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How to be Safe while Boating: Wear Your PFD

By Gary Heffley
I don’t have the power of political position to make it so and I don’t have the podium at which I can preach to the masses but I have this forum by which hopefully I can reach even just a few of the readers with a very simple message……..Wear your PFD’s!

Every summer lives are lost needlessly from drowning that could be prevented by individuals using Personal Floatation Devices. During the hectic summer months when all manners of floatation devices, boats of all sizes and speeds are used on the rivers and lakes accidents can and will happen.

Do not think you’re safe in your big boat because a boater can be headed directly for you at full speed with the sun in their eyes, blinded. Surely they can see this big boat in front of them and they will veer off. The impact throws you into the water, but you can swim. Yeah, but the impact knocked you the bleep out. You have just become a needless summer statistic.

Reports of a canoe overturning in the river and luckily rescuers were summoned and other boats were in the area to offer assistance. Luckily everyone was saved. Film and pictures at 11! What was wrong with the pictures? No PFDs in evidence.

It used to be that boaters and recreational paddlers and even floaters could claim that PFDs were unsightly and uncomfortable. A weak excuse at best but even that doesn’t hold water now. There are mesh designed vests that supply the floatation, comfort and safety for even a light-weight like me at 270 pounds. Heck, I wear one in the pool because my dogs like to jump in and swim with my wife and I and one of them could land on me by accident jumping into the pool. Better safe than sorry.

There are also auto/manual devices which just sit around your neck like a long collar. These are light-weight and unobtrusive. These are favored by professional and amateur bass anglers who understand the dangers of being ejected at over 60 miles an hour. They may be a little expensive in comparison to a standard PFD, but if you ever truly need it, it is worth any price.

The bottom line is, if your boat is in motion wear one. If you are in a moving river where hazards and dangers are often unseen and a surprise wear one. If you have limited swimming skills and are just lounging on a floatation device wear one.

Make sure any that youngsters and toddlers always wear one around water. Even playing along the bank poses dangers. A friend of the family bears the memory of being witness to a tragic accident. Another case of cudda, shudda, wudda:

While enjoying an afternoon at their lakeside campsite, a commotion caught their attention a few yards away. A child had fallen into the lake. Family members who could not swim jumped in to save the child and were themselves in danger of drowning. Our friend jumped into action and was able to pull the child and one adult from the water. Tragically the child’s grandfather was lost and became another tragic summer statistic.

A PFD on the toddler and all you would have had was a wet excited child.

As I step off my soapbox please take heed to these stories, it is not always someone else. I have pulled people from pools and rivers myself in close calls. A little common sense and prevention can go a long way.

So enjoy the water safely this summer, practice common sense and of course while I am still in preachy mood remember to boat sober.

[Editor's Note: Please share with our readers what you know that will enhance the experience of fishing, hunting or boating in Northern California or Southern Oregon. What have you learned? Your expertise, no matter where you fish (fresh or saltwater) or what species you target, could be invaluable to other anglers. What not to do is just as important as what to do. Please send your strategies, ideas, tips, techniques and personal experiences to editor@MyOutdoorBuddy.com. Please include your name and hometown.]


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