The Gasparilla Pirate Invasion is scheduled for Saturday, January 28, 2012. Ahead of the event The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 74 will offer no-cost, non-punitive, 15-minute checks at the Williams Park Boat Ramp in Riverview.

Thousands are expected to attend this year’s Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, scheduled for Saturday, January 28, 2012. While most will enjoy the festivities on dry land, many will take to the waters of Tampa Bay to take part in the celebration.


For their own safety, recreational boat owners can avoid potential costly fines for outdated or missing safety equipment aboard their boats by undergoing a Vessel Safety Check, offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary a week before Gasparilla.


The Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 74 will offer the no-cost, non-punitive 15-minute checks at the Williams Park Boat Ramp, by the Alafia River on Saturday, January 21.


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)


“Vessels that pass the safety checks are awarded handsome decals,” said U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 74 Public Affairs Officer George Papabeis.


“During vessel safety checks, Auxiliary examiners 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, de-watering devices, First Aid kits, mooring lines and extra distress signaling equipment, to name just a few,”  Papabeis said.


The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 74 also offers one-day boating safety programs at its building from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., at J.C. Handley Park, 3006 S. Kings Avenue in Brandon. Seating is limited and pre-registration is recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.


The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is the country’s most active boating safety educator with more than 100,000 boaters nationwide participating in Auxiliary safe boating programs annually.


Founded in 1939, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is the civilian, all-volunteer arm of the U.S. Coast Guard, providing boating education programs to the public and mission support to active duty Coast Guard units around the country, including West Central Florida units in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota counties.


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


For information and reservations please call 1-800-704-4216 or go to

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