Summer is just
around the corner and the country’s 70 million recreational boaters
are preparing to launch their boats and relax on the water with
family and friends. The start of boating season is also the perfect
time for boaters to review important safety tips to make their
on-water adventures more enjoyable.
“Just as we all learned the rules of the road before getting behind
the wheel of our cars, there are basic safety tips that everyone
should know before taking the helm or shoving off,” says Thom
Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association
(NMMA). “One of the most important things you can do is always wear
a lifejacket on the water and make sure others in your boat do too.
After all, lifejackets only work if you wear them.”
Today’s lifejackets or life vests – also known as personal flotation
devices or PFDs – are now available in a variety of shapes, colors
and materials for user comfort and convenience. Some lifejackets are
even tailor-made for specific activities such as sailing, paddle
sports or fishing, but all are designed to keep boaters safe and
afloat in case of emergencies.
The NMMA and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) offer the following
lifejacket-related tips and safety reminders for boaters and their
* Find the Right Lifejacket. Lifejackets aren’t one-size-fits-all.
Select one that fits properly and is designed for the appropriate
on-water activities and water conditions. All lifejackets are
clearly labeled with the appropriate weight range for the product.
Test their buoyancy in shallow water by relaxing your body and
tilting back your head. With proper buoyancy and fit, your chin
should stay above water and you should feel relaxed, comfortable and
able to breathe easily. Always look for the U.S. Coast Guard
approval label before purchasing a lifejacket.
* Conduct a Safety Check. Ensure all lifejacket seams, fabric and
hardware are intact. Test all lifejackets at the start of the season
and replace any that don’t pass the test.
* Outfit Everyone Aboard. Before shoving off, all on board should be
wearing a properly fitted lifejacket with straps, zippers and ties
fastened. The U.S. Coast Guard requires USCG-approved lifejackets on
all recreational boats. The number and type depend on the number of
passengers, size and type of boat, and boating activities.
* Keep Kids Afloat. Boating is a great way to spend time with family
and friends. Make sure children wear lifejackets with a collar that
turns their faces up in the water. Their jackets should also be
equipped with sturdy straps and a collar handle, and preferably be
bright yellow or orange in color for good visibility. Check for a
good fit on children by picking up the child by the shoulders of the
lifejacket – a proper fit will not allow the child's chin and ears
to slip through. Never buy a lifejacket that a child will “grow
into,” as proper fit is essential.
* Educate Yourself. Boating education courses are offered in nearly
every community through the U.S. Power Squadron and Coast Guard
Auxiliaries. Many reputable boat dealers also provide an orientation
session with the purchase of a new boat. Some states require
powerboat operators to take a boater’s education course and carry a
license or certificate showing successful course completion. Check
out the safety regulations and requirements for the state you are
* An Educated
Boater is a Safer Boater. Learn more about boating and get
additional safety tips at DiscoverBoating.com. - ARA