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In January 2000, recreational boating organizations began a voluntary Vessel Safety Check (VSC) program for owners of recreational boats. It was part of an evolution stemming from the old Courtesy Marine Examination (CME), which had been offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary since 1947.

The newer VSC now is offered by both the auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron, and has become the standard for boat safety preparedness.

John Dial, a member of Swiftwater Power Squadron since 1969, believes boater education is one area where a lot of improvement could be made. That's why he volunteers to spend many hours each season doing vessel checks for anyone wanting to make sure their boat is safe.

"Having a VSC is one of the easiest and best ways of practicing safe boating," Dial said. "If a violation is corrected, who knows, a life might be saved."

The idea behind the VSC is to verify for the owner that the boat meets state and federal requirements. The examiner will go over a checklist with the boat owner to be sure all required safety equipment is on board and in good working order. These checklists result in a more informed boat owner.

Dial has held most of the Power Squadron offices over the years. He recently completed his term as commander.

When not busy with his duties at the Power Squadron or offering vessel safety checks, Dial can be found at Rich Marina, where he works on his 38-foot Chris Craft, "Pepper II." He's also a member of Niagara Frontier Antique and Classic Boats and he spends much of his free time keeping his boat looking good.

You can set up an appointment for a free vessel safety check online by going to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary ( or Power Squadron ( Web sites and following the links for VSC.

Fill in your Zip code and a list of volunteers is displayed on your computer screen. You can e-mail a volunteer to request an appointment or ask for a volunteer to contact you. They will come to you, if you and your boat are within a reasonable distance, or you can meet them at your dock or the launch ramp.

If a boat doesn't meet the necessary compliance standards, no report of failure is ever filed with any law enforcement agency. Vessel owners are told what is needed to correct deficiencies and the VSC officer will return at the owner's convenience to complete the VSC if corrections are necessary.

This is a great opportunity for recreational boaters to learn about and correct potential problems, which, if checked later by the Coast Guard or marine sheriff patrols, might result in fines.

Dial has also been working with former Buffalo Common Council President George Arthur and Laurie Dann on a Buffalo visit of the replica slave ship Amistad. It will be visiting Erie Basin Marina from Sept. 10 to 14. The Amistad became famous when the slave ship's cargo of West Africans overthrew their captors in 1839.

Harbor club back on water

The Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club began its 25th season of racing Wednesday. More than 117 boats ranging from Jonathan Anner's 22-foot Grampian Classic to a 54-foot Luders yawl sailed by Rick Hill filled the course.

The Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club has grown over the years to become one of the premier sailboat racing clubs in the nation.

Using Lake Erie Performance Handicap Rating Factors (PHRF), all boats compete on a fairly even basis, but the skill and sailing savvy of the crew usually dictate the top finishers.

The regular Wednesday evening competitors are a blend of serious racers and good-time sailors and all are welcomed. A weekly post-race get-together at the CPO Club on Porter Avenue is where race finishes are posted and sailing stories are swapped. The Wednesday night races continue through Sept. 13.

An education

The Hamburg Power Squadron is offering an 8-hour Boat Smart course at Woodlawn Beach State Park on Route 5, Town of Hamburg. Registration is at 8 a.m. and the class will start at 8:30. There is a $30 fee plus $5 for the book. Lunch may be purchased. Call Ed Eschner at 655-1322 to preregister.


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