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Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

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Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

Old 09-24-2007, 01:06 AM
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Default Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

My son is in Sea Scouts. Most of the teens on the sailboat (about 40' boat) don't wear life jackets unless in bad weather. Here in Southern California the weather is usually nice and water temp not too cold. However, to me it seems like teens should wear them all the time when on the deck. Then again, I don't have a lot of boating experience so maybe I am off base on this. My son pointed out how in sailing magazines most photos show people racing without life jackets. He appears to think that on a larger sailboat they are not necessary most of the time. However, I've read that statistically most drownings are not in bad or rough conditions. I'd appreciate comments from people with experience with similar sized sailboats on this topic either in support or opposition. Is it overkill to suggest that once you are outside the harbor you should always have your life jackets on? If you could give a little detail in your post about yourself such as how many years sailing / boating experience you have that would be great. Otherwise I'll hear something like "That person probably doesn't know what they are talking about." or "They probably have only been on small boats." etc...
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Old 09-24-2007, 02:52 AM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

It is never a bad idea to wear a PFD. Now speaking for my State, PFDs are only required for people being towed behind a boat (like when water skiing), riding on a jet ski, or for all children under the age of 6 if they are on a boat under 26 feet in length while underway. State laws vary, so I do not know what the law in California is.

I am kind of surprised that the Sea Scouts do not have their own requirements.

The most likely person to drown is an excellent swimmer in very good conditions. Why? Because the good swimmer thinks they can swim and therefore do not need the life jacket. This is what I have always heard, and it makes sense.

You may want to get him an auto inflatable life jacket. These things are lightweight and comfortable. I have an inflatable I wear all the time (or at least very frequently). In Florida (and maybe everywhere else) an inflatable does not count unless you are wearing it. So if I am stopped with 4 people and 4 inflatable life jackets - I still get a safety equipment violation ticket unless everyone is wearing one. You really do not even notice you are wearing an inflatable life jacket.

The cheap type II "horse collar" vests are very uncomfortable - and also the most common. The type III (ski vest type) can get hot and uncomfortable really fast. But the inflatables do not suffer from any of these traits.

Tell your son this. The USCG guys out on the 110 foot cutters are ALWAYS wearing a jacket while on deck. In smaller boats, the crew is always in a life jacket. Even the air crews wear life jackets. And if a 110 footer is still a "small boat" then you can also mention that everyone on the flight deck of a US Aircraft Carrier also wears a PFD. It is not about the size of the boat, or your abilities as a swimmer. It is about the fact that boats are on the water, and humans are land animals. On the water, we are out of our element.

On a sailboat, I think that it is even more important than a power boat to be in a jacket. I can turn my small boat around really fast. I can go from full speed to a dead stop and turn around to recover someone (or my hat) fast. I do not think a 40 footer under sail can just stop on a dime and turn around. Not with just a rudder to steer with.

You can also attach things to your life jacket. Like a signal mirror. If you ever do fall overboard, you are a coconut. Really. If your head is all that is above the water, you look like a coconut in a very big sea. It is very easy to loose sight on a man overboard. The PFD will be orange or yellow or some other bright color, which will make you easier to see.
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Old 09-24-2007, 03:25 AM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

I'm not sure what sea scouts is but in my teenage years I went to camps that catered to sailing, motorboating, and watersports for a total of 6 summers and am somewhat surprised to see that this program doesn't have a policy where PFD's are required. At these camps we sailed sunfish, 40'+ Catalina's, and pretty much everything in between. No matter what the occasion, it was program policy for all campers to wear life preservers when in the water (besides swimming!).

