Preparation can save your life! One way to ensure a safe outing on the water is to wear your life jacket. Although not required by law, except for children 13 years of age and younger, boaters should wear a life jacket especially when the boat is underway. Historical data shows that many excellent swimmers have drowned when thrown from a moving boat without wearing a flotation device of some type. Recently we had a near tragic accident when a small boat, with 3 fishermen, capsized near the jetties. Since the fishermen were not wearing life jackets, only the quick action of some nearby fishermen prevented a tragedy.
As a practical matter, I know that many of you will not wear your life jacket. If the life jacket is not worn, however, it should be at least readily accessible and available for immediate donning in an emergency such as a vessel sinking, fire, etc. One place it would be readily available is draped over the helm seat back. Please keep in mind that a life jacket will be of no help to you if you are thrown from the boat without the life jacket on. A life jacket should not be stowed in a closed or locked compartment, or have other gear stowed on top of it.
If your boat is 16 feet or longer, you must have a throwable floatation device in addition to wearable ones for each person on board the vessel. The throwable device must be immediately available near the helm and all persons on board should be informed of its position and use. All recreational boats must carry one type 1, 2, 3, or 5 floatation device for each person on board. Any boat 16 feet or over, except canoes and kayaks, must also carry one type 4 (throwable) device.
Most recreational boaters elect to carry the type 3 floatation device which is designed to keep the wearer vertical in the water and where quick rescue is probable, The type 2 floatation device, or near shore buoyant vest, is designed to turn a person to a vertical position in the water, but not as pronounced as the type1.
The type 1 floatation device is designed to turn an unconscious person from face down to a vertical position and is used by boaters cruising waters where there is a probability of a delayed rescue. The type 5 floatation device, or flotation suit, provides not only flotation, but also protection from hypothermia and is intended for special; use activities. No matter what type of lifejacket you carry on your vessel, it will only work when worn.
Make it a point to at least wear your life jacket when running from one spot to another. If you encounter a rouge wake or wave and are thrown from the boat your chances of survival are increased. Wear your life jacket and continue to enjoy safe boating throughout the year.