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 Post subject: Lifejackets
PostPosted: June 2nd, 2003, 4:39 pm 
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From the 'rosebary"thread. Comment by Normhead
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There is no requirement for people to wear life jackets in boats. The life jacket must be in the boat, but not necessarily worn. I never presume to tell other people what they should or should not be doing as long as what they are doing is legal.
I wear life jackets in a number of situations.
1. When I'm in moving water that might dump me, or where having a life jacket on might prove advantageous. Just to be clear on this, life jackets are cumbersome, and in some situations are not an advantage, even if you end up in the water.
2. When I'm cold.
I don't wear life jackets.
1. When it's hot.
2. When there is no danger to me, even if I do dump.
There seems to be some kind of concensus on here that life jackets should be worn all the time in a boat. It may even be a rule for some clubs etc. I don't know. Personally, I've never subscribed to this idea. I have no problem telling kids they are wearing their life jackets when I'm not. It's not a double standard any more than telling them I'm driving the car and they aren't. The pdf's worn in canoes will not keep you upright if you aren't conscious, and most of the time, if you can swim at all, you don't need one.


Actually, Norm, you've overlooked something important. One major cause of drowning in cold water is that, when people are suddenly immersed, the body takes an involuntary big deep breath. If you are underwater when this happens, the lungs fill with water. One way to reduce the chance of having your head underwater when this reaction occurs is to wear your pfd in case of an unexpected dump. I have seen 2 canoeists come dangerously close to dumping in frigid water when they unexpectedly ran into a submerged log. The water in Algon on Vic day w/e was, I think, quite cold.


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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2003, 6:45 pm 
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It the question of mandatory lifejackets for recreation is up, I vote your choice.
When I canoe (or boat for that matter) for work, I know by due dilligence that I must have my lifejacket on.

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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2003, 10:15 pm 
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I wish I'd known about the involuntary gasp reflex one time many years ago when I jumped into a frigid mountain lake, with no one else around. I had this gag reflex and an almost total loss of system control. (Sudden immersion in very cold water can also trigger a heart attack.)

Somewhat leaner at the time, I couldn't float, and I realized that if I didn't get my act together and do the right thing I was going to die. My most useful reaction was to keep thinking. So I deliberately sank to the bottom (maybe 12') and pushed off it to get back to the surface, then swam to shore. I'm not sure why I didn't try swimming right away, but it may be because I felt I wasn't sufficiently collected to swim succesfully, and what I did was simpler. I knew it wasn't too far to the bottom. ( This may not work in Lake Superior.) That was the last time I jumped into cold water.

After reading up on paddle craft fatalities, I'd guess more than half the deceased were not wearing pfd's.


Last edited by SGrant on June 2nd, 2003, 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2003, 10:16 pm 
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Well wotrock, I've dumped in my kayak, in lakes in very cold water while not wearing a pfd a couple of times on long may weekends, and survived both times (I've since bought a pfd I can comfortably wear in my kayak). It's clear you can survive without a life jacket and it's also clear you can die while wearing one. Maybe there are a few instances in between, where you might die because you didn't wear your life jacket. But who knows , there might be instances where you die because you did. I'm thinking if you're worried about these kinds of odds, you really don't have much business crossing the street, forget about being in a canoe. But hey, give me some statistics. I'm always glad to hear from someone who's done a little research. The great thing about research is, things often don't turn out the way logic dictates they should. Especially in cold water, it's the hypothermia that is likely to get you. If your life jacket impedes your movement so much that it slows you down and you spend longer in the water, it may be that the life jacket is detrimental. I'm not saying that is true. I'm just saying there are other possible scenarios besides "life jacket is always good, no life jacket is always bad", which seems just way to simplistic. So contrary to your previous stated assumption, I have considered cold water scenarios, and imho, the jury is still out, especially in canoes where the possibility of upset is small. I know you saw someone almost go over in a canoe. How many almosts before someone actually goes. I've probably seen 40-50 almosts, but I've still never actulally seen someone dump in still water. That's in 21 years, averaging 12-15 days a year on the water in parties as big as 7 canoes. A canoe in the hands of experieced people is a very safe boat.