On the recreational boating side, the option to dawn a life preserver is optional unless it is illegal as Iguana stated above. I personally choose not to wear one and regularly fish 40+ miles offshore in boats varying in size from 23' to 58'. That doesn't go to say that I don't think about safety when on boats. I always make sure I know where all emergency gear is located (jackets, throw bag, flares, raft, etc..)in each vessel in case such an occasion should occur. Yes, some will say "You think about safety yet don't think about wearing a PFD." To certain people my reasoning may sound ridiculous, but I think a significant portion of the boating population does not elect to wear life jackets on their private vessel. Obviously their are staunch differences in opinion on this subject, and because it's a personal decision, I would never dare to question somebody choosing to wear one when everybody else is not. Heck, on more than one occasion during nearshore charters this summer, the captain and myself would be the only ones NOT wearing PFD's, but in no way was I uncomfortable and think that the choice to wear one is up to THAT person. Enough said.
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Old 09-24-2007, 08:38 AM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

"Is it overkill to suggest that once you are outside the harbor you should always have your life jackets on?"

IMO, yes it is overkill. For the time being, this is still a free country, and people still have a right to make their choices. The wearing of the PFD should be left to the discretion of the Captain and/or each individual crew member. I have sat in the middle of the ocean doing nothing more than drifting and all a PFD would have done is caused me to sweat even worse.

You asked about the responders sailing/boating experience.

Have been boating since I was born. Grew up sailing/fishing in RI waters, specifically racing J-35's. Veteran of 3 Newport-Bermuda races, 2 Marion-Bermuda races, and 4 Marblehead - Halifax races. Have an additional more than half a dozen passages between RI and Bermuda.
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Old 09-24-2007, 09:25 AM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

RI Builder - 9/24/2007 8:38 AM
For the time being, this is still a free country, and people still have a right to make their choices.


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Old 09-24-2007, 09:27 AM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

I strongly suggest the Mustang Auto inflating suspender type PFD. It has a hydrostatic device that fires the inflator if it gets into 4 inches of water or more. This type of PFD allows freedom of movement and is more or less out of the way. If you get knocked into the drink it'll pop open. If you're moving around on deck it's not too dorky. I actually think they're pretty cool and high-tech.
There are also belt types that also are auto inflating, but aren't effective at keeping an unconscious person upright.
I'm personally not too proud to think I'm not a klutz. To my thinking, going without a PFD is like riding a motorcycle without a helmet. You may go you entire lifetime without ever having an incident in which you'll need it. It's that one time that you do....

Just from a liability standpoint it's hard to believe that a program like this wouldn't have a PFD nazi on board. The first kid that drowns from not having a PFD will kill this deal forever. I'm sure whoever is underwriting the policy on this adventure would have a fit if they knew.

As RI points out, you can't regulate away stupidity.
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Old 09-24-2007, 09:50 AM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

Pilot,

I race sailboats about 1-2 a week and as long as conditions apply, nobody wears a life jacket and there is almost never a need.

If you are comfortable with the kids abilities and trust the Sea scouts to tell them to wear life jackets should conditions warrant it, then don't worry about it. Also, yes there are self inflators that some people use. But being on a boat where you generally get a lot of spray sometimes makes funny things happen. Like a vest that auto inflates on a guy while he's just standing there. God that's funny! Ever see Tommy boy?

Or you can do like a few have said and make being on the boat less enjoyable. This is mainly due to the "oh my god they could get killed at any second mentality" You could also wrap them in bubble wrap to play in the driveway, never let them play sport, go out side..........

You do have to be comfortable, do what you need to do, but read the reports. statistically, Being on a boat, especially a sailboat in coastal waters, is about the safest place you can be.

If you reaaaallly need to feel better, get the inflatable life belt. Its not made to keep your head up, but it does release enough of a buoy to keep you afloat. West marine has a few.
http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs...&classNum=null

I love that mentality too "Well the coasties do it so you should" hmmm okay... Can I have the guns too?
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Old 09-24-2007, 11:16 AM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

I want to clarify that I am not suggesting that all teens be mandated to wear a PFD all the times outside of scouting. It just seems that a Scouting organization, that is to uphold the highest standards in conduct, preparedness, safety, etc would have teens wear them all the time. You can't argue that you are not safer with one on. If kids get used to using them when young, the more likely they will use them when older. I did buy my son one of those thin automatic/manual self inflating types as I can see where using a bulky PFD for several hours would be a drag. But I am surprised that the Scouts would not require it to build a good habit in the kids. Not to mention the fact that the first kid to fall off a boat and drown will sue the organization and by having a mandatory PFD use policy it would shield the organization. With that policy you likely wouldn't have to worry about getting sued either as 80-90% of fatalities are people without a PFD that drown.
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Old 09-24-2007, 11:22 AM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

