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Canoearoo
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03/26/2021 10:27AM  
I know wearing life jackets all the time is a hotly debated topic. This is not the purpose for this post. Assuming you do wear your life jacket every time you are in the canoe or boat, I want to know what is that one event or that one reason you now wear your PFD all the time. What is your story?


**Yes I know its your right to not wear a life jacket, you are an amazing swimmer, and the water is calm... but that isn't what this post is about. :)
 
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Canoearoo
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03/26/2021 10:33AM  
I never used to wear lifejackets all the time. I am an amazing swimmer. I can tread water for over an hour easily. I used to sit on my lifejacket, then I upgraded to a manual belt pack PFD inflatable.

Friends of ours had a 17 year old son who was also an amazing swimmer. He was on the swim team and could swim very far and tread water for hours.

One hot July summer day, the winds were calm, the water was warm and he was having fun with his friends on a local lake. One thing led to another and he ended up in the lake and never came back up. Cause of death was drowning. No drugs or anything was in his system, and he didn't hit his head. He just accidently inhaled water. If he had been wearing a PFD, the story would have been different.

After that day, I started to wear my life jacket all the time. If someone who is a great swimmer, on a perfect day, and is young and healthy, could drown, then I could as well. I won't risk that for my family. It isn't worth it. If my PFD is not comfortable, then I will upgrade to one that is.

So what is your story?
 
03/26/2021 10:36AM  
I am an excellent swimmer and the lake was calm, but my bow partner was using an auxiliary seat with a back rest. It shifted accidentally and dumped us both in the water. We had to swim about a mile to an island, pulling the canoe with us. We were both very happy that we were wearing our PFDs. I don't think we would have made it if not.

So, I always wear mine any time I'm on the water because you never know when you're going to take a swim.
 
03/26/2021 10:42AM  
Defining event = getting older (hopefully wiser). I now wear a PFD, motorcycle helmet, bicycle helmet, sunscreen, sunglasses, earplugs, respirator - and that's just to go grocery shopping.

If I die doing something stupid, no one will be surprised, but the older I get, the more I try to avoid it.
 
R1verrunner
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03/26/2021 10:59AM  
Any time in the canoe a life jacket is worn.

If you don't like it you don't go along on any of my trips.

Event older and smarter.
 
Savage Voyageur
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03/26/2021 11:06AM  
I never used to wear my PFD. I thought it was for sitting on. Then Mike “mcsweem” wrote in the BW Journal a number of years ago about his friend he lost during a canoe trip he was on. His friend went out fishing near camp, somehow the canoe flipped. One buddy made it to shore, one did not. It really hit home with me the importance of wearing a PFD when on the water.

I just bought a new inflatable PFD for this years trip. It's so light, I don’t even know it’s on.
 
Northwoodsman
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03/26/2021 11:15AM  
Never used to wear a PFD either. Was on a day trip and my bow partner was unsteady in the canoe and over-corrected. There was no weight in the canoe so it was very unstable in the first place. Splash! The water was 4' deep, but the bottom was pure muck. It sucked our feet in and our shoes off. We managed to get to our PFDs, but they aren't the easiest things to put on while trying to tread water and keep your feet out of muck.

You never know when you're going to have a heart attack, a stroke, blackout or whatever. You don't have a chance if you fall in the water and sink.
 
straighthairedcurly
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03/26/2021 11:16AM  
When I started whitewater kayaking, I naturally started wearing my PFD all the time. After that, I started feeling weird if I wasn't wearing it when I was in a canoe. Just like I feel weird if I don't wear a seatbelt in a car.

Side story: While kayaking at Taylor's Falls, one of the group members flipped over and couldn't roll back up. He came out of his boat and I paddled over to give him a tow to shore. As I approached him, he suddenly disappeared under the water. Completely gone! I kept scanning the water frantically! What had happened? He was wearing a PFD, how could he go under so suddenly and completely in a relatively calm stretch of water.

