Texas Living

All Aboard

By Kristy Alpert 6.23.14

When the sun is hot and the waves are calm, it doesn’t take much to get the whole crew on board with heading out to the lakes or coastline in Texas for a day of boating. But did you know that there are certain requirements for life jackets that could dramatically affect your day aboard a vessel?

There’s a good reason your son shouldn’t wear dad’s hand-me-down life jacket. That’s because, according to federal law, life jackets should be properly sized, in good condition, and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Here are the basics you need to know before heading out on the water:

Children under the age of 13, or anyone on a vessel less than 26 feet long, must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket whenever not at anchor.

Make sure to buy (note: always try them on first) the right size life jacket for your weight and chest size. A proper fitting life jacket should feel snug around the torso and should not come past the bottom of the ears when lifted by the shoulder straps.

Check each life jacket on your boat for wear and buoyancy at least once per year, and discard faded, waterlogged, or leaky jackets immediately.

All vessels under 16 feet in length (including canoes and kayaks) must have one life jacket for each person on board, and vessels 16 feet and longer must also have one throwable device readily accessible.

No child weighing less than 18 pounds should ride on a boat until he/she can safely wear a snug-fitting life jacket, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

And remember, only those who are over the age of 13 and have passed a Texas boater education course are legally allowed to operate a personal watercraft.