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Captain’s Log: Boating Safety Starts With Wearing a Life Jacket

Boaters need to keep in mind the simple fact that making a life jacket part of the routine saves lives.

imageMany of the newest inflatable life jackets are no larger than a fanny belt pack and fit comfortably around the waist. (Yamaha photo)

The first duty of a captain is to keep the passengers, crew and vessel safe. In writing the Captain’s Log, my duties include you, to the degree in which I can influence your behavior on your own watercraft, when you go out on a friend’s watercraft or when you buy a ticket to go on a passenger-carrying vessel. With that in mind, I am passing on a well-written piece by the Boat U.S. Foundation and published on The Outdoor Wire.

Alexandria, Va. – Small boats such as open runabouts, personal watercraft, Jon boats and paddle-powered craft are popular on U.S. waterways because they are affordable and easy to use. However, they also can be the most deadly. According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, of the 474 drowning deaths in 2006, 42 percent (201) involved boats shorter than 16 feet.

image
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

With National Safe Boating Week starting today and going through Friday, the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has three tips that may help encourage boaters and anglers to don a life jacket every time they hit the water.

A study of California boaters showed that about three out of every five say that they would wear a life jacket if it were more comfortable.

Despite comfortable designs, many boaters may not know what is available. Newer vest-style life jackets allow complete freedom of movement with broad arm cutouts and buoyancy pockets placed low on the body, allowing for unimpeded movement. Many of the newest inflatable life jackets are no larger than a fanny belt pack and fit comfortably around the waist. Neither of these modern styles gets in the way of driving a boat, casting a lure or paddling.

The same California study showed that boaters understand the need to put a life jacket on when the weather goes bad. But that’s not when most boaters or anglers get into trouble. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that most boating accidents occur when conditions are calm (waves less than 6 inches), winds light (less than six miles per hour) and visibility is good.

Remember the days when few motorists chose to wear a seat belt? In just a short time, most American motorists have adjusted to using them – largely without complaint – and highway deaths have decreased dramatically. Boaters need to consider the fact that by making wearing a life jacket routine, waterway drownings also would decrease.

Click here to learn more about life jackets.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit group providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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