June is boating safety month at Injury Board but for those of us who own or use small boats, every month should be boating safety month. I have earlier blogged on the dangers of improper anchoring, overloaded boats, improper or careless operation and the fact that your overturned boat is your best lifejacket. But by far the most important blog was about the need for wearing life jackets particularly when the weather turns bad. The U.S. Coast Guard believes that 80% of boat overturning drowning deaths could be prevented by wearing lifejackets.
In order to be most effective, life jackets should properly maintained and equipped. They should be inspected at least at the start of every boating season. Those with frayed or rotted straps and fasteners should be discarded. If you plan to carry children onboard you should provide size appropriate life jackets. All lifejackets should have a waterproof flashlight and a whistle attached them. This will greatly help rescue efforts at night or in the fog. In addition, when I was in the Coast Guard I recommended attaching a folded black, heavy duty leaf or trash bag to the life jacket. Once you are in the water, you should pull the bag up over your legs and tie it off at the waist. This will help stave off hypothermia as your body heat which is given off will warm the water in the bag. Don’t worry about swimming in a life jacket as it’s not practical and rapidly burns calories which you will need for survival.
Finally if you would like a free courtesy boat and equipment inspection contact your local Coast Guard Auxillary or Power Squadron.