This week is National Safe Boating Week, which is a great campaign to heighten awareness of the things we should know as we get into the boating season in earnest. Take a little time to check out this link and remember the useful tips. After all, every week should be considered safe boating week.
One thing, I want to talk about is a subject that I find particularly important, yet I notice gets overlooked frequently. And that is properly fitting a personal floatation device (PFD).
I like to fish, and I’m extremely picky about my gear. When I walk along a river to fly fish, I wear a vest, and I like to be sure it wraps around my body just so. I want it to be comfortable and functional. I pay the same attention to the PFD I wear when I get into a boat. And when I go boating with others, I take time before we launch to be sure that everyone’s PFD fits properly.
Of course, PFDs come in various shapes and sizes with adjustable straps. In short, you want the PFD to fit snugly, but not so tight that it squeezes you. Ideally, you should be able to fit a couple fingers under the shoulder padding, but when you pull up on the vest, you do not want it to rise above your head. You want all the buckles to fasten. If they don’t, you should make changes, before you hit the water.
Sounds simple, I know, but I have heard stories of people falling out of boats, then trying to put on PFDs after the fact (which is problem number one; they should be wearing PFDs at all times), only to complain that the vest doesn’t fit. In some cases, that happens simply because the people don’t know how to put the PFD on!
PFDs should never be afterthoughts. They should be the first thing we think about when we get in any boat, and step number two is making them fit.
After all, the ideal situation is when you barely notice you’re wearing one, but when you need it, you don’t have to wonder or make any adjustments.
Kirk Deeter is and editor-at-large for Field & Stream.