The Nautical Blog

Have You Checked Your PFD Lately?

My last day on St. Simons Island, GA put me on the shrimp boat Lady Jane. Before heading out I questioned the crew as to whether or not to bring my own life jacket.

LifejacketNow some of you will think that’s crazy, but those who have boated with me know I err on the side of caution. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been on boats where life jackets were still in the cellophane. Others were so moldy you couldn’t touch them for fear of a disease. This led me to buying my own.  I knew I wanted the suspender type, what I didn’t know was that one size does not fit all; at least, not comfortably.

Here’s what I learned:

— Life jackets come in different colors and sizes. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean a woman’s jacket will fit. The same is definitely true for men.

The length of your back determines which jacket fits best. For example: though 5’5″, I  have a long LifeJackettorso. This makes a woman’s suspender type jacket totally uncomfortable for me. I felt like my shoulders were hanging by the straps. Yet, when I tried on a man’s jacket, it was a better fit.

There are two basic types of life jackets (aka Pfds); inflatable and inherently buoyant life jackets.

1.  Inflatable* (type lll and V) contain inflation devices that either:

— Must be inflated orally by blowing into a tube,
— Manually by pulling a cord by whomever is wearing it, or
— Automatically inflates when immersed in the water. This causes a small cartridge to disintegrate when it gets wet, and then activates the CO2 cartridge to inflate the device.

Be sure to check your inflatable life jacket each time you put it on to make sure the service indicator is green. If it’s red, first check to see if the CO2 cartridge got loose while riding on the boat. Otherwise, replace it. Also note the CO2 cartridge is not in the cartridge holder when you purchase your life jacket.

*These jackets are not USCG-approved for children under age 16, towed water sports, PWCs, whitewater, or commercial activities.

2.  Inherently** buoyant (off shore type l, near shore type ll, flotation aid type lll) contain:

— unicellular foam or
— macro cellular elements

**These jackets are good for all age groups and good for both swimmers and non-swimmers alike.

Not all life jackets are USCG approved. This is important if you’re a boat owner. USCG Regulations state you must have an approved wearable life jacket on board for each person you bring on board. And, if your boat is at least 16 feet, it must have at least one USCG approved throw-able flotation device.

Federal, state, and local jurisdictions may have additional requirements, especially pertaining to specific areas and recreational activities. It’s also a requirement by most states for children to be wearing their life jackets. Check with your state and local area for these requirements where you are boating. 

According to boating magazine 84% of fatal drowning victims were reported as not wearing a life jacket. So, err on the side of caution and  just “Wear It!”.

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