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More on PFD's
Reprinted from January 1988
by Leonard Hulsebosch

The newsletter section of this web site contains 40 years of Houston Canoe Club newsletters. Amidst those many publications are buried a lot of gems of wisdom, that are still just as valid today as when they first appeared. The following article from 30-years ago is one of those gems.  

    There is a great deal of evidence that boaters and rafters (passengers included) have  drowned because their life jackets had slipped off over their heads while in the river following a "wet exit". Consequently, a more secure fastening, perhaps crotch straps, is advisable to prevent this unpleasant experience from occurring.

    But the U.S. Coast Guard regulates life jacket making, and a Coast Guard spokesman opposed crotch straps on the grounds that they would interfere with a traditional Coast Guard requirement that any life jacket be easy to put on while in the water. In taking this stand, the Coast Guard ignores the fact that River Runners are all wearing their P.F.D.'s, or had put them on before running hard stretches - not attempting to put them on in the river after a wet exit. Ignored also, the fact that river turbulence makes life jackets come off the way oceans and bays never could! It is our belief that the Coast Guard should be "river conscious" as well as "coast conscious".
    Furthermore, good safety dictates that it is justified to require commercial trip passengers to wear P.F.D.'s when directed to by their guide, and that all self-guided boaters and rafters carry P.F.D.'s aboard and wear them at their discretion!

    Remember, it is the boater, not his equipment, who determines the safety level! All the whistles and bells gadgets or devices are no substitute for judgements and skills that have been learned from experts and practiced on easy rivers before attempting successively harder rivers. Expertise and judgment cannot be created by laws or regulations, only by education and practice by the individual boater.

    Suffice it to say that my wife and I both have had our P.F.D.'s customized with crotch straps after experiencing and witnessing occurrences of the river turbulence "stripping" the P.F.D. up and over the head of the swimmer. I suggest you consider doing the same - the life you save could be your own!

The author, Leonard Hulsebosch