After inputting your profile data in to the United States Coast Guard Mobile App—that is, entering things such as the specifics of your boat including size, type, homeport and registration—you have access to a range of data and services that will make you a safer boater. Here’s some thoughts based upon several months using iOS version 1.01
The app’s intent is to provide a single-source of boating safety information, and that it does well. There are icons providing access to menus for State Boating Regulations, Rules of the Road, Reporting a Hazard, Requesting a Vessel Safety Check and more. Perhaps its most important features are its ability to help you request emergency assistancel and the ability to file a float plan.
The United States Coast Guard App is highly personal, using your profile data and your device’s GPS to provide you with information specific to your boat and your location. For instance, rather than simply displaying generic required equipment, I the app will display equipment required for my boat type. If I want to make an emergency call, one tap displays instruction to use VHF to hail for help, a button to call the coast guard and another button to dial 911. The latitude and longitude is also displayed, providing the key piece of info in any MAYDAY or emergency call.
For a fishing trip offshore, I was able to file a float plan with just a few taps—my personal data and my boat information are pre-loaded. In fact, like most boaters, I cruise to many of the same places over and over. The app’s developers recognized this and incorporated functionality for inputting and saving multiple float plans. So, at a touch, I can easily file a float plan for every trip.
Furthermore, there is a hotlink to NOAA buoy information. Geo-locating the user with GPS, the app displays the nearest NOAA bouy information. This allowed me to check wind speed and sea conditions at (or at least, “near”) to locations I intended to fish or cruise. I find myself using this function all the time, when contemplating a trip, or when keeping an eye on conditions for a trip planned for the next day.
The U.S. Coast Guard Mobile App is not a replacement for the comprehensive knowledge of boating safety that all boat owners (and operators if you don’t own) should know, nor is it a replacement for a VHF radio or any other piece of safety-enhancing equipment. It is an adjunct accessory for knowledgeable boaters who want to ensure they are maintaining the utmost safety aboard. I found it easy and intuitive to use, and I found it useful. It’s free, available for both iOS and Android devices and if it has a flaw, I haven’t been able to find one in three months of at least weekly use.
The USCG Mobile App features include:
- Find the latest safety regulations
- Request a vessel safety check
- Check your safety equipment
- File a float plan
- Navigation Rules
- Find the nearest NOAA buoy
- Report a hazard
- Report pollution
- Report suspicious activity
- Request emergency assistance
The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.