I'm one of those people who see the wisdom of taking precautions, even though I've lived somewhat of a risk-taking lifestyle. (Maybe that's "because of" my risk-taking lifestyle?) Or perhaps since I'm getting older, my days seem more precious.
Whatever the reason, I've decided that wearing a personal flotation device while underway in any vessel, other than a cruise ship, makes sense. Yes, I'm a good swimmer. Yes, I stay alert and ready when on the water. But mistakes and accidents happen in the blink of an eye. Consider:
- One minute, you're cruising along the waterway heading to a preferred trout hole; the next minute, a trawler's wake hits the bank and doubles back, somehow creating the perfect launching pad for your boat. A split second later, the hull splashes down and you collapse to the deck. Lucky for you, the gunwales of this boat come up to your hips or you might have been thrown overboard.
- A buddy has a cool new flats skiff with a lot of horses on the transom. As he's testing out top speed, the boat begins to chine walk violently. He panics, pulls back on the throttle. The boat banks off a wake and makes a sharp turn. Physical forces beyond your control suddenly make you a missile.
- Obstructions such as oyster reefs and sandbars can quickly challenge the forward progress of your vessel on a low tide when you're not familiar with an area. Channel markers, buoys, other vessels, rogue waves, submerged debris - all create potential hazards even when you're heading offshore.
An operator doesn't have to be intoxicated and the conditions don't have to be rough for the sea to rise up and change your day. So make my pfd a lightweight vest with automatic activation, please. Color preference: bright. And as with the seatbelt in my car, I'll wear it whenever I throttle up.
For more information, check out wearitflorida.com, safeboatingcouncil.org, uscgboating.org, and boatus.com/foundation.