The United States Coast Guard* says you must have USCG approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) on your recreational boat. How many and what type PFDs you'll need depends on the number of people on board, the size of your boat, and the kind of boating you do.
Boats 16 Feet or LongerIf your boat is 16 feet or longer, you must have one of any of these wearable PFDs for each person on board:
Boats under 16 Feet LongIf your boat is less than 16 feet long or is a canoe or kayak, of any length, you may choose either wearable or throwable PFDs. But you must still have one PFD for each person on board.
The Right PFD For YouPFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors, and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer. Some are made to protect you from cold water. But no matter which PFD you choose, be sure to get one that's right for you and the water conditions you expect to encounter. Remember, spending a little time now can save you a lifetime later. Always look for the United States Coast Guard approval number on any PFD you buy.
Choose The Right Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
Beat the Odds - Wear Your PFD
Most drownings occur way out at sea, right? Wrong! Fact is, 9 out 0f 10 drownings occur in inland waters, most within a few feet of safety. Most of the victims owned PFDs, but they died without them. A wearable PFD can save your life, if you wear it.
If you haven't been wearing your PFD because of the way it makes you look or feel, there's good news. Today's PFDs fit better, look better, and are easy to move around in.
One more thing. Before you shove off, make sure all on board are wearing PFDs. To work best, PFDs must be worn with all straps, zippers, and ties fastened. Tuck in any loose strap ends to avoid getting hung-up.
When you don't wear your PFD, the odds are against you. You're taking a chance on your life.
Staying on Top
Your weight isn't the only factor in finding out how much "extra lift" you need in water. Body fat, lung size, clothing, and whether the water is rough or calm, all play a part.
Read the label on your PFD to be sure it's made for people your weight and size. Test it as shown in the next section. Then in an emergency, don't panic. Relax, put your head back and let your PFD help you come out on top.
HIGHER BUOYANCY MEANS HIGHER LIFT
Try on your PFD to see if it fits comfortably snug. Then test it in shallow water to see how it handles.
To check the buoyancy of your PFD in the water, relax your body and let your head tilt back. Make sure your PFD keeps your chin above water and you can breathe easily.
Be aware; your PFD may not act the same in swift or rough water as in calm water. The clothes you wear and the items in your pockets may also change the way your PFD works.
If your mouth is not well above the water, get a new PFD or one with more buoyancy.
A PFD is designed not to ride-up on the body when in the water. But, when a wearer's stomach is larger than the chest, ride-up may occur. Before use, test this PFD in the water to establish that excessive ride-up does not impair PFD performance.
Caring for Your PFD
Checking Your PFD
If your PFD uses bags of kapok (a naturally buoyant material), gently squeeze the bag to check for air leaks. If it leaks, it should be thrown away. When kapok gets wet, it can get stiff or waterlogged and can lose some of its buoyancy.
Don't forget to test each PFD at the start of each season. Remember, the lay says your PFDs must be in good shape before you use your boat. Ones that are not in good shape should be cut up and thrown away.
Teach Your Children Well
To work right, a PFD must fit snugly on a child. to check for a good fit, pick the child up by the shoulders of the PFD. If the PFD fits right, the child's chin and ears will not slip through.
PFDs are not babysitters. Even though a child wears a PFD when on or near the water, an adult should always be there, too. Parents should remember that inflatable toys and rafts should not be used in place of PFDs.
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