Life jackets save lives

When I was young and had successfully passed a Red Cross Intermediate swimming program, my parents stopped insisting that I wear a life jacket. When my brother and sister also passed that level, life jackets were stored under the seats of the boat. We could swim and didn’t feel the need for protection.
Later in life when I began to learn to sail, the instructors insisted that all students were required to wear a life jacket when they were in the sailboat.
It was a good thing since we regularly flipped the boats and had to right the boats again.
My brother and I found the jackets that were the least constricting in the water. We were comfortable wearing those jackets while learning to sail.
But at the cabin, we sailed our crafts without worry. We didn’t need those jackets.
One day, when the winds were blowing strong and the waves were running high, I was outstretched on my boat when I chose to jibe. The mast swung so fast as I was trying to scramble to the other side of the boat that I misjudged ducking and was clunked over the head and thrown into the water.
I saw stars and my head rang. The boat was on its side, and I was lucky that I was not under the sail. It was a good scare. After that, I wear my life jacket all the time.
When my children came along, we all donned life jackets before we got into any boat. It was routine.
My eldest was blown into the water when he was only about three and his jacket kept him buoyant.
My sons, who are much better swimmers than I ever was, grew up feeling comfortable wearing jackets. My eldest spent time on the Ottawa River learning white water rescue and found a very high-tech jacket. He wears it whenever he is on the water. My younger son, teaching sailing and diving in the Caribbean, also acquired a much more sophisticated vest to use.
Both sons are comfortable wearing those vests.
Today, I still insist that anyone who boards my boat wear a life jacket. I just am not comfortable having someone not wear a jacket.
The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship insists that all fishermen wear a life vests when the boats are under power from the main motor.
Many fishermen have now moved to the suspender life jackets that automatically inflate when they hit the water.
Those fishermen by tournament rules must wear the suspenders the complete time they are on the water.
Tournament directors do not hear any complaints from tournament anglers on this rule.
I thought about this as the Red Cross posted statistics about drowning in 2010. They have increased again.
On the May long weekend, Canada marked a large jump in the number of deaths that were attributed to drowning.
Many occurred in small back yard pools. Several deaths from drowning came from people who had only swum in pools.
They were not prepared to swim in lakes and rivers.
One of the leading causes of drowning is attributed to alcohol consumption.
This “Canada Day” long weekend, many Canadians will spend the weekend on lakes, rivers and campgrounds. After all, it is a time for Canadians to celebrate.
In this district, we have already recorded drownings. If we could have no more deaths attributed to drowning this year, that would really be a good reason for a big celebration.
But it requires parents and friends to be more vigilant with children in back yard pools.
It requires boaters, fishermen and canoeists to take extra precautions by wearing life jackets, and monitoring the weather.
An accident can occur in the blink of an eye.
Just take a few seconds to buckle up.

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