The Florida Boaters Guide: A Handbook of Boating Laws and Responsibilities
The Official Boating Handbook of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Web Version
Table of Contents
All recreational vessels must have at least one Type I, II, III, or V personal flotation device (life jacket) that is U.S. Coast Guard–approved and of the proper size for each person on board.
In addition to the above requirement, vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have one Type IV PFD that is USCG–approved personal flotation device on board and immediately available.
Children under 6 years of age must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, or III PFD at all times while on any vessel less than 26 feet in length that is underway upon Florida waters. ("Underway" means any time except when the vessel is anchored, moored, docked, or aground.)
Vessels operating on waters outside the geographical boundaries of Florida (three miles or the edge of the Gulf Stream, whichever is greater, off the Atlantic coast or nine miles off the Gulf of Mexico coast) are subject to the new federal PFD regulation for children. On these waters, each child under 13 years of age who is on an underway recreational vessel must wear an appropriate USCG–approved PFD unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin.
Each person on board a personal watercraft (PWC), and anyone being towed behind a vessel, must wear a USCG–approved PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not to be worn on PWC or while water-skiing.
Besides being labeled "USCG approved," all PFDs must be:
- In good and serviceable condition.
- Readily accessible, which means you are able to put the PFD on quickly in an emergency.
- Of the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.
Type I: Wearable Offshore Vests
These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take awhile. They provide the most buoyancy, are excellent for flotation, and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water.
Type II: Wearable Near-Shore Vests
These vests are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. A Type II may not turn some unconscious wearers face up in the water.
Type III: Wearable Flotation Aids
These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. They are not recommended for rough waters because they will not turn most unconscious persons face up.
Type IV: Throwable Devices
These cushions and ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble. Because a Type IV is not designed to be worn, it is neither for rough waters nor for persons who are unable to hold onto it.
TYPE V: Special-Use Devices
These vests, deck suits, hybrid PFDs, and others are designed for specific activities, such as windsurfing, kayaking, or water-skiing. To be acceptable, Type V PFDs must be used in accordance with their label.