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Part One Boating Safety

Something Safe to Float Your Boat

From the first thaw to the first frost, boaters hit the oceans, rivers and lakes by the millions in search of rest and relaxation, fun and frolic, and many memory-making moments. Sea Ray is proud to provide this leisurely luxury and wants to ensure that the memories are fond, not frightful, for all of our boating friends. Taking fun seriously and sharpening your safety skills will better prepare you for successful journeys into the waters this summer.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) maintains a public safe boating outreach program called "Boat Responsibly" to promote safety among recreational boaters. One primary area of focus in the campaign is personal flotation devices (PFDs). The USCG has targeted this issue with extensive research that has resulted in the creation of laws to protect all boaters, and here's why: According to the USCG, more than 80 percent of boating fatality victims could have been saved simply by wearing a life jacket. Therefore, the USCG strongly urges all operators and passengers to wear their life jackets at all times.

No one plans an accident, but you can plan safety in case of an accident. For example, a sudden or unexpected heavy sea condition could occur that might cause the boat to capsize in rough waters. A boating collision can easily throw a boater or his passengers overboard. A loss of balance while boating could result in a person's fall into the water. Freezing waters could cause hypothermia, while waterlogged clothing could impede even a good swimmer's ability to reach safety.

"But life jackets are too cumbersome," some say. "I like the feel of the warm sun and cool mist on my skin." Many modern life jackets aren't what your grandmother used to wear. A wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes make wearing a PFD much more comfortable than in the past. Some are thin and flexible, while others are as compact as a scarf or fanny pack until they hit water, when they automatically fill with air.

The USCG requires that a boat have a Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III or V life jacket for each person on board. Sixteen-foot boats and over must have at least one Type IV throwable device as well. Here's how they are defined:

TYPE I (Offshore Life Jacket) (22 lbs. buoyancy): This PFD is best for open, rough or remote water, where rescue may be slow in coming. It is one of the best flotation jackets because it can turn most unconscious wearers face-up in the water. Its highly visible color makes rescue easier. The disadvantage is that it is bulky.
TYPE II (Near-Shore Buoyant Vest) (15.5 lbs. buoyancy): This PFD is for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of a fast rescue. Its advantage is that it is less bulky and more comfortable than the Type I and it is less expensive. However, it is not made for long hours in the water and, though it may turn some unconscious wearers face-up in the water, it will not turn others.
TYPE III (Flotation Aid) (15.5 lbs. buoyancy): This PFD is good for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of a fast rescue. It is generally the most comfortable type for continuous wear. It offers freedom of movement for many active water sports and is available in many styles. However, the wearer may have to tilt his head back to avoid going face down in the water. In rough water, the wearer's face can get covered by waves. It is not intended for extended survival in rough water.
TYPE IV (Throwable Device): This PFD is for use in calm, inland water with ready help nearby. It can be thrown to anyone, and it provides a good backup to wearable PFDs. Some can be used as seat cushions. Its disadvantage is that it cannot be used for unconscious persons, non-swimmers or children, and it is not recommended for extended hours in rough water.
TYPE V (Hybrid Device): This PFD is required to be worn to be counted as a regulation PFD. It is the least bulky of all the types and provides high flotation when inflated. It is good for continuous wear, but may not adequately float some wearers unless partially inflated. It requires active use and care of the inflation chamber.

It is important to note that most all states have regulations that require life jackets to be worn by children at all times on a small water craft. There are children's sizes and adult sizes; adult-sized, life jackets will not work for children. To work correctly, life jackets must fit snugly. Make sure the child's chin or ears do not slip through. It may not be prudent to take small infants on boats until they are of a size that they can wear an appropriate PFD. If the infant must be aboard, at least one adult should be wearing a PFD in ready state to immediately assist the infant. As always, check with your state regulations.

The following recommendations are also important with regard to PFDs:

    • Life jackets should be tested for wear and buoyancy at least once each year. Waterlogged, faded or leaky jackets should be discarded.

    • Life jackets must be properly stowed.

    • Make sure you have enough PFDs for everyone on the boat.

    • Prior to casting off, have each person select a PFD, try it on and cinch the strap to fit. Children must wear PFDs at all times. Adults are not required in most states
      to wear their PFDs at all times, though it is highly recommended.

    • If a person decides not to wear a PFD, have that person stow the PFD in an easily accessible place. Ask them to remember where they placed it. It's a good idea
      to test their memory on that location partially into the trip. Have a little drill. Most will find it interesting and fun.

    • Never keep PFDs under lock and key while underway.

    • Perform a periodic safety check of all PFDs. Look for torn or weak straps and fasteners and for mold or mildew.

Taking care and caution to exercise the points above will not only win you respect as a conscientious, caring captain by all those who boat with you; you will also be leading by example, and other boaters will take note. Positive peer pressure can go a long way, and that's a great thing for all who ride the waters.

If you have questions or would like more information about life jackets, call the USCG info line at 1-800-368-5647 or click on the website below.

Bibliography:

    • All Volunteer Yacht Club (AVYC)

    • National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)

    • United States Coast Guard (USCG)

    • United States Power Squadron (USPS)

Sea Ray is proud to offer this safety information to increase your boating safety and enjoyment. These documents are provided for your personal information only, and you hereby acknowledge that any reliance upon any of these materials shall be at your sole risk. Sea Ray reserves the right, in its sole discretion and without any obligation, to make improvements to, or correct any error or omissions, in any portion of the information. Sea Ray hereby disclaims all liability to the maximum extent permitted by law in relation to this information and does not give any warranties, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any of the information provided.

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