Just as suddenly, he bobbed back to the surface and grabbed the stern of my boat. He explained that a whirlpool of current had sucked him under and he was helpless to do anything. He could see the sun and the sky, but the whirlpool was pulling him down and spinning him around and around. Once the whirlpool had dissipated, his PFD brought him right back to the surface. Scary!
 
03/26/2021 11:18AM  
Learning from our mistakes is good. Learning from others is better.

Regarding the PFD, info from this forum helped me learn from others. Being a little older, I also am getting over the 'that will never happen to me'.

And back when I thought more like a dog, I did not need no stinking leashes either.
 
SkiYee
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03/26/2021 11:27AM  
I always wear my PFD because my biggest fear during a trip is capsizing. Of course on my very first trip, we did just that. Took a day trip, on the way back the weather changed and we had no business being on that water.

Side note - I used to take our church kids to a camp near Ely. One of the directors was a retired police officer who was also a certified diver and it was his job to dive to the bottom of lakes and recover bodies. During camp orientation, he stressed the rule of wearing a PFD anytime we were on the water because, and I quote, "I've never recovered a body from the bottom of lake that was wearing a PFD". (This is the part that stuck.)
 
03/26/2021 11:30AM  
Pretty much the same story as everyone else. No big dramatic event of my own. Never wore one when I was younger, it was just a seat cushion. Learned to swim about the time I learned to walk (literally - thanks Dad). Other people's stories, older and wiser, experience. You go whitewater rafting here and wear one or you don't go. You never see a guide without one (they ain't crazy). You not only wear it, but the guides make sure it's strapped on tight enough they can haul you - not just the PFD- back in by the straps. If you flip/fall out in a class3+ rapid, you'll be damn glad it's on and on tight.
 
03/26/2021 11:32AM  
straighthairedcurly: "When I started whitewater kayaking, I naturally started wearing my PFD all the time. After that, I started feeling weird if I wasn't wearing it when I was in a canoe. Just like I feel weird if I don't wear a seatbelt in a car.

Side story: While kayaking at Taylor's Falls, one of the group members flipped over and couldn't roll back up. He came out of his boat and I paddled over to give him a tow to shore. As I approached him, he suddenly disappeared under the water. Completely gone! I kept scanning the water frantically! What had happened? He was wearing a PFD, how could he go under so suddenly and completely in a relatively calm stretch of water. Just as suddenly he bobbed back to the surface and grabbed the stern of my boat. He explained that a whirlpool of current had sucked him under and he was helpless to do anything. He could see the sun and the sky, but the whirlpool was pulling him down and spinning him around and around. Once the whirlpool had dissipated, his PFD brought him right back to the surface. Scary!"

I’ve done those rapids probably one hundred times. It looks like you are in quiet water and the next thing you know the river has sucked your canoe in. Definitely time for a PFD.

I had this happen to me in northern Quebec... we were crossing the river to portage a canyon with a waterfall at the end. Everything was cool and suddenly we were swimming and the canoe was nowhere to be seen. I’m swimming like a mad man in class four rapids, with being swept over the enormous forty foot falls looking like a possibility. The canyon has steep cliffs so finding a handhold is challenging.

Suddenly, the canoe appears. It shoots out of the raging river like a missile fired from a submarine. I survived, the canoe went over the falls slightly worse for the wear. I was wearing a PFD.

I always wear a PFD when I’m in my not loved Wenonah, always in my pal unless I’m kneeling. It depends on many factors, but if there is any concern at all, I’ll wear my PFD.
 
Porkeater
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03/26/2021 11:33AM  
For me, it was simply when I started taking the kids out in the boat. I didn't want to have to answer the question of, "Why do I have to wear it and you don't?".

When I was a kid, my dad always made me wear one, but never did himself. At some point, I remember asking that question and getting the standard, "Because I said so," which was successful in obtaining compliance at the time, but no appreciation for doing it in the long term.

Now, it has just become second nature.
 
