This was a very good year for boat the pleasure boat industry, which had a banner year in sales, and for the boater who enjoyed hot but beautiful weather. The waters were more active than I have ever witnessed. A good portion of this can be attributed to Covid, which kept most families from traveling far and boating seemed to suit this changed world we live in by having “Baycations” on the waters that surround us.
One thing I have noticed this year is how many new boaters do not follow the rules for safe boating by ignoring and flaunting their non-use of life jackets.
There is nothing more harrowing than seeing a 14 ft. skiff cram filled with 11 revelers and their coolers, making their way down the state channel, water almost over the gunnels and “Whooping it up” while not one person has a life preserver on. Given these potential disasters I decided to focus on Life Preservers this month.
If one life is saved, it’s more than worth it.
Firstly, every boat must have an appropriate life jacket for each person aboard. All children under the age of 12 must always have a Coast Guard approved life jacket on when the boat is under power whether it is by motor, sail or oar. It is also sensible to leave the life jacket on smaller children when they are in a boat at anchor. It is also prudent to keep life rings and other floatation devices on board to throw to any person who may fall overboard.
It is important to know the types and capabilities of available life jackets so you can choose wisely. Here is a list and illustrations of those most widely used.
A) Type 1 - ILL.1 - Inherently Buoyant. This life jacket is heavy duty and very buoyant and is great for offshore fishing, cruising and racing. It fits like a zippered jacket and its collar automatically keeps the head above the water. It comes in both adult and child sizes. Make sure any life jacket you have fits the wearer snug so that it does not ride up on the head. Show them where to place their hands on the front to give additional support to prevent “Ride up”. This holds true for every device.
B) Type 2 - ILL.2 - Inherently Buoyant. This is more a “Life Vest” than an actual jacket. Great for coastal and inland cruising, fishing, and sailing. They also keep your head above water and are very buoyant BUT it is very important to match the weight of the wearer with the vest. All approved life jackets and vests carry clear marking of their capabilities. They also come in children’s sizes. Don’t try to skimp. You are dealing with lives here. It also has less floatation than a Type 1.
C) Type 2 - ILL.3 - Inflatable. These vests are very comfortable to wear and have saved many a life. They are good for near shore and inland boating. Some automatically inflate the CO2 cartridge with air that fills the jacket when you hit the water. Others, the wearer must pull the activator once they are in the water. Most have head support and an emergency inflating tube in case the CO2 does not activate. The Coast Guard does NOT approve these for children less than 16 years of age. These jackets can be expensive and need maintenance. If you are alone and hit your head as you hit the water the result can be problematic.
D) Type 3 - ILL.4 - Inherently Buoyant Vest. This is probably the most popular life preserver used today. It is comfortable and reliable. Perfect for inshore and bay activities and is reliable when immediate rescue is available, however, it is not designed to keep a person’s head above water if they are not able to do it themselves. Comes in all sizes but has less floatation than a Type 1.
E) Type 4 - ILL.5 - Throwing devices. This covers life rings, horseshoe styles and square. These are for real emergencies and should be deployed immediately when someone falls overboard. These increase the chance of survival by wide margin. Every boat should have one or more available according to the boat’s size. They are of no use if the person overboard is unconscious.
I hope this reinforces to all lovers of boating the importance of life preservers. For the sake of all your loved ones -“Wear ‘em! Don’t Stow ‘em!
See you out there,