The US Coast Guard Auxiliary has issued a news release reminding boaters about its voluntary Vessel Safety Check program. The safety check is free and can be obtained through many local marinas and other venues and takes about 30 minutes. The examiner will check for all required safety items, such as lifejackets and navigation lights, and may suggest other safety gear appropriate for your area and boating style. There is no penalty if your boat fails to pass inspection, but boats that do pass receive a decal indicating compliance, and this is said to lower the probability of being boarded by law enforcement officials. If your boat fails this voluntary inspection, you'll know exactly what you need to do to reach compliance - thereby avoiding steep fines if you are boarded and found in violation of safety requirements.
You can locate a local USCGA examiner via their website. To learn the legal requirements in advance, check this list of required equipment for different types and sizes of boats. Most important, don't view this as merely a legal technicality - your life could be saved someday because of the safety equipment you have aboard.