03/26/2021 11:35AM  
For me it was pockets. I wanted to have pockets that could store a ditch kit in case I needed it, and I wanted the convenience of storing my phone (for pictures) and cigars so I don't have to struggle to get into my pants pocket to take a picture or a day pack to grab a cigar while fishing. Then if I am going to spend the money on a nice life jacket that is also comfortable, I might as well wear it all the time.

Another part is telling the less responsible or experienced people to wear theirs. Sometimes people do dumb things, like standing up in a canoe or letting the wind push them sideways in rough water. It's hard for me to yell at others for not wearing theirs if I'm not wearing mine. Even if I'm not nearly as much of a risk factor as they are.
 
straighthairedcurly
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03/26/2021 11:37AM  
SkiYee: " One of the directors was a retired police officer, "I've never recovered a body from the bottom of lake that was wearing a PFD". (and this is the part to stuck) "
Powerful statement. I have had a lot of events that have struck home with other people drowning or nearly drowning. Paddling the Wolf River one time with my husband and a friend when we saw a pale face just under the water and a weak hand trying to reach out to one of our kayaks. No PFD, of course. I positioned my stern for him to grab and hauled him to shore. He couldn't stand up without help.

As my friend and I held him up and helped him walk down the shore to find his friends in their raft, we listened to his story. He was a young guy in the military training as a parachutist. He was from Louisiana and had never learned to swim.

At the top of the last rapids (Class III/IV drop), he had stood up and said, "Watch this!" to his buddies as he leaped out of the raft. As you may have already guessed, he was quite drunk. If we had not been exactly where we were, he would have died that day.

Here was my conversation with him:
Me: "Would you ever jump out of an airplane without a parachute?"
Him: "Of course not! That would be stupid and I would die."
Me: "Well, that is what you just did. And you are one lucky SOB that we were there to save you."
Him: "Oh..."

Then my friend diverted our path so the drunk dude walked through poison ivy. When I pointed it out to her, she said, "I want to leave him with something that will remind him of this experience when he sobers up."

Oh, and I have taught my son to always be wary of people who say, "Watch this!" They are invariably about to do something really stupid!
 
chessie
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03/26/2021 11:56AM  
I was inconsistent in my use / wearing of PFDs. I have been in harrowing conditions where to attempt to don my PFD would have taken me away from paddling too long to be safe.

What changed:
1. Purchasing a comfortable/functional PFD. Once I coughed up $ for a good one, I was more likely to wear it.

2. I worked with a guy, Jon, who was/is on a sheriff's rescue dive team. Jon is an amazing, skilled, experienced diver. What I know is that most of his work wasn't rescue, it was recovery. Enough of Jon's real life stories, happening in my own neighborhood, so to speak, did it, including a story of recovering bodies out of 8' of water on a perfectly calm sunny day. Stuff happens, and through Jon, I got a glimpse into just how quickly, and in such a variety of ways, one can, frankly, drown.

Decades ago, I lost a great Aunt and Uncle on a river in southern MN. They left behind two kids who witnessed the drowning. They were attempting to rescue drowning victims and got caught in a whirlpool.

I wear a PFD to save my own hiney, but also because I do not wish to put others in a terrible or risky predicament.
 
CityFisher74
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03/26/2021 12:17PM  
For me it was getting the funds/brains to spend decent money on a life jacket. I barely feel the thing when it's on. That is what caused me to wear one all the time.
 
schwartyman
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03/26/2021 12:22PM  
When I was in college, I worked at one of the outfitters at the end of the Gunflint Trail. Some days I would be on the Jon boats doing tows on Sag to American Point, Hook Island, etc.

The tow operations, as some of you may know, operate rain or shine, wind or no wind. The only time a tow is "typically" delayed is due to lightning or SEVERE weather.

One day, the weather was incredibly windy. I don't recall the exact mph or anything, but it was windy enough to where we considered delaying a tow to American Point; we did not, and the tow began.