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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 9:42 am 
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This is one of those circular debates that could go on and on. Norm, I agreed with a lot of what you're saying...as for the sentiment that wearing a PFD can be a hinderance in certain situations, I agree. But I think if you're going to play the odds, in most situations you'd find that survival rates higher when people wear a PFD.

I think the moral here is that in water less than 60 degrees, everyone should wear one - no matter how calm the water.


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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 9:48 am 
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Just a reminder:

http://www.myccr.com/SectionHome/Editorials/SpiderLake.htm

no additional comments, have a safe summer to all of you.

Shycanoe


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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 10:00 am 
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The issue of whether to wear a PFD when paddling reminds me of the old debate about seatbelts. Yes there will be times when wearing your PFD will contribute to the problem and there are times when wearing a PFD while canoeing will make absolutely no difference to the eventual outcome of the event. But, on balance, wearing a PFD while paddling will increase the odds of surviving a dump.

As far as insisting that kids wear a PFD while you do not - a bad idea. Kids look up to adults in the group and will eventually follow the adults lead. Maybe not today, but if you are casual with your PFD use, so will your kids. Finally, if you fall into the water and drown, who will make sure that the kids get to shore.

Just like seatbelts in the car, get used to wearing your PFD.


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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 10:27 am 
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We`ve beat this topic to death before! What the heck, even if it just gets people thinking about it, its a good topic. AltonB, I agree with you 100%. Our PFD`s are on all the time, with or without the children. Our girls don`t even give it a second thought, they just put them on before getting into the boat.

Norm, It looks like you have a PFD on in your avr. But its not done up, whats the piont ? Why wear one at all ? Just a thought. :-?

Al


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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 11:23 am 
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They made me put it on at the put in. They were't going to let me launch without it. I've since bought one I can actually wear in the kayak. I'm beginning to realize that people for whom this is a rule are really dogmatic about it. I feel like a heretic of some kind. Even my avatar isn't politically correct. When I post urls for my web pages I'll have to include a warning. "These pages may contain pictures of adults without life jackets, on or near water. If you are offended by such material please don't look."


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 Post subject: PFD's
PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 11:34 am 
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I hardly ever wear my pfd. I only wear it in what I consider risky situations. I'm willing to take the risk of not having it on during what I consider safe paddling situations. I don't wear my seat belt all the time either. Shame on me.

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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 11:48 am 
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Al . I hope you wear a hat , If the water does`nt get you the sun will, !! :lol:

Al


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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 11:55 am 
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I don't wear my life jacket all the time either although more so now than in the past. If I ever drown when the weather is good and the water is warm then I guess my decision was a bad one. This can be my epitaph:

"He didn't wear his life jacket when there was no likely chance of needing it."

I do however always wear one when my son is in the canoe.

There are logical arguements for not needed to (different standards for adults in many things) but I choose to set a good example.

James.


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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 4:00 pm 
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Likening PFD use to seat belts is not a good ananolgy. Anything can happen when you are in a car no matter how skilled and careful you are or what the conditions. Last summer I was T boned just behind the driver 's door by a 17 year old girl who ran a red at 60 kph. There was nothing I could have done to avoid the collision. I always wear my seat belt. If not, I would have taken a lot more damage than a minor whiplash requiring some of physio. Besides, wearing a seat belt for me has absoutely no negatives. This not the case with PFDs.

In a canoe the conditions are far more predictable and risk is more controllable. If you are paddling whitewater, of course you wear a PFD if you have any sense. But if you are a sober, skilled paddler and strong swimmer paddling a small, warm lake in midsummer, it makes no more sense from a risk management point of view to wear your PFD than to wear it in the backyard pool. Does it make sense for the law tro require you to wear a PFD while you are in the canoe and then allow you to swim across the lake without one? Of course not. Far more people die from a fall in the bath tub than capable paddlers die falling out of canoes in warm summer lakes. But you would never consider wearing a helmet to take a bath would you? This just reflects the lack of rational decision making of human beings when it comes to perceived risk. We like to think that we are so smart but irrational fears govern much of the way we behave. But we don't have to let misinformed law-makers call it a crime to excercise our freedom to choose not wear a PFD if it is not warranted.

