To boating, wearing a life jacket is equivalent to wearing a seat belt in a car. It is common knowledge that a seat belt is the number one safety device for savings lives in auto accidents. Likewise, the majority of drowning in open water is the result of not wearing a life vest or jacket. A personal flotation device (PFD) is critical to the boating world.
As a boater, you should know how each flotation device is rated and how to properly maintain them. With proper care and the right flotation device, you can enjoy a safe boating season knowing you are protected.
Ratings of Life Jackets
The US Coast Guard has classified life vests and jackets into the following categories:
• Type I PFD
• Type II PFD
• Type III PFD
• Unrated PFD
NOTE: Buoyancy means holding up a dense material like lead. Our bodies float in water as well, so by weight we are only around 5% of our weight when floating. A 225 lb. person would amount to 11.5 lbs. of buoyancy weight.
Type I PFD: The Type I PFD is designed to hold a person face up in the water. This type of device must hold 22 lbs of buoyancy for adults and 11 lbs for children. These types of flotation devices are used for boating offshore, in deep and rough water.
Type II PFD: The Type II is intended for recreation closer to shore like water skiing, boat tubing, and swimming. These life jackets or vests can turn a person face up in the water. These are popular for recreation because they are more maneuverable, but they are less buoyant. This type can cold 15.5 lbs of buoyancy for an adult and 11 lbs for a child.
Type III PFD: The Type III can hold 15.5 lbs of buoyancy for an adult and 11lbs for a child. However, these do not turn an unconscious wearer face up in the water, as Type I and II will. These types of devices are not used for recreation or boating. The type III PFD is adequate for swimming in a pool where supervision is present. Type III devices should never be considered safe in a boating or recreation situation.
Unrated PFD: These types of devices are used for fun in a pool or lake. These consist of fun toys like the blow up arm bands, swim vests, and inner tubes. These help in a fun controlled environment, but never should be considered lifesaving capable.
Storage of Life Jackets
Properly storing the life jackets and vests can be very important. You do not want to expose the material to heavy sunlight, weather, and other environmental conditions. Small animals have a tendency to chew through material on life jackets to the inner core, which is a prime nesting material for them. Therefore, proper storage of life jackets and vests will keep you from running into these types of problems.
Ideally, you want to store the life vests and jackets in a dry place inside your house or garage. Here is a great hint: You can find plastic 22-gallon tote with a latching lid for a reasonable price around $6 to $12 in price. One or two totes will be able to store your lifejackets and vests keeping them dry, out of the sun, and annoying critters out of them.
Inspection of Life Jackets
At the beginning of each boating trip or season, a complete inspection of all PFD’s on board the boat is highly recommended. Check the surface of each life jacket and vest for any tears to the surface that could cause the core of the PFD to fall out. Inspect all the buckles and latches of the device for damage and function. Make sure each buckle or latch does not release with some tension on the straps. Check each strap for fraying to ensure that it is not in a condition where that area could become weak.
Overall, the Personal Flotation Device is like your seatbelt in your car. One day, this device can potentially save your life while out on the water. Make sure you have the correct life vest or jacket for your age and weight. Maintain your life vests and jackets using proper storage and inspection. Overall, with the right PFDs and proper habits, you can have a safe and enjoyable boating season.
About the Author
Jane Warren is a boater and water sport enthusiast. Because of her involvement in boating, diving, and other water activities, Jane publishes a website with reviews of boat towables like Sportsstuff Big Mable , and other high quality boating and water sports products. Seiko scuba diving watches are included, along with Celestron waterproof binoculars.