There is a lot of safety equipment that can be installed on a boat but none are quite as important as your personal flotation device or PFD.  The PFD does exactly what it says, it will keep you afloat if you land in the water during an emergency.  Not all personal flotation devices are created equal and there are several different kinds on the market from you to choose from.

It is the Law

In pretty much every state you are required by law to have personal flotation device on your watercraft, it must also have been approved by the US Coast Guard.  It must always be in good working order, it needs to be accessible at all times and it has to fit the person that is wearing it.  There are 5 different types of flotation devices that you have to choose from, each is meant for a different situation.  Here are they are:

  1. Offshore Life Jackets: These particular life jackets are meant for open water that is far from shore, where it can take a while before someone comes to your rescue. They are the most buoyant and even if you are unconscious they will force you upright so you don’t drown.  These are the biggest and bulkiest of the personal flotation devices
  2. Near Shore Life Jackets: These particular style of PFDs are meant to be used closer to shore where you won’t spend much time in the water and rescue will be relatively quick.
  3. Flotation Devices: Flotation Devices are used in and around pools and on beaches in the shallower water.  They are the water wings and such that you see kids wearing.  They can be worn all of the time and allow plenty of movement.
  4. Throwable Devices: These devices are the rings that lifeguards use to help people in distress, you will also see them as part of the safety equipment on most boats. They are not designed to help people who can’t swim or are unconscious.
  5. Custom Devices: These type of PFDs are meant for specific activities like when you go waterskiing or canoeing.

It doesn’t matter what style of PFD you are going to purchase you need to make sure that it fits properly.  Sizing is not universal and it can vary by manufacturer so either use a sizing chart if you’re buying online or try them on if you’re buying from a store.  You want a snug fit but not too tight.

Not only is having a PDF on your boat the law, but this is not the piece of safety equipment you ever want to scrimp on the life of you and your family could depend on it.