After crossing through Munkers Narrows, entering the BIG water on Sag, I noticed something in the water going back and forth. I dialed in on it and as I got closer, I noticed it was a paddle waving in the water. I saw heads in the water and canoes upside down. I immediately went to help.

After getting to where they were and making sure everyone was okay, I asked how long they had been capsized, to which they replied, "Over two hours."

Now, of course, this is a completely avoidable situation. Most of us here would have never considered crossing Sag in those winds. Every person in that party was wearing their lifejackets and every person was okay - outside of losing two bags. I'm concerned if someone hadn't been wearing their lifejacket, with those winds, in that big water, a different story MIGHT be told.

That instance was enough for me.
 
03/26/2021 12:59PM  
Started wearing one 100% early 1990s. Basically found a comfortable one that I could afford.

Similar topic, capsizing. How many of you have actually practiced a capsize? Or tried swimming with the PFD on? Easy, and a good learning experience!

butthead
 
AlmostCanadian
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03/26/2021 01:07PM  
I have always worn my lifejacket and feel weird without it. My dad was very adamant about that and made sure my siblings and I wore one any time we were in a canoe or boat.

The story that affirmed it for me happened in high school. We were on a week and half trip down the Gammon and Bloodvein rivers. The third day we ran our first big rapids. The gear had been portaged so we could run empty and "practice". My brother took the back of our Penobscot 17 and off we went. Nothing technical, just a straight shoot into standing waves.

It was an awesome adrenaline rush as we built up our speed and then WOOSH! The first wave came in and hit me straight in the chest. The next two completely filled the boat and all of a sudden we were swimming. Our dad and uncle caught up to us with the gear and helped us pull the canoe to shore and bail out.
This doesn't directly effect why I wear a lifejacket on small calm lakes, but during those times I'm happy to have extra pockets.
 
papalambeau
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03/26/2021 01:22PM  
As R1verrunner said earlier, anytime we're in the canoe, a lifejacket is worn. We keep them on all the time - paddling, fishing and single portaging (we don't lose a step taking them off, figuring out where to put them and putting them on again).

If you don't want to do this, you don't go on any of our trips.

Key event was on one of our first trips in the early '90s on Seagull when the wind picked up and the guys who weren't wearing their lifejackets had to stop paddling to put theirs on. We didn't have any capsizing, but a few came way too close. That did it for our crew.
 
mgraber
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03/26/2021 01:27PM  
Have been a constant PFD wearer for many years and, other than getting older and wiser, there were three incidences that changed my mind.

One did not involve a canoe, but did involve going into 45 degree water. I found that I could barely move anything within five minutes and was lucky to get out.
We do frequent spring trips so I will never go without.

The second was intentionally capsizing my canoe in windy conditions and discovering that the canoe drifted much faster than most, if not all, swimmers could swim, especially in wet clothes. You will not always be near shore.

The last is also not canoe related, but is boat fishing related, so probably still appropriate. I was trolling for walleye on a calm sunny day a mile off shore in a 20 ft Lund. I was not wearing a PFD. I hooked a large fish and, while fighting it, stepped onto the front deck where I slipped on the vinyl floor and fell overboard. I still had my rod and the fish as I watched my boat troll away from me.

Why am I still here? My buddy was with me and circled back to pick me up, but I often fish alone. I doubt I could swim a mile, especially wearing boots, a flannel shirt and jeans.
 
nofish
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03/26/2021 01:30PM  
I have kids and I want to be around to embarrass them when they get older.

I didn't always wear my life jacket or my climbing harness while hunting before I had kids. As soon as the first one was born it was like there was a switch flipped in my brain and all of a sudden it seemed stupid not to.

Now if you paddle with me you'll be wearing a life jacket.
 
straighthairedcurly
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03/26/2021 02:35PM  
butthead: "Similar topic, capsizing. How many of you have actually practiced a capsize? Or tried swimming with the PFD on?
Easy, and a good learning experience!

butthead"

This is a requirement for anyone going on a trip with us or anytime we acquire a new/different canoe. I got in the habit of practicing this when I went to Camp Menogyn.
 
