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NEW PRODUCTS ENHANCE BOATING SAFETY

Posted 8/4/2010

A new generation of smaller, more affordable emergency products can enhance your safety on the water.

Not too long ago, wearing a safety device as basic as a PFD (personal flotation device) was a major hassle. They were big, rigid, uncomfortable and unwieldy so they were stored in an out-of-the way compartment until, heaven forbid, you really needed them. Then it was a scramble to get one out during an emergency situation. Fortunately, those days are over because a new generation of compact, Coast Guard®-approved self inflating PFDs are designed to be worn, and they are changing the way boaters think about life vests. At Yamaha we applaud these achievements and strongly encourage everyone to wear a PFD while boating.

Wearable PFDs come in two basic styles, vest and belt pack, and several Coast Guard® classifications to meet the requirements for inland/coastal and offshore use. The vest types are not much larger than oversized suspenders because the flotation chambers are empty and inside a soft, horseshoeshaped nylon compartment with adjustable waist and shoulder straps for an easy fit. When needed, the flotation chambers are charged instantly by a pressurized cartridge also located inside the soft outer layers. There are models that can be inflated manually or that inflate automatically when submerged. The overall size of the vest is only a fraction of old fashioned PFDs, so they don't hinder movement or get in the way of your boating fun. They are ready at a moments notice because you're already wearing it. Vest type PFDs come in Coast Guard® Type II, which is recommended for vessels that venture offshore in open ocean waters, and Type III for coastal and inland operated vessels.

Even more recent on the boating scene is the belt pack PFD, which carry a Coast Guard® Type V classification with the equivalent floatation of a Type III offshore rating. They are no bigger than a fanny pack and easy to wear over any type of clothing including foul weather gear because they are worn around the waist on a web belt. They are available in manualinflate only and require the wearer to don the vest after it inflates. The belt pack PFD is growing rapidly in popularity and takes safety equipment to a whole new level of convenience.

Ideally every boat that ventures offshore, even only a few miles, should have an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). It's an electronic device that automatically acquires its position from Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) and broadcasts the position to orbiting satellites on emergency frequencies in the event a vessel sinks. They even broadcast the name of the vessel in distress. The problem was they cost thousands of dollars, so very few recreational vessels carried this potentially life-saving piece of safety equipment. Today there is a new generation of EPIRB called Personal Beacon Locators with prices starting at around $400, they can accomplish the same remarkable feat and will fit in your pocket. They even have a built-in strobe light so rescuers can hone in on the exact location in the dark! Large boats that venture further offshore should still carry a self-activating EPIRB, but the cost associated with these has dropped significantly with models available for under $1000.

Even life rafts have become more small-boat friendly. A new series called Coastal Compact Life Rafts come in a valise that is so small it can be stowed on almost any size boat. The four man raft is only 16.5" x 13" x 5" and self inflates with the pull of a cord. They are available in two, four and six-person models, and prices start at under $1000, a bargain that can provide peace of mind and a huge margin of safety should you ever encounter a situation that imperils the passengers on your boat.

Boating is a one of the great recreational pastimes and is enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Advances in safety equipment enhance your enjoyment and assure everyone on board is adequately protected should an unexpected emergency occur.