According to SAMSA rules any boat going out on a dam in South Africa should have 1 life jacket per passenger onboard. The law does not state that anyone needs to have a life jacket on as long as they are on the boat, unless they are under 12 years old or if conditions call for it.
Freak accidents have no warning and does not ‘call for’ any action to be taken before the time. Before you know it you are in a situation where you think ‘if only I had a life jacket on’. Seeing your loved ones with a face of ‘we’re not gonna make it!!’ is the worst image you can have in your mind. On most boats life jackets are stuck away in the furthest corners of the boat under seats, behind cooler boxes and fishing gear.
We recently had a boat capsize on Vanderkloof Dam. As we got back to town we heard that most boating people have somehow been involved in a boat sinking or capsizing on the dam. This brings me to life jackets.
Next time you are on your boat with your friends or family, stop somewhere in the middle of the dam and do a quick test. Let each person guess how long it will take for each person to have a life jacket on. From all passengers sitting comfortably, to finding the life jackets, to having them securely on them. Remember some people have never worn a life jacket, some life jackets are behind your petrol tank in the back of the boat, some you wont even find possibly. Then do a ‘test run’ and see how long it actually takes. My bet, a few minutes at least!!
When our boat capsized, we went from comfortable sitting to boat being upside down in about 20 seconds. If you can not get all your passengers in a life jacket in less than 20 seconds, you WILL have a huge problem!
So put a life jacket on before you get on the boat, take it off once you are out of the water. Just because the law doesn’t require it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it!