Jackfish
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03/26/2021 02:48PM  
It took a pretty big event for me to wear my PFD regularly.

Back in the fall of 2013, I had a sudden cardiac arrest. Thanks to an AED at the site and open heart surgery a few days later, I'm still here to talk about it. I ended up getting a pacemaker defibrillator implanted to keep my heart in proper rhythm. If it gets out of rhythm, the pacemaker makes it right. If it can't make it right and my heart exceeds a certain number of beats per minute, the defibrillator gives my heart a shock to get it back in normal rhythm again. It happened a few times early on and you can take my word for it, it's not something you want to have happen regularly. Thanks to medication, it hasn't for a few years now.

On all paddling trips after that, my PFD gets worn. I don't want to have something happen while in the canoe, then fall into the lake and go straight down. At least if I'm floating, the guys can fish me out. :)
 
paddlinjoe
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03/26/2021 03:17PM  
I've always worn a PFD. The canoe camp where I worked required it for our trips, so it became a habit early. May years later I confirmed the usefulness of a pfd when I capsized from a solo canoe on a cold windy day in May.
 
03/26/2021 03:35PM  
nofish: "Now if you paddle with me you'll be wearing a life jacket. "

My partners can do whatever they please, but I always wear one myself.
 
MikeinMpls
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03/26/2021 04:04PM  
I have pulled a lot of people out of the water. Dumping happens so quickly and, combined with the rocks and cold water, wearing a pfd is a no brainer. On the very rare occasions we go without, it is in the summer, calm and warm/hot day, when we're day tripping from a base camp. Even then it's quite rare.

I remain dumbfounded on two accounts re: PFDs:

1. The amount of paddlers I see not wearing them. I would venture to guess at least half of the trippers I see are not wearing them, and it appears to be particularly common in parties paddling outfitter boats, and;

2. The relatively small amount of actual drowning casualities in the BWCA every year.

Mike
 
MikeinMpls
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03/26/2021 04:10PM  
straighthairedcurly: "butthead: "Similar topic, capsizing. How many of you have actually practiced a capsize? Or tried swimming with the PFD on?
Easy, and a good learning experience!

butthead"

This is a requirement for anyone going on a trip with us or anytime we acquire a new/different canoe. I got in the habit of practicing this when I went to Camp Menogyn. "


I've wanted to try this, but it's very difficult in the big city. If we practiced this on a Minneapolis city lake (many close to us), 911 would be bombarded by calls reporting the capsizing. I'm not wanting the Minneapolis Fire Department to respond to my practice session!

Mike
 
andym
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03/26/2021 04:59PM  
No big event for me. We just started doing it all the time as we got older and wiser.

Practicing capsizing and swimming with PFDs is a good idea. I will admit that it has been a while for me with canoes. Practicing capsizing, recovery, and rescue is standard practice in the sea kayaking and sailing communities. It seems much less common among people who canoe.
 
03/26/2021 05:04PM  
I wear it because It's a lot easier to swim my canoe to the shore. I paddle an Advantage . Reentering the canoe on the water is next to impossible. Once I get back into my canoe I'll go get the pack.
 
straighthairedcurly
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03/26/2021 05:06PM  
MikeinMpls: "straighthairedcurly: "butthead: "Similar topic, capsizing. How many of you have actually practiced a capsize? Or tried swimming with the PFD on?
Easy, and a good learning experience!


butthead"

This is a requirement for anyone going on a trip with us or anytime we acquire a new/different canoe. I got in the habit of practicing this when I went to Camp Menogyn. "



I've wanted to try this, but it's very difficult in the big city. If we practiced this on a Minneapolis city lake (many close to us), 911 would be bombarded by calls reporting the capsizing. I'm not wanting the Minneapolis Fire Department to respond to my practice session!


Mike"


Never had an issue on Lake Owasso in Roseville. We just select an area that is close enough to a beach area that it is obvious we are practicing.
 
