When a private yacht, such as the Papagallo, is converted to commercial service where passengers pay to cruise, it requires a COI (Certificate of Inspection) in order to operate as a business.
I purchased the Papagallo because it already had a COI. Without it, we would be allowed to carry only six paying passengers (a six pack). Not enough to make a profit. But with it, we could accommodate 56 passengers and cruise up to twenty miles off shore. Quite a difference.
COIs are granted through the U.S. Coast Guard, and the initial inspection they conduct is extremely thorough. For starters, they check all electrical and plumbing systems, water tight bulkheads and through hulls. Then the vessel has to pass a stability test. Any area that is deemed unsatisfactory is called out on an 835 Form and must be repaired.
This process takes time (something you don’t have) and, depending on what needs to be repaired, can be expensive. So, once a COI is issued, you don’t want to let it lapse under any circumstances. Keeping it current is a no-brainer if you want to continue operating successfully.
To keep your COI current your vessel must be inspected top side (in the water) every year and on the hard (out of the water) every two years. These inspections, especially hauling the vessel, are at the owner’s expense. They are conducted by Coast Guard personnel who not only check out the vessel, but go through a comprehensive list of other official requirements that include such items as a man overboard drill (MOB), drug program, fire drill, crew training, thickness of hull, and insurance coverage.
Bottom-line, it’s a big, expensive deal! And I can tell you from experience that these guys don’t miss a thing. They are quick to issue 835’s for repair and, if serious, this can result in a “NO SAIL”. That means the vessel isn’t going anywhere because it cannot leave the dock until the 835 is corrected and the repair is re-inspected.
So, when you cruise on a vessel that’s been inspected by the USCG, you can be confident that it is safe, mechanically sound and sea worthy. With that said, all you have to concern yourself with at this point is the weather, prevailing winds, and other passengers. Maybe rubber soled shoes as well.
You may be wondering why I took the time to share all of this with you since the Papagallo already had a valid COI when I bought it. Good question! I thought I was ready to go. I had everything I needed – my chef’s jacket, food and beverage stores, linen table cloths, even music and flowers. My first cruise was booked and scheduled. What could go wrong?
(click on link above to view a video of out of water inspection)
So I wasn’t worried when the Coasties showed up shortly before the cruise, clip board in hand. The Papagallo had been inspected prior to leaving San Francisco Bay so I assumed we would be okay to operate in Morro Bay. After all, it’s the same ocean, right? Au contraire, my friend!
We had to pass yet another inspection – one called the “Change of Zone.” More on this story and how to work with Coast Guard inspectors in next week’s blog. Until then, remember:
“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” Thomas Carlyle
Note: The inspection process is certainly important and justified. Whenever I complain about it, my good friend, Jimmy T., reminds me to relax and approach this requirement along with the many other obstacles that pop up while conducting business as: “Just another bug on the windshield of life.”
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