Why Safe Boating Begins With Wearing Life Jacket (Videos)

Why Safe Boating Begins With Wearing Life Jacket (Videos)
Boaters should find a comfortable life jacket and always wear it while boating. (Shutterstock image)

With National Safe Boating Week this week, the three-day Memorial Day weekend this weekend and National Fishing and Boating Week beginning June 3, many state wildlife agencies are busy talking about staying safe on the water, especially with personal floatation devices.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shared the stories of three residents whose lives have been impacted by decisions to wear (or not wear) a life vest — in hopes of changing bad habits by boaters.


Via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission You Tube

From Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

For National Safe Boating Week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is releasing compelling life jacket testimonials from three north Florida families whose lives have been changed by wearing — or not wearing — a life jacket when things went wrong on the water. These dramatic accounts provide vital information and a call to action for every boater to enjoy Florida's beautiful waters safely while wearing a life jacket. In conjunction with the release of the 2016 Boating Accident Statistical Report, these videos present strong arguments for boating safety and life jacket use.

  • Check with your state agency's website for more boater safety info pertinent to where you live

The three testimonials recount events that happened to Tony Spivey and his son, Honor; PJ Wheetly, whose beloved stepfather tragically died while boating without wearing a life jacket; and Larry "Doc" Cox, whose life was saved by the life jacket he purchased that same morning.

Courtesy at Boat Ramps

North Dakota Game and Fish shared the following tip sheet to ensure a fluent transition when launching and loading a boat.


>> Don't pull onto the ramp until your boat is ready to launch.

>> Prepare for launching in the parking area. Remove covers, load equipment, remove tie downs, attach lines and put in drain plug, before backing onto the ramp.

>> When ready, pull into line to launch. Wait your turn. Be courteous.

>> It takes at least two people to efficiently and courteously launch a boat: one to handle the boat and one to take care of the tow vehicle.


>> Don't block the loading area with your boat until your tow vehicle is ready to load. Wait until you are clear of the launch area to unload gear.

>> As soon as your trailer is in the water, load and secure your boat to the trailer.

>> Remove boat and trailer from the water as quickly as possible.

>> Get clear of the ramp. Pull into the parking area to finish securing your boat, unloading gear, draining all water and inspecting for and removing any vegetation. Remember to leave plugs out when transporting boat.

"The stories of these families really bring home the message that it doesn't matter who you are, you should always wear a life jacket while enjoying Florida's waterways," said Capt. Tom Shipp of FWC's Boating and Waterways Section. "The videos are dramatic accounts given by the people themselves, and are reminders of just how important it is to make sure we all come home after a great day on the water."

Tony and Honor were on their way back to a boat ramp after participating in a fishing tournament in the Gulf of Mexico off St. Marks, when their boat took an unexpected sharp turn, and father and son ended up in the water. Honor was able to swim to a buoy, but an exhausted Tony feared his son would watch him drown. If not for FWC officers arriving at the right moment, their story might be different.


Via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission You Tube

"I look back and there's just so many things that could have happened differently. And it all could have been avoided by simply having a life jacket on," Spivey said in the video.

PJ Wheetly's stepdad, Curtis, was a lifelong boater and angler. One Sunday morning, he set out for a quick trip on the Apalachicola River, and fell overboard and drowned.

"He didn't put his life jacket on that day, for some reason, I don't know why," said Wheetly. "He was the best dad. We always thought he was the invincible man. It can happen to anybody. You just don't know how important it is until you lose somebody."

On a brisk spring day in March, Larry "Doc" Cox, who had spent a considerable amount of time on the water throughout his life, was anxious to go fishing after a recently broken leg had, for some time, prevented him. He went out on the Shoal River, but not before stopping at a local store to pick up a life jacket, which he had forgotten to pack on the boat that morning. At a bend in the river, he noticed his boat taking on water, and before he knew it, he was in the water, holding on to a log in the river. He had his life jacket on, however, which saved his life.

"It's with the fate of my God and that life vest. I had no idea that life vest was going to save my life, and it did," said Cox.


Via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission You Tube

The FWC encourages boaters to find a comfortable life jacket and always wear it while boating. According to the recently released FWC 2016 Boating Accident Statistical Report, 60 percent of the boating deaths were due to drowning. Events can cause a boater to end up in the water unexpectedly, and a person will not have time to grab their life jacket before they find themselves in the water.

For a copy of the 2016 Boating Accident Statistical Report, visit MyFWC.com/Boating and select "Safety & Education" and "Boating Accidents." More information can be found by visiting MyFWC.com/Boating. You can even search there for the Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder to help you find a great place to launch your boat.

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