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And it sent. I just texted our float plan to our buddy at the marina. You do the prelaunch check?

The person behind the camera nods their head yes.


Awesome. Let’s see, where’s your life jacket?

The person behind the camera holds out a child’s inner tube.


You know you need a real life jacket, right? Look, the vast majority of people who end up drowning out here weren’t wearing a life jacket. And it’s really simple. You see, we don’t breathe underwater and well, the life jackets keep us afloat. And the end result is that we don’t become crab food. Besides, you can't deny it that these things, well, they look pretty good. And that means, the life jacket is not negotiable. So, let’s get you outfitted.

All right, when it comes to life jackets, there’s several important factors to look for that could save your life. First, check the label. Make sure it's U.S. Coast Guard–approved. These are. Make sure they’re in good wearable condition, and make sure they’re designed for your intended use. Now let’s talk about intended use.



There are different types of personal flotation devices—what most call life jackets. They’re all designed for specific uses. So refer to the label, and match it to your activity. And if you’re ever in doubt, go to the U.S. Coast Guard’s website to double-check. Now, let’s go through the main types you’ll see out on the water. Offshore, for use in rough, remote waters. This offshore life jacket is super buoyant and keeps your face out of the water. If you’re boating in remote areas where rescue may take a while, it’s best to use this type.

Near-shore. This near shore vest will turn most people face up in the water, but is not a guarantee, so it is best used when rescue is quick. Inflatable. Some inflatables are designed to inflate on contact with the water or when the user pulls the cord. They should be used for near-shore pleasure boating, fishing, and some paddlesports. They come in two different styles—either as a normal vest, or as a waist pack.

Wearable flotation aid. For use in watersports, like skiing or wakeboarding, where rescue would be quick. This wearable life jacket works in calm waters, but, depending on their design, might not turn your face up if a person is unconscious. We also have special use vests. These special use flotation devices are designed for specific activities, like windsurfing, or whitewater boating, or rafting.

Throwable device. Intended use: thrown to someone in trouble. Throwable personal flotation devices are throwable cushions or rings. Depending on the size of your boat, you’re also supposed to have at least one of these on board. And this?

Rob wears the child’s inner tube and arm floats.


Seriously, no. Just no. And now that we’ve gone through the types, here is something for you to think about. Which type do we need on our boat if we’re going water skiing or wakeboarding? Truth is, we don’t need just one type. All passengers should be wearing a life jacket, and if you’re going to get out on those skis, you should be wearing a life jacket intended for skiing. And, we also need a throwable device on board. No matter what the type, they need to be in good condition. Buckles, zippers, straps, flotation, the works.

And the second factor to consider is the fit.



Your life jacket needs to fit you properly. Read the label to make sure it’s U.S. Coast Guard–approved and is designed for what you plan to do. And make sure it fits properly based on your weight and chest size. It is especially important to check fit on kids so they don’t slip out. And finally, this is the biggie, the best life jacket is the one you’re actually wearing. The life jacket doesn’t do you any good if it’s not properly on your body. People think it’s OK to stow them in the boat somewhere and just grab one and put it on when the boat flips, catches on fire, or they fall overboard.

In reality, it doesn’t work that way. Way too many people drown each year, and in most fatal accidents life jackets were on board, but not on the person or readily accessible. And kids are required by law to wear one. And it is the job of the adult to make sure they do. This is true whether you’re in a motorboat, sailboat, canoe, kayak, or personal watercraft. Remember, your life jacket has got your back. All right. Let’s go fishing.

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