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Life Jacket Recommendations

One popular life jacket is this inflatable model

The Cruising Club of America

Recommendations by its Safety & Seamanship Committee[1]

regarding Life Jackets (Personal Flotation Devices - “PFDs”) for recreational boaters


The CCA recommends that, at the skipper’s discretion, all crew should WEAR A LIFE JACKET when on deck of a recreational boat. There are various types of life jackets with advantages and disadvantages, and that are appropriate for different conditions. [2] But the best one is the one you are WEARING. The boat's skipper should establish a culture of safety and protocols, the goal of which is: don't fall overboard.[3]

When sailing near shore in warm water, when conditions are and are expected to remain light/moderate, during daylight hours, and fully crewed: inherently buoyant (at least 15.5 pounds or 70 Newtons) “dinghy style” vest PFDs may be sufficient.

Otherwise, the CCA recommends that each crewmember wear a life jacket that meets either U.S. Coast Guard or ISO specifications: 33 pounds (150 Newtons) buoyancy for inflatables; 22 pounds (100 Newtons) for inherently buoyant lifejackets.  Such life jackets should include or be supplemented with a harness and be equipped with crotch or leg straps, a strobe light and a whistle.[4]

Many inflatable life jackets are more comfortable to wear and provide greater buoyancy. The CCA strongly recommends that users of inflatable life jackets should be trained in their operation, especially manual and oral inflation, and; that the life jackets be carefully inspected at a minimum annually, and prior to each offshore voyage, and be used, tested and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.[5]

It is the skipper’s responsibility to comply with U.S. Coast Guard or other authorities’ requirements.


[1] For a list of members of the Safety&Seamanship Committee, go to

[2] See, for example, US Coast Guard’s “PFD Selection, Use, Wear & Care” at

[3] See CCA Culture of Safety Recommendations at

[4]    See US Sailing’s Safety Equipment Requirements for Ocean and Coastal races Effective Date: January 1, 2019, revision 2019.0, Sections 3.1.1 through 3.1.4 for complete recommendations at

[5] See, for example, US Coast Guard’s “Marine Safety Alert 13-16” and videos from USSailing narrated by CCA member Chuck Hawley at