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Sailing as we do in a wide range of sea conditions and locations, it’s no surprise that the Cruising Club of America’s members harbor a wide range of opinions about, among other things, life jackets. Working to assimilate our divergent opinions, a working group has constructed a fairly concise recommendation for life jacket wear.

Summarized, a life jacket is always recommended. What kind of life jacket depends on the conditions and sailing area. In challenging conditions (some are listed) a tether should be used to help keep crew on (or at least very near) the boat.


This is all part of a general message promoting a culture of safety as an element of good seamanship. 


The full text of the recommendation is below:


The Cruising Club of America's Recommendation on Life Jackets and Tethers

Stay Onboard; if not, Stay Afloat! 

Wearing a life jacket and tether when on deck and underway is part of a vessel’s Culture of Safety. When operating in warm waters, in daylight, and in calm conditions, virtually any approved life jacket will work. When conditions are more challenging, an offshore life jacket plus tether become the “right tools for the job.” It’s vital that you not only have sufficient buoyancy for rough conditions but that you remain attached to the vessel by means of a tether. This greatly reduces the chance of going overboard when rescue may be challenging for your crew. 

The use of tethers is recommended under the following conditions:

  • Sea conditions: large waves, heavy winds, cold water, confused seas
  • Low visibility conditions: nighttime, fog, heavy rain, large seas
  • Crew limitations: shorthanded, less experienced, lack of training, age and fitness
  • Vessel design: boats with fewer protected spaces, sailing at greater angles of heel, smaller or lighter displacement sailboats with quicker motions

The committee members are Bill Strassberg, Nancy Cook, Chan Reis, Ernie Godshalk, Rich DuMoulin, Dick York, Ralph Naranjo, Stan Honey, Chuck Hawley,  Eric Pierce, Sheila McCurdy, and Brian Guck - Chair