The Coast Guard can’t STRESS this enough:
WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKET!!!!
By Wayne Spivak
National Press Corps
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
Each year, needless lives are lost to boaters of all types
of vessels, simply because they chose not to wear their life
There appears to be a “highest risk boating group,”
with approximately 74%1
of all fatalities attributed to not wearing Personal Flotation
Devices (PFD’s - more commonly referred to as a life jacket)/
This high-risk group are the participants in Paddlesports, which
include kayakers, canoeists, and rafters.
Two Kayakers Drown on Martha's Vineyard October
A fishing trip on Sengekontacket Pond turned tragic when
two men from Oak Bluffs drowned accidentally several hours
after paddling a one-person kayak out to a sandbar and casting
their lines. …. Although Massachusetts regulations require
life vests be worn from September 15, neither man had a pfd
Two years ago a police officer died on Tisbury Great
Pond. He had been paddling on a rough day, using a recreational
kayak and had no life vest. – From http://kayak-adventure.net/
Interestingly enough, with the exception of Massachusetts and
California, most states don’t require any special equipment
to be carried by Paddlesporters. Federal law does not require
PFDs on racing shells, rowing sculls and racing kayaks; state
For example, in New York State, all recreational pleasure
crafts are required to have PFD’s, Since Paddleboats,
by definition are not mechanically propelled, Visual Distress
Signals are not required, nor an anchor or Sound Signals (one
could debate this statement, as the language is not clear).
The only other requirement would be a navigation and/or anchor
light, should the vessel be out between sunset and sunrise or
in reduced visibility.
The Massachusetts law is now amended to read:
Chapter 90B of the General
Laws is hereby amended: Section 5C. Any person aboard a kayak
shall wear at all times a Coast Guard approved personal flotation
device of Type I, II, or III. Kayaks shall also be equipped
with a compass and a whistle.
This is not to say that loss of life is only delegated to Paddlesports.
The Federal government passed a law last year (2003) requiring
all children under the age of 13 to wear a life jacket.
The Coast Guard requires that children under age 13 aboard
recreational vessels wear personal flotation devices (PFDs),
or lifejackets. During 1995–1998, 105 children under
13 died in the water, 66 of them by drowning. This rule should
reduce the number of children who drown because they were
not wearing lifejackets. - Federal Register / Vol. 67, No.
In 2002, the Coast Guard reports that 440 lives could have
been saved, if boaters just wore PFD’s. One category of
fatality is by drowning. 524 deaths were due to drowning. 6%
of those people were wearing PFD’s, 84% were not. In the
Paddlesports, 112 people drowned, with only 4% wearing PFD’s.
Wearing PFD’s saves lives.
PFD’s come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and price
points. PFD’s have been modified from the days of the
horse-collar Type II vest (still available, and costing approximately
$15) to the modern, form fitting (both male and female), colorful,
Type III and Type V Personal Flotation Devices.
Adams County girl drowns when kayak flips in Yough
-Victim is 3rd killed this summer at deadly rapid Monday,
September 18, 2000
…Littlestown, near Gettysburg, had previous whitewater
experience on the Yough and was wearing a life jacket and
helmet when the accident occurred at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday
at Dimple Rock Rapid, about four miles downstream from Ohiopyle
in Fayette County.
The current had stripped off her life jacket. It had
been recovered, still buckled, on Saturday, a short distance
downstream. - www.post-gazette.com
It is imperative that whenever you wear a PFD that it fits
properly. Properly includes snugly with all straps cinched.
An improperly fitted or worn PFD will not provide the appropriate
Type III and Type V PFD’s are made so that the jacket
will keep your head above water, in a face up position (which
requires the user to maneuver to a face-up position). Only Type
I (off-shore) or Type II (near-shore) PFD’s are made to
turn a person automatically face-up. In addition, Type III and
Type V PFD’s are to be used in relatively calm, protected
Paddlesporter’s who participate in their sport in either
open-ocean, large bays and lakes, or white-water should strongly
consider Type I or Type II designated PFD’s. In addition,
it may also be advisable for Paddleboaters to use a crotch strap,
should they paddle in areas that have strong currents. Use of
a crotch strap could prevent having your PFD from being stripped
Many boating organizations, whether they be Kayaking or Canoeing,
Power Boating or Sailing have catchy phrases to entice you to
wear your PFD. The best one I’ve seen goes like this:
Boating smart from the start – wear a life jacket. It
What’s nice about this is it’s easy to convey,
in words, in actions, in life.
For more information about the Coast Guard www.uscg.mil
or Coast Guard Auxiliary www.cgaux.org
contact you local United States Coast Guard unit.