PilotSmith - 9/24/2007 11:16 AM

But I am surprised that the Scouts would not require it to build a good habit in the kids. Not to mention the fact that the first kid to fall off a boat and drown will sue the organization and by having a mandatory PFD use policy it would shield the organization. With that policy you likely wouldn't have to worry about getting sued either as 80-90% of fatalities are people without a PFD that drown.
I am actually thankful they do not require it. Please to not be so naive to think that a mandatory PFD will prevent a law suit - it will not, they will sue anyway.
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Old 09-24-2007, 11:27 AM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

If'n I were the skipper, I would insist they the wear inflatables. Period.

There are new inflatables out that are a LOT less subject to inflating due to being hit with spray etc. They cost a bit more, but how much is a kids life worth?

I can certainly understand the "sweat" factor as well, but it's not so much of a problem with a well fitted inflatable.

About two years ago I helped out a skipper who had fallen overboard when he went fwd to bring in his jib. He had two friends on board his 26' sloop, neither of whom knew how to bring the boat about to pick him up. They had thrown out the tethered horseshoe for him, but not being able to bring the boat about there was no way for them to swing the line by him so that he could grab it. This all happened about a mile from shore. They also apparently did not know how to use the radio.

We just happened to be about the only two boats on the water for miles around, so he was l.u.c.k.y that we spotted him. With no PFD and a mile+ swim to shore, chances are good he'd have never made it.

The stats are consistent: 85% of fatalities are from drownings, and of those, about 90% were sans PFD.

It's cheap insurance, even considering the comfort factor.




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Old 09-24-2007, 12:28 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

I believe California requires anyone under the age of 16 (or is it 16 and under?) to wear a PFD while underway on a boat. I assume your question falls outside this range?

I'm surprised that in these litigious times, the organization doesn't mandate it, but I guess that's up to them and their attorneys.

BTW, I thought most racers wore PFD's, usually inflatables. Just based on my observations; I'm not a blowboater.

jky

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Old 09-24-2007, 01:06 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

Former Sea Scout, 1965.

Make him wear it or discuss and sign a release with the captain. A good captain will not allow operations with a bunch of green kids without protection, especially on a sailboat where a lot of action on the deck is normal.

It is a training envionment for most kids and you know how kids are.

Can he swim?
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Old 09-24-2007, 02:04 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

He should wear it or a harness outside the cockpit. Let's not overlook the part where the OP said "bad weather". The NOAA chart shows some upper 50 degree water for parts of Southern California in the winter months and a hypothermia chart calls for incapacity or unconsciousness in 9 minutes at 50 degrees with no PFD. How close do you want to cut it? No PFD or harness in bad weather with an inexperienced crew is a dead sea scout waiting to happen.

I use a harness in bad weather because I don't want to leave the boat. My father-in-law's experience level is such that he has made several Atlantic crossings in his 44' and he once told me that water temps were such where we were that even if he did the MOB actions perfectly I would still be dead by the time he got back to me. (and yes, we get along) Gave me a new appreciation for what I thought it was just cold water.
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Old 09-24-2007, 02:10 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

Wear them, its cheap, simple insurance for everyone. Inexperienced kids on a sailboat should have to wear it. Every year, every summer its the same thing in local paper man, woman, or child drowned in boating accident, individual was not wearing a life jacket.
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Old 09-24-2007, 03:03 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

