“Making the decision about wearing personal buoyancy is generally based upon factors such as weather conditions and the experience of the crew, however if you’re a beginner or still relatively inexperienced, making these judgements is often not that easy. Therefore in order to help clarify when a life-jacket or personal buoyancy aid needs to be worn, the RYA recommends that you wear a life-jacket or buoyancy aid unless you are sure you don’t need to.”

The RYA strongly recommends that you should always wear personal buoyancy:

If you are a non-swimmer and there is any possibility of entering the water
When the skipper deems it necessary
When abandoning ship
When you feel you want to wear one or if you are not totally sure that you do not need to wear one.

The personal flotation device needs to be appropriate to the activity and in general the following will apply:

Buoyancy Aids are suitable for:

Using personal watercraft
When sailing a dinghy
Novice wind surfers
Providing safety cover for such an activity

Life-jackets are suitable:

When on an open boat (e.g. small powerboat or RIB)
When going ashore in a yacht tender
On a sailing yacht or motor cruiser

Levels of Buoyancy:

In addition to selecting between a life jacket and a buoyancy aid, consideration also needs to be given to the level of buoyancy that is required. Buoyancy aids and life-jackets have different levels of buoyancy. These levels of buoyancy should be considered and influence your choice. There are four main buoyancy levels; 50, 100, 150 and 275. In general terms, Level 50 is a buoyancy aid designed for when help is close at hand, whereas Level 150 is a general purpose life-jacket used for offshore cruising and motor boating.

baby vest lifejacketmarine pool kids lifejacketSpecialist life-jackets are available for infants and children

Specialist life-jackets are available for infants and children

You should also consider fitting or buying a life-jacket that is fitted with:

crotch straps to stop the lifejacket riding up over your head
spray-hood to stop waves and spray entering your mouth
lights, dye-markers and personal locator beacons to aid location
harness D ring for harness attachment to stop you falling off in the first place

Crotch straps, spray-hoods and lights are frequently not fitted as standard to a life-jacket, but are really essential to actually keep you alive in the water and aid your location.

Where it was once rare to see people wearing life-jackets afloat, it is now an accepted norm.

Please remember that inflatable life-jackets and buoyancy aids require regular checks and servicing.”

Statement: Richard Falk, RYA Training Manager, 04 April 2011