The CRCA recently ran an editorial in Kanawa advocating mandatory PFD use. In my view, this was both misguided and, without consultation with the paddling community, premature at best and at worst, disrespectful of the real interests of its members. The use of statistics in the editorial was inappropriate, although I do not believe that they were intended to mislead. However, if Canadian paddlers do not wish to wake up one morning to find that they are now subject to a fine for not wearing a PFD on a fine summer's day while paddling on their local pond, they should make their views known. Ironically, public policy allows tobacco manufacturers to continue with little restriction to sell nicotine to the general public, leading to a mere 45,000 premature deaths anually in Canada. If the CRCA wants to save more lives, it would likely be more effective if it devoted its energies to encouraging its smoking members to butt out.

The issue of paddling with kids, or anyone who is not fully capable of self rescue in the event of a dump, is definitely more complicated. The role model question is important as is your diminished capacity to assist other persons if you are not wearing a PFD. Generally, I would wear one with small children in the boat, even in low risk conditions.

There are also adults who should always wear a PFD no matter how benign the conditions. Novice paddlers, weak swimmers and anyone who is not certain to be able to self- rescue should always wear a PFD and a good leader will ensure that this happens. Why would you paddle across three kilometers of whitecaps without a PFD when you know you can't even swim a few hundred meters without gasping for breath? The questions becomes, is it appropriate for the law to force everyone to do something that only some people ought to be doing sometimes for their own safety. So far, the general answer to that question in western society has been, "No!" But that could change.

A cautionary note about cold water conditions. Yes, a PFD would help to avoid involuntary aspiration of water (not a gag reflex) . However, prolonged immersion in water typical of conditions in May and even in early June in many bodies of water would be fatal with or without a PFD. While paddling open stretches of water more than a few hundred meters from shore in the first couple of weeks after ice out, even strong swimmers are entering a "death zone" whether they are wearing PFDs or not. If such crossings must be made, it should be done only when the conditions are easily within the paddlers' capabilities and 100% of the focus must be on paddling safely. Never underestimate the ability of cold water to kill in spite of the fact that you are wearing a PFD.

I'm sure a few folks will find some of these remarks controversial but I hope we can have this sort of discussion in a constructive way. Assess the risk and play safe. :wink: Jay


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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 7:01 pm 
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All this talk has reminded me of a local incident where a man died and a PFD may have helped save his life.

If you pass out, faint, suffer an unexpected stroke or similar injury, wearing no lifejacket will mean a certain death if you fall out.

Is there not a difference between a PFD and a life jacket? Something like one keeping your head out of water when unconscious?

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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2003, 8:31 pm 
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Quote:
The CRCA recently ran an editorial in Kanawa advocating mandatory PFD use.


Because I have a wife that likes naturopathic remedies etc. I am constantly explaining the difference between anecdotal evidence, double blind studies etc. etc. With seat belts there was pretty clear evidence. If memory serves me well the statistical evidence was something on the order of 90% of the time you were better off with seatbelts. But in about 10% of accidents I believe it was either neutral or you were worse off with a seatbelt on. There were some accidents where victems were thrown clear of cars that later exploded, and lived, because they weren't wearing seatbelts. When there is definitive research on canoe accidents, defining the parameters as to when PFD's are helpfull and when they aren't we'll have something to talk about. With seat belts it was a no brainer. Sure sometimes you're going to die because you are wearing a seatbelt, but the averages are in your favour if you are wearing one. If someone wants to do the math and describe the methodology involved in conclusions. I'm happy to look it over. However, right now I just don't know enough right now to condemn myself to wearing a pfd all the time. Unlike car accidents, no one knows a lot about canoing accidents. They are generally not reported unless they are serious. And then, a lot of information is annecdotal and based on the guilty responses of other people. If a guy has a heart attack shovelling his driveway, the spouse might think " if only I bought him a snow blower" . After a canoeing accident someone might think "if only they'd been wearing a life jacket." It's a natural response. But is it a meaningful reponse? When cold and moving water are involved it's not a given. And I suspect there is a lot more importance given to life jackets than is warranted. My suspicion is that especially in cold water, life jackets give a false sense of security. " Good thing I have my life jacket on, I'll just wait for help" When one should be making every effort to get back into ones boat and making it seaworthy again or to stay as much out of the water as possible to avoid hypothermia. I wasn't against seat belts after the eveidence was presented. So if you pfd guys really believe they should be worn all the time, why not present the facts? I'm listening.


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