Winter is Time to Inspect Your PFDs

Winter is Time to Inspect Your PFDs Dec 9, 2021

Take precautions to ensure safety.

Every winter boaters across the country browse the boat shows to stock up on boat gear or safety equipment to prepare for the new season.

This is a great time to replace those old lines or even to check out the latest innovative marine products. But before you even start browsing, don’t forget to check out the single most important item that should rank high on your inventory list – lifejackets. Well before, or even at the end, of every season, do a thorough inspection. If they need to be replaced or you’re looking for a different style, now is the perfect time to check out what type of jackets are available for you, your family and your boating activity.

There are several booths where merchants sell every form of lifejacket imaginable. Be sure to make a note to stop and try a few on for fit and comfort. If you also happen to be buying a new boat, your dealer will be able to help you find the lifejackets you need.

Lifejackets are mandatory safety equipment for you and everyone on board. If your boat sinks, burns, becomes swamped or someone falls overboard, a properly fitted lifejacket will help save the life of you or your guests.

According to the latest statistics, we lose hundreds of boaters each year due to drowning. And guess what? Failure to wear lifejackets is the major factor.

What the law says

Lifejackets and PFDs must be an appropriate size for every passenger on board (including children), must have a snug fit and allow normal movement.

If the Police or Coast Guard stop you for a safety inspection, the first thing they ask you to show them are your lifejackets. Those old lifesaving cushions, which could double as a seat cushion (and supposedly allowed you to stay afloat), are no longer permissible as lifejackets. They are dangerous. Relegate them only as a seat cushion or better yet, throw them out.

It is every boater’s responsibility to inform guests where the lifejackets are located once you’re all onboard. Demonstrate how to wear them properly and how to adjust them. Also be sure to place the lifejackets somewhere where they are easily accessible. If there is a problem on the water, you can concentrate on saving the ship and navigating rather than spending important minutes explaining lifejackets.

BillTaylor’s granddaughter Raelyn wearing her life jacket on the water.

Styles

Lifejackets and PFDs come in many styles. Choose one that is appropriate for your activity.

The standard lifejacket is a reversible keyhole jacket, or abandon-ship jacket. They are available in orange, red or yellow and offered in several different sizes for adults or children. One important feature of the keyhole jacket (like many other styles) is it will turn you face-up and keep you in that position when you’re in the water.

They are easy to put on, extremely buoyant and allow excellent maneuverability. Unfortunately, abandon-ship jackets are bulky and uncomfortable to wear while boating. But if you ever have to abandon ship, you’ll be glad you have them.

A small-vessel lifejacket is similar. These reversible jackets are offered in orange, red or yellow and are available in universal sizes for adults and children. They are primarily designed for use in sheltered waters and turn most people faceup in the water. These jackets are easy to put on, have reduced buoyancy and turning ability, yet they are still bulky and uncomfortable.

Perhaps one of the most popular life jacket-is the PFD (Personal Flotation Device). They are easy to put on and ideal for constant wear while boating, riding a PWC, water skiing or even tubing. However, PFDs provide floatation only, offer little, if any turnability and will not turn you face up when you’re in the water. This means they cannot assist an unconscious person in the water.

These jackets are available in various styles to include keyhole-jackets, vests, coats and coveralls in many approved colours.

To ensure you are purchasing a legal lifejacket, look for the Department of Transport Canada or the Canadian Coast Guard/ Fisheries and Oceans label on the jacket. That label must remain intact or it will be no longer approved.

Inflatables

It is now legal to have inflatable PFDs onboard. In order to meet the lifejacket requirement, they must be worn if you are in an open boat. On other boats, they must be worn while on deck or in the cockpit and must be readily available for anyone down below.

Inflatable PFDs are not approved for use by anyone under l6 years of age or people weighing less than 36.3 kg. They are not approved for use on PWCs.

Use and Care

Lifejackets and PFDs are designed for only one purpose and they require maintenance. Do not use them as cushions or fenders. You will crush the flotation material and may damage the outside material. Also make sure they are stored in a dry, well-ventilated, easily, accessible place. Clean them with mild soap and water only – do not dry clean or clean with chemicals. Also don’t expose them to heat.

Test your lifejacket or PFD occasionally. Simply wade in chest-deep water, bend your knees and float on your back. Ensure your chin remains above the water and you can easily breathe. If you repair or alter your lifejacket or PFD it will no longer be certified.

Children and Lifejackets

Children under nine kilograms do not need to wear lifejackets or PFDs, but all other children should be encouraged to wear them at all times when on the water. As children tend to panic in floatation devices, ensure your child is comfortable and always test it before they are needed. Remember, diapers can affect the performance of the lifejacket. But above all, flotation devices are not a substitute for adult supervision. When your child is old enough, make sure they know how to use it. A child’s head, by weight, is more of their overall weight than an adult. Many jackets, although certified, will not protect children in an overboard fall. Keep your children with you when you shop for lifejackets and PFDs. They can help select their own for fit and comfort and also give them a sense of ownership. Lifejackets and PFDs do save lives. Spend some time this season preparing for a safe and fun summer. 

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