Monday, April 04, 2011

Introducing the Relatively New (And Entirely Excellent) Paddlecraft-Specific Vessel Safety Check Form!

Well, as I announced on Saturday, I passed my Vessel Safety Check during the very good day of paddlecraft safety programming run by USCGAux Flotilla 72 up in Norwalk, and was particularly happy about it because this was the first time I ever just did it on a whim - I usually have it done at Sebago during one of the events where the CGAux folks from the neighboring yacht club come by for the purpose; it doesn't take a lot to pass, but I'm still obsessive enough about such things that I've usually done my own preliminary exam well in advance of the scheduled day. I knew they were offering VSC's on Saturday, but hadn't been thinking we would take our boats up for the workshop - we would usually borrow Small Boat Shop boats for something like this. We had to stop by the club to pick up our paddles & sprayskirts & stuff & since this time the workshop wasn't actually at the shop, we decided to save ourselves a stop by taking our boats, too, so there I was with my boat & my kit & a friendly Coast Guard Auxiliary examiner offering to do my VSC. Hadn't prepped for it at all (well, I did sneak a peek at the expiration date on my flares) so that was sort of a fun little first, as I mentioned.

But it just hit me today that there was another first involved that's maybe more worth sharing!

I realized that when I looked at my form. I'd stuck it in my jacket pocket so had it at work, and I pulled it out to look at it just to kill time while I was waiting for a report to download. People are always curious about just what an inspector looks for when inspecting something as simple as a kayak or a rowboat. I'd sort of answered, but the questions people had asked in response to the post got me just curious enough to pull out the form for a quick look-see.

And - duh! - that was the first time that it actually sank in that the form they were using was totally new, and a serious improvement over how it used to be done!

Examiners used to used the same form for kayaks, canoes, rowboats and other small unmotorized craft as they would use for larger vessels. It could be confusing for a less experienced examiner -- the young man who did my boat last year was learning under the observation of the examiners who've been inspecting Sebago's boats for years, and he did ask about a fire extinguisher - it wasn't a stupid question, either, it's there on the "Requirements" list and it's not entirely as obviously "N/A" as "marine sanitation device", "ventilation", "backfire flame control" and some of the other items that are clearly only applicable on larger vessels. More importantly, though - that form gave you all the nifty extras that an examiner likes to see on a big boat, so if you owned a large boat, you walked away from your examination with a nice printed list of things you could easily add to improve the safety of your craft.

A paddler or rower, on the other hand, walked away with a sheet of suggestions of which a few were definitely useful (marine radios, boating safety classes, first aid, and float plans are pretty much universally good ideas), some that didn't apply - and with no mention of a whole lot of practices and preparations that many experienced paddlers would consider to be almost as necessary to paddling safety as a life jacket.

The new form really kind of ROCKS.

It takes off the placards and electrical systems and galley/heating and everything else that's completely irrelevant to the human-powered set, and replaces them with things like:

"dressing for immersion",
"Assess the Risk/Good Awareness",
"Adequate Food and Water/Sun Protection" (oh, yes, my inspector NOTICED the tube of sunscreen that I always carry in my dayhatch, she did!)
"spare paddle!" (amen!)

It's really excellent, and boy, I could blither on, but why should I when I want to go home and I can just let Form ANSC 7012A (12/10) speak for itself?

Click & zoom for detail.


Adriftatsea said...

Always a nice surprise when government does something right and that makes sense. :-D But so unexpected and unusual.

Carol Anne said...

I wonder what the form looks like for sailboats now. I imagine there's probably one for dinghies and one for larger sailboats -- but I'm guessing something 30 feet long is still expected to have auxiliary power. Black Magic tends to confuse everybody.

Baydog said...

Bonnie, You sign your last name in a very unusual fashion.

I'm glad to see they got rid of the battery requirement. This form is now realistic.

bonnie said...

*@!!! The internet just ate a very long and involved response to all 3 comments!

Long story short, though, I don't know that you'll see a change to sailboat or dinghy forms - the same tailoring could absolutely be done for other craft, but I think the paddlecraft form was developed through the joint efforts of the American Canoe Association and the Coast Guard in response to the growing statistical overrepresentation of kayaks in fatal boating accidents. It's gotten pretty bad.

This new form is a great guide to basic paddling safety and will be a much more useful tool for people to take away from their exams. It doesn't say "ACA" on the form anywhere, but clearly there were some very knowledgeable paddlers involved in the recrafting. Great stuff.

And I just wish that I could see an examiner looking for the motor on an Etchells! :D

Ed Furia said...

For those interested in the original form here is a link to a pdf:

bonnie said...

Thank you, Ed! I'm sorry you're landlocked! :D

Here, I'm going to linkify your link:

Click here to see a clean PDF version of the new form.

Pandabonium said...

Please fill out in triplicate. Sign here..and here..and here.. initial here... sign here... and here.

May we see your Passport, please?

Pat said...

Now, where's the space for the crew list, in English and the language of the country you are visiting? And where do you fly the Quarantine/Request Pratique flag?

Pat said...

Oh yes -- do you have a binder for your Vessel Waste Management Plan?