I heard from another Sea Scout group that eveyone is required by BSA (Boy Scout of America) regulations and their insurance to wear a PFD when on the dock or in the water unless below deck. He said they always follow the BSA regulations. It is not that hard to see a kid tripping and falling off given the motion and things you can trip on in a sailboat. Sea Scouts are between 16 and 21 years old. In California you are required to use a PFD if you are 13 or younger. So it appears that they are not in violation of any Calif law but are in violation of BSA rules which likely would preclude them from insurance coverage should an accident occur. I agree with the person that posted that people will still sue even if you have a PFD and an accident happens. The difference is that if you follow your rules, you will be much more protected and not likely to get hammered with a large award, if any at all. I'm guessing that if they followed all their rules, and a tragic accident happened, they would not have much of an exposure due to plaintiffs likely being barred from recovery due to the assumption of risk doctrine from the inherent dangers of the sport. Now I just need to decide how to handle this. Do I just leave things the way they have been and tell my son he is to wear his PFD regardless of what the others are doing; or tell the skipper that it appears that they are not in compliance with BSA regulations and putting the organization and kids needlessly at an increased risk? As the new kid there I know my son does not want to get started making a stink so I am a bit reluctant to do much now but I also feel I should say something?
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Old 09-24-2007, 03:11 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

Well Id rather say something and wouldnt give a rats ass what it started, than to risk wishing for the rest of my life i would have said something.
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Old 09-24-2007, 03:58 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

no not mandatory ...but that dosent mean they shouldn't.......
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Old 09-24-2007, 04:29 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

I still think they should all be in jackets.

I was in the regular land scouts. As I recall, we were supposed to "be prepared". What better way to "be prepared" to fall into the water than to be in a life jacket?

When I go swimming, I am usually not wearing extra clothes or shoes and stuff. But lets say it is a brisk chilly day. I live in South Florida and so I know all about a warm climate. I also know that sometimes, we get a rare really nice day when it is like the whole world is air conditioned. And sometimes it gets a little chilly and so people put on long pants or sweaters or even light jackets. Some fools put on heavy jackets because it is in the 50s, but I like to just laugh at them.

Anyway, lets say you fall overboard on such a day. You are wearing long pants, shoes, socks, and maybe a sweater or light jacket or something. How well can you swim now? Winter time is approaching.

Falling into cold water can put you into shock.

Boating and sailing is safe, but like anything else there are hazards. So you offset the hazards with safety equipment. Equipment like the PFD.

Look up Mustang inflatables. Get a HID (hydrostatic auto inflation) PFD. They do not look like the big bulky ugly uncomfortable horse collar things people think of when they hear life jacket.

I agree with Fear Nut - if I were the skipper on the Sea Scout sailboat, everyone on deck would be in a PFD at all times. Even me.
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Old 09-24-2007, 04:53 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

On a sailboat, I think that it is even more important than a power boat to be in a jacket. I can turn my small boat around really fast. I can go from full speed to a dead stop and turn around to recover someone (or my hat) fast. I do not think a 40 footer under sail can just stop on a dime and turn around. Not with just a rudder to steer with.
I wear a ski vest while sailing. I have been in quite a few knockdowns and flips while racing. I have also turned my sailboat upside down inadvertently by falling asleep at helm.

In my teens I did so many stupid things sailing that I wore out my guardian angel. Returning from Catalina Island at 10PM, in 5' to 7', in a 13 catamaran overloaded with 3 girls and following friends in 3 sailfish boats. Etc. It's a wonder I made it to old age..

Depending on skipper & sailboat, most fin keel sailboats can do a 360 in their own lenght. You can also stop them within two boat lengths by slamming rudder out to 45 degrees and releasing sails. The mere act of turning slows them quite a bit.

IMHO As long as kids are in cockpit they are completely safe.
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Old 09-24-2007, 04:53 PM
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Default Re: Should Life Jackets be Mandatory for Teens Sailing?

It's never a bad idea to wear a PFD. It may, however, be a trememdous embarrassment to the child to have his old man raising a stink about it. We all survived childhood just fine without being ceaselessly meddled with. I'd buy the kid a waist or neck style inflatable vest. It's certainly got less "dweeb factor" than the big ugly orange ones. And certainly more comfortable. Whether it's auto or manual deployment is debatable. The 'helicopter parent' might insist on automatic deployment, failing to consider pranks and other situations where an automatic deployment would be a likely occurrence.
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