If you enjoy taking the boat and or the family, out on Smith Mountain Lake for the day, you will want to be certain that everyone not only has fun, but is safe for their water excursion. Life-jackets and awareness of the laws regarding them, are a big part of keeping everyone safe. The law says that every boat has to carry one wearable life jacket for each person on board the boat and certain kinds of boats also have to carry a throwable type of life jacket as well.
While it might seem inconvenient to have to fool with wearing a life jacket if you are a good swimmer or don’t plan to get in the water at all, you would be amazed at how rapidly a fun boat ride can turn into tragedy without the proper safety equipment. There are hundreds of stories of how a life jacket saved someone’s life! Take this one for example…..
Mr. Garber decided to take his 12yr. old Grandson Sam out for a ride in his brand new sail boat one nice afternoon in mid-summer. The water was calm and the day was perfect for a sail, sunny and moderately warm with a good strong breeze. The Grandfather had bought a sailing kit for the boat and had been practicing using it on his own and wanted to take it out for a real ride. Although the boat and sails were new Mr. Garber was a veteran boater and had sailed many such boats in the past. Knowing the rules, he and Sam both wore their life jackets.
They paddled the boat out into deeper water before putting up the sail and when he thought the wind felt right Mr. Garber began to raise the sail. But something jammed as the line climbed over the top of the pulley and the sail would not go any higher, nor would it come back down. The wind hit the sail hard all of a sudden and blew it into the Grandfather. It struck his shoulder and head with enough force to knock him off the side of the small boat which caused it to tip over and dump his grandson into the water as well.
When Mr. Garber came to the top feeling a bit woozy, his grandson was floating (thanks to his life jacket) beside the overturned boat. After his head cleared, he found his pocket knife and swam under the boat and cut the line, so the sail/mast could fold down. Then they were able turn the boat upright and push/paddle it back to shore. He credits their life jackets with making what could have been a terrible ending, into an adventure they won’t either one forget.
Don’t take chances, be prepared for anything. Read about the regulations and everything else you need to know, including the variety of different types of life jackets, at the US CoastGuard Boating Safety Resource Center.