To wear or not to wear – that’s the question.

27 Oct



I read a blog by my mate Skip Novak the other day. Skip and I have logged north of 70 thousand miles together so we do agree on many things but I really agree with him on this one. He was taking to task the overuse of life jackets. Here is how his blog starts.  “I first realized there was something amiss when several years ago on a visit to the Hamble River during a dead calm weekend afternoon. I noticed that everyone on every craft (and they were not racing) was wearing a lifejacket.” I have noticed that as well.  I have seen grown men and women, many of them hugely successful in life, wearing their pfd on a boat, at the mooring, as if it was quite normal. It’s not normal. Get a grip. You can swim. You are not going to fall into the water. You have been brainwashed.


OK, so I know I am going to get some heat for this and bring it on, but seriously, it’s time we all stepped back a little and started to think for ourselves. When the wind is up and the boat is crash banging to windward and waves the size of washing machines are slamming over the foredeck then for sure, it’s time for a life jacket, but seriously you look like a fool when you are motoring on a calm day and your whole crew are wearing their brand new West Marine pfd’s. When did we all stop thinking for ourselves? 

I am going to take it one further. I never wear a life jacket when I am sailing alone no matter the conditions. Foolish you say? I don’t think so. There is no joy in falling overboard and having your life jacket inflate while you watch your boat sail merrily away from you with the auto-pilot in control. Nope if I am overboard I don’t want to to be bobbing happily in the wake of my boat when the outcome, yes certain death, is going to be the same, life jacket or not.

My brother lives in the Okavango Delta in Botswana and has been there for the better part of three decades. He lives in the bush where there are lions and the rest but he has never carried a gun and never had any incident. How is this related?  Well here’s what I think. I don’t advocate the use of life harnesses either unless it’s really howling out and even then I rarely use one. You see my brothers logic is simple. You have a gun, you rely on the gun. You have no gun and you build up a very good sixth sense. You are very aware that you do not have a life harness on and your movements are more heightened and more cautious as a result of it. You are not doing stupid thing and taking unnecessary risks believing that the life harness will be there to save you when you screw up. My brother said it best. “When I am in the bush,” he said, “and there are lions about, I am very aware of the risks. I use my own innate sense of what to do and what not to do. I never do anything stupid but I have seen others do incredibly dumb things with a sense that if something goes wrong they will shoot their way out of it.”

Seriously, it’s time we all started to think for ourselves again. What has happened to us? Why do we all just follow along like a bunch of sheep? It’s not just pfd’s, it’s everything. It’s time we recouped some of that independence we once had and started to believe in ourselves again and take responsibility for ourselves. We have all become pathetic little yes-men, err and yes-women too.

This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog

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