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Why Bother to Wear a Lifejacket?

If you are ever unlucky enough to fall into chilly Northern California waters, you’ll be damned glad you elected to wear your PFD. 

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you’re over 35, you may remember that during the 60s and 70s new cars were fitted with seat belts, but in California it wasn’t mandatory to wear them until the mid-80s — 1986 to be precise. Despite some initial resistance to wearing them, statistics quickly proved that buckling up was a very healthy idea. And today, of course, most drivers automatically clip in before they even fire up their engines.

This being the start of Boating Safety Week, we’re reminded of a parallel situation among boaters. Without question, the most effectual thing that any boater or personal-watercraft operator can do to minimize the odds of ending up in the morgue is to simply wear a life jacket. 

Don’t get us wrong; we aren’t advocating new laws that would force you to do so — or that boat ignition systems be rigged with annoying reminder bells — but if you look at the numbers we think you may be convinced that putting on a PFD before you leave the dock is a pretty wise habit to get into.

According to the Coast Guard’s 2015 Recreational Boating Statistics report, 76% of fatal boating accident victims drowned — and 85% of them were not wearing a life jacket. As in years past, boating accidents and fatalities among sailors last year were very low compared to other groups — especially jet ski operators. Nevertheless, it might be argued that one sailor’s death is too many. It’s your life, so it’s your call.

See this link for a detailed look at the stats. 


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We’re thrilled to report that after more than 200 days at sea alone, Washington-based sailor Jeff Hartjoy — who’s a longtime friend of Latitude 38 — is about to make landfall at Ecuador’s Bahia Caraquez, thus completing the nonstop circumnavigation that began there last Halloween. 
Island Yacht Club in Alameda will host the Singlehanded Farallones awards meeting on Wednesday, May 25, at 7:30 p.m.