The first time I went boating it was a small group of family friends in Muskoka, Ontario and we were having the perfect getaway weekend. We enjoyed sun-drenched weather all week and the views of the water from the boat made for the ultimate Instagram shots! Deciding to take a leap into the lake from the boat to cool off, we double-checked our lifejackets were secure and hopped into the water.
Unfortunately, I did not bring my own safety equipment and was at the mercy of whatever the host had available. As a result, what I ended up with was an old, ratty-looking lifejacket that could easily have been worn by my great-grandfather. When I jumped into the water, the PFD (personal floatation device) proved to be much too big, engulfing me as soon as I hit the water. Luckily, the weather was good and the water was relatively shallow, so the only issue was the embarrassing (albeit hilarious) photograph my friends took of me being swallowed by my personal floatation device. But, in an emergency situation, this would have been dangerous, and could have proved disastrous!
Lifejackets are an essential part of boater safety, and it is your responsibility as a captain to provide well-fitting lifejackets to all passengers in your boat; even if it’s man-powered. Going for a slow row in your canoe with a friend? You’ll need two life jackets. Taking a tour around the harbor with your family? Make sure that each passenger has a PFD that fits them properly and strap yourselves in. Going fishing alone? Wear your lifejacket!
An important part of your Personal Safety Equipment is a boater’s life jacket or PFD. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about one of the most important pieces of safety equipment a boater can own while enjoying recreational boating.
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Life jackets can be found in both ‘Standard’ and ‘Small Vessel’ styles and are available in both youth and adult sizes. They are red, orange, or yellow in color, feature a ‘keyhole’ or ‘vest’ design, and are typically bulkier and more uncomfortable than PFDs. Manufactured with increased flotation in the front of the jacket, life jackets are designed to turn an unconscious person face-up in the water. There are a few different types of life jackets:
SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) Life jackets: These offer the best performance and will turn an unconscious person face-up and out of the water in seconds.
Standard Life jackets: These feature a high degree of buoyancy and will turn an unconscious person face-up and out of the water but are typically uncomfortable.
Small Vessel Life jackets: These are also designed to turn an unconscious person face-up, but are not as buoyant and have less turning ability.
Life jackets should fit slightly loose in order to allow