Safe boating tips

At last, spring is here and the seasonal boaters amongst us will no doubt be checking batteries, fuel lines and all the other necessary mechanical and non-mechanical requirements of our vessels. We in the auxiliary would like to remind you of one item (in fact their should be a lot more than one!) that should be inspected and checked with rigour. That being your life jacket and other emergency flotation devices.Too frequently we come across damaged or ill-fitting flotation jackets (especially on kids), or more dangerously … not enough for all those on board!  Remember most equipment on a boat needs updating and changing. The law states that you must have a Canadian approved, correctly sized, lifejacket or PFD for everyone on board.Make your safety gear a priority. Kids grow — life jackets don’t! Flotation devices come in various styles: The standard lifejacket, the small vessel lifejacket and what is commonly known as the personal flotation device (PFD). There are advantages and disadvantages to all three. However pointers to note are that lifejackets (usually a key hole fitting that goes over the head) will turn an unconscious person face up in the water where a PFD does not, providing flotation only. The advantage of the PFD being that unlike the bulky and uncomfortable lifejacket it can be warn as a vest or jacket. Whatever flotation device used, though, it will be of no use unless it is warn at all times while boating, or unless it is easily accessed in an emergency. It is no good having them locked up, below deck when below deck is filling with water. Your lifejacket or  PFD should be of appropriate size and snug fitting, however it must permit freedom of movement for your arms and legs. Check regularly for buoyancy by wading out into chest-deep water. Bend your knees so that you float. Ensure that your chin is above the line — if not re-adjust the fitting straps and try once more. If, again, this fails the buoyancy of the jacket/PFD may well have diminished and the item should be replaced. Allow your flotation device to fully dry in open air (never store equipment damp). Clean flotation devices using mild soap and warm water. Avoid dry cleaning or detergents as these will damage stitching and the integrity of the materials. Again, allow to dry naturally. Other pointers for prolonging the life of your equipment incudes avoiding leaving jackets/PFD’s in the sun for long periods of time, or using them as a cushion, kneeling pad or fender.Further information can be gained by visiting the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary website  (there is also a link to us) or by contacting the Mount Brenton Power Squadron.To purchase equipment locally, Sealegs on Transfer Beach stocks a range of high quality PFD’s for most boating needs.  Happy (and safe) boating from your local Coast Guard Auxiliary.— Nick Epp-EvansCoast Guard Auxiliary 29