Gandy Boulevard in  South Tampa.

Vessels passing the safety checks are awarded handsome decals. Citations are not issued for discrepancies - boat owners can correct noted issues and have the vessel rechecked with no penalty.

During the vessel safety checks, auxiliary examiners will discuss with boat owners the non-required but nonetheless essential equipment that should be aboard any vessel, including anchor/ground tackle, a hand-held or fixed-mount marine VHF radio, dewatering devices, First Aid kits, mooring lines and extra distress signaling equipment, to name just a few.

More information about Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Safety Checks is available by visiting .

You can stop by the Gandy Boat Rampa on any of the following days:

Saturday, January 7 - 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Sunday, January 8 - 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Saturday, January 14 - 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Sunday, January 15 - 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Saturday, January 21 - 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.    
Sunday, January 22 - 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Friday, January 27 - 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

State-issued documents and federally-mandated safety equipment required to be aboard most vessels include:

Registration Numbers/Hull Display
Current Vessel Registration Document and Hull Registration Decal
Lifejacket (one for each passenger of Type I, II, III or V)
Throwable Personal Flotation Device (generally: a floatable cushion with handles)
Visual Distress Signals (at least three flares with an unexpired service life)
Fire Extinguisher (for most boats)
Ventilation & Backfire Flame Control devices (for vessels with inboard engines)
Sound Producing Devices / Bell
Working Navigation Lights (bow and stern)

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