Spring Into Boating Safety

April 08, 2023

This year, National Safe Boating Week is May 20 – 26 so we thought this is a perfect time to go over the different types of Personal Flotation Devices (also known as PFDs) because they save lives and are required by the U.S. Coast Guard to be onboard all vessels. A PFD is the most important piece of safety equipment on your boat, and you should always wear one on the water. When you're choosing a PFD, make sure it is the appropriate type for your boating location and activity, is the right size, has enough buoyancy to support you in the water and is U.S. Coast Guard approved.

TYPE I - Offshore Life Jackets - These vests are designed for rough or remote waters where rescue may take some time. They provide the most buoyancy, are excellent for flotation and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water. 

TYPE II - Near-Shore Buoyant Vests – These are mostly appropriate for use in calm waters when quick rescue is likely. While very buoyant, these vests may not turn some unconscious wears face up in the water. 

TYPE III Floatation Aids - These are great for calm waters where a rescue if needed would be quick. These are not recommended for rough waters since they will not turn most unconscious people face up. These are the most common for wakeboarder, skiers, and surfers. 

TYPE IV Devices – These are not designed to be worn and are not for rough waters or anyone who is unable to hold on to it. 

TYPE V Special Use Devices - These are often developed and customized specifically for specific sports such as kayaking, wakeboarding, or windsurfing. To be acceptable, these must be used in accordance with their label.

At the beginning of each season, inspect all your PFDs to make sure they are in good condition. Exposure to sunlight, moisture, rough handling and improper storage can deteriorate PFDs rapidly so it is necessary to check for rips, tears, and holes. Make sure seams, straps, zippers and hardware are okay and there is no sign of waterlogging, mildew odor, or shrinkage of the buoyant materials. If your PFD is discolored or torn, you should discard and replace it. Always rinse your PFDs and let them drip dry thoroughly before putting away. Stow your PFDs in a dry, well-ventilated place. For more information about personal floatation devices and boating safety visit https://www.boatus.org/study-guide/equipment/pfd/

National Safe Boating week is intended to help us be mindful of best safety practices each season. So before you push off the dock in 2023, make sure your TowBoatUS membership is up to date. As always happy to help!