By Andy Peterson
Before you head for the launch ramp or untie from the dock, it’s a good idea to check your boat’s safety equipment, especially your life jackets. Life jackets and personal flotation devices keep you afloat in the water while you wait for rescue or work on rescuing yourself.
Many different types of life jackets are available and each type has its own pros and cons. Life jackets are designed to work best when properly worn, and not used as a seat cushion or pillow.
According to the Washington Adventures in Boating Handbook, provided by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission boating program, all vessels, including non-motorized watercraft, are required to have at least one USCG-approved Type I, II, or III life jacket for each person on board. State law requires that children 12 years old and younger must wear a USCG-approved life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet in length, unless in a fully enclosed area.
You can view the Adventures in Boating handbook and get additional boating-related information free online at the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission website at parks.state.wa.us/450/Boater-Safety and also at the USCG Auxiliary website at cgaux.org/rbs/index.php.
The Blaine Harbor Office participates in the Boat U.S. Foundation’s life jacket loaner program for kids. This program makes loaner life jackets available to boating families that do not have enough properly fitting life jackets aboard their boat for the day or weekend. Only a limited number of life jackets are available so prompt returns are requested.
Boaters should be reminded that Washington now requires boat operators ages 12 years and older to pass a boating safety course and obtain a Boater Education Card before operating a motorized vessel of 15 horsepower or greater. More information on the Boater Education Card can be found at the Washington state parks website mentioned above.