Inflatable PFD to get zealot off my back

-- Last Updated: Jul-30-10 2:39 PM EST --

I refrained from posting this under the Massachusetts PFD thread.

Two Sundays ago I took my WW boat to the little pond for some roll practice. It was sickeningly hot and I wanted to do some safe (i.e., deep water) practice before driving to the WW park elsewhere.

On this day, a state parks ranger actually patrolled the area! Every other time I've been there--if they even make an appearance--they look right at all the violations going on and just drive right out. But THIS time, someone else must have called to report that someone (me) was not wearing a PFD. It's not required to wear one, just to carry one. Which, in this case, I was not, because I can swim around or across the whole pond, let alone the few strokes from shore that I stayed the whole time. And the WW boat is too small for stowing a PFD in.

Anyway, the ranger actually got back into his car and drove the emergency dirt path to turn on his light bar and call me to where he was.

Turned out it WAS about the PFD. He first asked me why I was not wearing it since it "was required." I of course immediately pointed out that wearing it was NOT required, to which of course he asked if I was carrying one. Then he said, "Well, you're in a WW boat so you should be wearing one," to which I pointed out that I was not in WW but a glass-flat, tiny pond with 100% easy shore access. Also that I could swim and could self-rescue at least 5 ways. He backed off a little then, but persisted by pseudo-quoting bits of State Parks regulations. Such as the "boats 16 ft long or more must carry a Type IV throwable." Boy, was I glad he didn't question me when I was paddling the sea kayak!

Other paddlers must've talked with this guy, because he already knew that swimmers, windsurfers, rowers, etc. are not required to carry a PFD despite being at similar or greater risk.

He added that he had some discretion, which I already knew about; the state regs actually provide a kind of loophole for certain venues as being conditionally exempt from the PFD requirements. Because of this allowance, he was going to be nice by not ticketing me right then. But he said to wait a few minutes while he checked my background. Yep, he walked back to his car and did a search for my police record. (There's nothing on it.)

To make a long story short, I now wish to buy a CHEAP inflatable PFD that has no bulk unless inflated, simply so that I can keep these zealots off my back to pursue actions that affect other park users (dogs pooping without owner cleanup, drunks, illegal fires, drug-dealing, you name it). The reason I desire no bulk is that I practice rolling and sculling without PFD precisely because it's a flotation crutch, as well as sometimes getting in the way. For example, balance brace position has to be better without the PFD on (head does not have be tilted back if I wear the PFD).

I wear a standard foam PFD when paddling in areas or conditions where there is more risk, and always in moving water. But JUST for places like this, I need to wear the badge that says "Yessir, I'm being a good li'l Doobee!" The Type IV thing--if it happens and it probably will if that ranger is intent on making revenue--I will have to figure out a different way to deal with.

Recommendations for a cheap but legally acceptable inflatable? Not interested in buying the SeaO2 anymore because I prefer the regular foamies for their spine and rib protection when *I decide myself* that it's best to wear a PFD. This request is merely to avoid being ticketed or harassed, so looking for minimal bulk or sweat-blocking rather than actual usefulness.

I don't normally challenge authority figures, but this whole PFD thing is getting ridiculous. Meanwhile, there is absolutely NO calling for skills, such as learning to swim.


In case you're wondering, the self-rescue methods I mentioned earlier, in order of speed:

1. Roll up
2. Scull up
3. Wet exit, then cowboy remount
4. Wet exit, then re-enter and roll
5. Wet exit, then get prone on kayak and swim-paddle it to shore (like a surfboard)
6. Wet exit, then swim with boat to shore

NONE of which requires anybody else to assist! Let alone the designated rescue agency, which would arrive at least 20 minutes later.


Mea culpa
I’ve always been a life jacketeer. I wear them in 6" streams in Florida in July.

But this month I sinned. Regularly.

I’ve been paddling almost every day in 90+ degree weather, and I’m old and worried about heat-induced health problems. I paddle mostly near shore. Plus I haven’t fallen out of canoe since 1984.

All things are a balance of risk. I decided the balance favored no clothing. So I am now all brown and probably have skin cancer.

But … uh … it felt good. Will I be able to go back? Am I hooked on jacketless crack?

Meanwhile, as to your question. I wouldn’t spend much money. You have some space in that WW yak. Get a cheap kids horse collar jacket and stuff it in there.

how about a belt pack

$93, about the size of a tow-belt.

I’ve patiently tried to educate such
people, but they just go back to their simplified or even distorted picture of what the “rules” are. You might want to complain to both his supervising agency and to your relevant state representatives.

I might mention that when practicing rolls, I always wear my PFD, because I will be wearing it when I flip under battle conditions.

Maybe he was just doing his job.
It’s summer and he might be bored.

I do the same thing exactly
ButI agree with the OP that he should be free to go sans PFD for roll practice if he chooses.

But if you are willing to wear an inflatable PFD, why not just wear your PFD?

