The US Coast Guard has set the following requirements for all recreational vessels: A wearable life jacket for each person must be aboard.
These life jackets must be:
- U. S. Coast Guard approved
- The proper size for the intended wearer
- In good and serviceable condition
- Properly stowed (readily accessible)
When a vessel is underway with children under 13 years old, they must be wearing a life jacket unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin. On some state waters this age requirement may vary. Boaters are encouraged to check with their respective state boating authority regarding these requirements.
Having the life jackets on board is great, but you need to make sure each person on the boat has the jacket designed for them. With a variety of distinctive styles and sizes available it is easier to make this happen. Before setting out on your day, each person on the boat should take the following steps to ensure that their life jacket fits and performs properly. If you are wearing the correct size and fit, the life jacket will keep your head above water.
- Do a visual check of the life jacket. Look for rips, broken buckles, or any signs that the jacket may be defective.
- Check the label or tag for height and weight recommendations to match the person wearing the life jacket.
- Make sure the jacket is properly fastened, hold your arms straight up over your head. Ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up. Make sure there is no excess room above the openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your chin or face.
A life jacket that is too big will slip up over your head, and if it is too small it will not support your body above water.