May 2008


If You Don’t Wear Anything Else, Wear Your Life Jacket!

And, Don’t Forget The Pets Aboard

Safety of life, limb and property is a personal responsibility we should all follow no matter what we do. While boating, wearing a lifejacket is perhaps your single, most important responsibility for both you and your passengers.

 Why don’t boaters wear their life jackets?  Past reasons for not wearing a life jacket are simply not true for today’s personal flotation devices.  Today’s jackets are no longer the hot and bulky vests once associated with water safety gear.

Now there are many attractive styles and colors from which to choose, including infants’ wearables and the newest inflatables. There is simply no excuse for not wearing a life jacket aboard a pleasure craft.  Besides that, for some age groups and users it’s the law.

 Federal and state regulations for recreational boats state that life jackets must be Coast Guard approved, in good and serviceable condition and of appropriate size for the intended wearer.  One size does not fit all!  

Recreational boats must carry one Type I, II, III or V personal flotation device for each person aboard.  A life jacket stowed in an inaccessible compartment does little good when the unexpected happens, and suddenly the boater is in the water.  The best life jacket or other personal flotation device is the one that is already being worn.

 With the aim of saving lives, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Canadian Safe Boating Council, the National Safe Boating Council and other marine safety organizations, celebrate National Safe Boating Week each May.  The event is the high point of a year-round North American Safe Boating Campaign.  

Its purpose is to get the boating public to think safety and to reduce the toll of death and injuries on our waterways by being responsible and always wearing lifejackets.

 “Wear It!” is the theme. It refers, of course, to life jackets.  Press releases repeating this theme are sent to the print media, and public service announcements are broadcast on radio and television stations across the U.S. and Canada.

 Wearing a life jacket is a must for children — it’s the law.  An important feature of National Safe Boating Week is safety for children on our waterways.  As incentives to “Wear It,” life jacket exchange programs and giveaways are held from coast to coast during National Safe Boating Week. 

 In addition to promoting life jacket wear, National Safe Boating Week is a push for vessel-safety checks.  Throughout the United States, members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadrons offer free courtesy checks to make sure a boat has the proper safety equipment, required by law, and is free of obvious hazardous conditions. 

Vessel safety booths are set up at launch ramps, marinas and retail store parking lots.  To locate a Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel examiner in your area and schedule your boat to be checked, go to  Click on “I want a VSC.”  To contact a Power Squadron examiner, go to .

 Today, over 13 million boats traverse our waterways, yet 65 percent of the boaters have never taken a boating-safety course, according to Coast Guard statistics.  Public boater education is emphasized during the campaign because boating education saves lives and property. 

The Auxiliary, the Power Squadrons and other boating organizations offer the basic America’s Boating Course to the more advanced navigation and GPS courses.  To find a Coast Guard Auxiliary class near you, click on, “Visitors.”  To take a Power Squadron class, click on

 Recreational boating is one of our nation’s most popular sports.  Safe boating is smart boating when the vessel operator complies with federal and state regulations.  During National Safe Boating Week and throughout the boating season, smart boaters get vessel safety checks, take boating safety classes, stay sober on the water and, above all, “Wear It!”

Editor’s Note: And, as long as we are highlighting the importance of wearing life jackets, please don’t forget your pets. If you live aboard or boat with dogs and/or cats, or other “Good Company,” there are PFDs available for them as well. Their safety is also your responsibility.