Life jackets are the most important safety item onboard any boat. Not only are life jackets a very good idea, in California, they are the law, and not complying can result in steep fines if sited by a harbor patrol, sheriff, lifeguard, Coast Guard, or other law enforcement personnel.
It is best if everyone onboard has their own personal life jacket, but at the very least everyone should know where the boats complement of life jackets are stowed and how to put them on. Children under the age of 13-years old must wear a suitable life jacket at all times with few exceptions.
It’s the Law
In California, all vessels must have a suitable Coast Guard-approved life jacket for every person onboard. In addition, every child under 13-years of age on a moving recreational vessel of any length must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the conditions and the activity. However, a child under 13-years of age may remove their life jacket if they are:
on a sailboat and are constrained by a harness tethered to the sailboat
in an enclosed cabin
on a vessel engaged in an emergency rescue situation
All Captain Newport, luxury boat rentals are equipped with life jackets, but having your own personal one is always a good idea, especially for kids. Size and fit are important and ensure the life jacket is comfortable. Let’s face it, if a life jacket is comfortable it is more likely to be worn.
There are many places to buy Coast Guard-approved life jackets. West Marine and Amazon are two excellent choices. The benefit of West Marine retail stores is the ability to try on life jackets to pick the best fitting and most comfortable.
Checking for Fit
Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved
Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children
Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight
Make sure the jacket is properly zipped or buckled
Raise your arms straight up over your head while wearing your life jacket and ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings, gently pulling up
If there is excess room above the openings and the jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does NOT fit properly. A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket
Being prepared is the fist step to having an enjoyable and safe day on the water.