Did you, or did you not, have a PFD in the boat? Was the Park Ranger right or wrong to talk to you about wearing a PFD? I doubt “he was bored” and that is why he called you over to pursue what was inevitably going to be a hassel for both of you. From my point of view, doing your exercise of “rolls” while solo paddling probably alarmed others as well as the ranger. Had you had another paddler out with you, the attention you received probably would not have occured. Have we not seen proficient paddlers miss a roll, or take abit longer than usual to roll up, and then get into the rescue mode, even if just momentarily? Have some people just watched as someone unknowingly drowns? The Ranger did you a favor by “checking you out” and was most likely evaluating the situation for the best course of action while he was in his vehicle. And you did us a favor by your letter. It is good to see paddlers get proficient at self rescues and it is good to see those that are good at saving their own life set an example by wearing a PFD made for the sport. Wear a paddler’s PFD proudly, because you might be needed to save someone else. If it is good enough for an expert such as yourself, the novice may see the vest being worn and figure that is what you are supposed to do. Roll on buddy, but look good doing so. Wear the proper PFD and protect yourself.

one I wear when being totally legal for rolling at symposiums etc covered by ACA regulations of everyone wears a PFD is the sterns belt (I wear it with a Tuilik)

it covers the legality without getting in the way.

it does need to be worn to be legal

Best Wishes


You nailed it, String.
It’s a two-way street and you learned it the hard way if you’re like me. I’m behind pikabike’s thinking 100%.

Problem with authority?
You broke a rule and still didn’t get a ticket. Seems to me you should be happy with this officer for not being a dick, not deriding him because he had the audacity to question your (completely unknown to him) skills. I didn’t read one line in the OP about the officer acting out of order in any way.

Sure, YOU know you can swim and self rescue “x” amount of ways, but the LEO didn’t. So he did the only rational thing he could. You realize if he’s been alerted to someone breaking the law and he does nothing about it, and something happens, he can easily lose his job?

I say bravo to this LEO. Many LEO’s I know are in the habit of going into ticket writing mode the moment they start to hear excuses.

am I hooked on … that’s funny !!
… when it’s been this hot , such an addiction can be highly likely .

belt type
The cheapest and least obtrusive I’ve seen are the type that strap around you waist like a belt. About $60 or so.

rrose , I must 100% agree with you …

– Last Updated: Jul-30-10 11:58 PM EST –

...... I never used to wear a PFD , but then I changed my mind for all the reasons you have stated .

It's gotten to the point I even wear one (95% of the time) when out on the bay in a CC power boat ... almost unheard of , the guys just look at me and say nothing about it .

I used to swim across reservours , quarries , tidal rivers and such . I could swim along ways (miles) and knew how to pace myself (just once I nearly drowned due to exhaustion - bad day ??) .

I'm older now (less strong , less confident ??) , and having such experience of the past in swimming (and water time in general) , I will not allow anyone in my canoe , or guest who borrow one of our canoes , to not be "wearing" a PFD . That's my rules , my canoes - sometimes I will lax on that (temporarily) under certain circumstances .

The two main points you mentioned that caught my eye , (which btw are my main motovations for wearing the PFD) ... are that doing so shows a good and proper example of prime safety precaution (especially for those who may not have given much thought to it) , and the what if "you need to SAVE SOMEONE ELSE" scenario .

I have grey hair now , that may count for something to those who are young (er) ??

ps., ... if some don't wish to wear a PFD (in their own boats) , either on certain occassion or never ... so be it , they don't have my blessing but then again they don't need it either .

pilabike , you said the reg. required …

– Last Updated: Jul-31-10 12:34 AM EST –

...... you to have a PFD on board (at the minimum) ... did you have one on board with you ??

I can understand you feel hassled about all this , but you shouldn't jump the conclussions and peg the ranger as a "Zealot" ... you are not the only person he feels he has been charged with some degree of responsibility for .

It is wise of you to ward off further need to encounter this ranger again ... if he gave you a break once , that's your limit .

You are charged with the responsibility of your own life , this ranger to a large degree is charged with the responsibility of everyone's life , don't fault him for his job requirements , many people respect having him around for one reason or the other .

If a ranger interacts with you , be polite , praise him for his concern and thank him for doing a good job . Lord knows how many A-holes he has to put up with every day , give him a break if at all possible - he deserves it don't you think .

Since you weren’t wearing a pfd, maybe he just wanted to get a closer look;-)

Amen to both your posts. n/m

Other than windsurfers, all other boats are required to carry a pfd for each person. Where exactly one would carry one on a windsurfer is the reason they don’t. There’s room in every kayak I’ve seen for one. Should come as no surprise to any kayaker.

Bill H.

I was very polite with him
I did not have the PFD in or on the WW kayak that day, and I told him so when he asked. I am not stupid enough to lie to a P.O. He let me off the hook because the state regulations specifically allow leeway for certain conditions. If this place and conditions did not qualify, then absolutely nothing does except an indoor swimming pool.

However, just to keep him pursuing more important things, I will lash the PFD to the stern of the little WW boat when I’m not right next to shore doing my roll practice. I already tested this out and it works fine, since the boat has three nice grab handles perfect for this purpose.

The info on the inflatable belt PFD was new to me, and I appreciate those who linked to it.

He said that he would consider my wetsuit a possible substitute for PFD, if it met the CG standards. When he asked if I would like to check on that, I said, “Ummmm, I’d have to take it off.”

End of discussion!