"belts" as PFDs

Thread starter #1
Hi there all,

My dad and I just picked a Sunfish over the weekend. Years ago, we used my aunt's boats for many years on various lakes up in the Adirondacks of NY State. My questions is this - back then we used these little belts as PFDs... are those belts still available and more importantly still legal? I poked around a bit and have not found them available for purchase so I am starting to assume they are no longer legal as a PFD. I'm sure someone knows what I'm talking about. I prefer the belt to a vest. Admittedly they are not as safe so in the end we will probably end up with vests to use with our "new" (it's a '74) Sunfish.

I remember those belts, we used to water ski with them. I have not seen them in a long time and I would not use one any more, legal or not. I currently use a neoprene Ski Vest (a little bulky and hot), but many people use something similar. Main sheet hangers and/or a large T shirt OVER the jacket can reduce the mainsheet from getting caught on your jacket. Check with your local Coast Guard/Boating Enforcement Agency about the legality of the belts.

If you are concerened about bulk, look into the inflateable vests. You need to carry a recharge kit or 2 in order to make the vest work in case you get wet again.
When my FIL got a ticket for not having adaquate life saving devices on board from the Coast Guard was when he and I learned belts are no longer considered approved floatation devices.
The purpose of a PDF (personal flotation device) is to save your sorry butt if you get separated from the boat for any reason. In this regard you have to make the working assumption that the worst case scenario has occured and you are separated from the boat and unconscious (fainted, got hit in the head with the boom etc.) A decent PDF will hold your head (mostly) above water even if you are unconscious; a flotation belt will simply make it easier to find your (recently deceased) body. Moral of the story: invest in a good PDF and wear it.

Alan Glos
Cazenovia, NY


I agree with Alan, this past weekend of water accidents is a sad "annual event" it seems. There are many novice boaters just getting the season started. The drowning of the Patriot's football player proves you can be in incredible shape and a strong swimmer, but your PFD is you only hope if you are unconscious or over exhausted. Seatbelts and bike helmets are uncomfortable too, but you only need them in the event of an accident as well.

I would just invest in a good life jacket. Our club makes them mandatory when racing, and I just got used to wearing it and don't even notice that it is there anymore. If you pay a little more you can get a very comfortable one too.
I remember those belts, we used to water ski with them.
Me too: one knocked the wind out of me when I fell off the skis at just 26-MPH.

Whatever you wear, make sure it has a CG-approved label inside. Check out which PFDs will hold your head above water. (They won't all do it—though it's probably unnecessary if you don't have a lot of big, fast, boats where you sail.)

West Marine sells PFDs for infants, but have a disclaimer that essentially states, "they won't work on infants".

It wouldn't hurt to carry an old belt in good repair along in the cabins of other boats: anything—even a gas tank or ice cooler—has saved many a boater).

Also, most rules state your PFD has to be in "satisfactory repair".

(Not too much duct tape). :p