HistoryDoc
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03/26/2021 09:05PM  
Wearing a PFD is a habit ingrained from Boy Scouts. Most of my trips to the BWCAW are after 1 Oct so it is common sense. I have a 16' deep-vee fishing boat and if the main engine is on, so are the PFDs. No excuse not too.
 
JWilder
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03/26/2021 10:11PM  
No big "Ah Ha" moment for me.

When I am traveling in canoe country, my PFD is a apart of me just as much as my pants, head cover, or foot wear. It is always on. When I am paddling, it is on, when I am portaging or exploring, it is on. It is essential, along with what is stored in the pockets.

But, when I get to camp, it comes off just like my wet boots. It's like coming home from work and the first thing you do is change out of your jeans and boots and put on the shorts and flip flops. Happy hour folks...

 
03/26/2021 10:13PM  
I wear mine all the time for a few reasons. I'm usually with my wife and kids so how can I make them wear it if I'm not. If we did run into trouble the last thing I want to worry about is swimming, 100% of my focus would need to be on the safety of my family. I'm a decent swimmer but that's not going to help me when I'm several hundred yards from shore with the wind blowing. Since finding a comfortable paddling style life vest it just seems like 2nd nature to put it on before I start paddling.
 
Stumpy
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03/26/2021 11:44PM  
R1verrunner: "Any time in the canoe a life jacket is worn.


If you don't like it you don't go along on any of my trips.

Event older and smarter."


Same here
 
PineKnot
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03/27/2021 01:12AM  
Curious here. I see a post saying there's a small amount of actual drowning in BWCA every year. Since I don't hear about any drownings, is this true? If so, and if half the paddlers are not wearing PFDs, then.....is there a problem?

I will admit I do not wear my PFD unless in rough water.....recently bought an inflatable NRS to fix my error....as others have said, with age comes wisdom. But, how can we teach folks that it is best to actually "wear" a PFD as opposed to sit on it or have it in the canoe/boat just in case it's needed....?
 
Canoearoo
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03/27/2021 02:20AM  
It's never a problem till it's your loved one that has drowned.
 
03/27/2021 05:53AM  
My life jacket allowed me to become bobbernumber3... instead of sinkernumber1.

Thanks Janice, Atikokan Aeroservice, Q Rangers, and others.
 
woodsandwater
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03/27/2021 06:38AM  
Canoearoo: "I know wearing life jackets all the time is a hotly debated topic. This is not the purpose for this post. Assuming you do wear your life jacket every time you are in the canoe or boat, I want to know what is that one event or that one reason you now wear your PFD all the time. What is your story?


**Yes I know its your right to not wear a life jacket, you are an amazing swimmer, and the water is calm... but that isn't what this post is about. :) "


Shouldn't be hotly debated at all. Live or die.
 
JWilder
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03/27/2021 07:05AM  
PineKnot: "Curious here. I see a post saying there's a small amount of actual drowning in BWCA every year. Since I don't hear about any drownings, is this true? If so, and if half the paddlers are not wearing PFDs, then.....is there a problem?


I will admit I do not wear my PFD unless in rough water.....recently bought an inflatable NRS to fix my error....as others have said, with age comes wisdom. But, how can we teach folks that it is best to actually "wear" a PFD as opposed to sit on it or have it in the canoe/boat just in case it's needed....?"


On another discussion on PFD's, I don't remember WEAR :) Someone used the analogy of the seatbelt. If you are not wearing it, and you find yourself in a situation where you do, it is most likely too late. So, I guess if I was educating the youth, or the "age of invincibility" (20 somethings). Use the seatbelt analogy.

Or, look them straight in the face and share with them that life and death situation WEAR someone wasn't WEARING their PFD and ask, "Do you want to get dead? No? Well good, WEAR your PFD."
 
mschi772
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03/27/2021 07:21AM  
Canoearoo: " what is that one event or that one reason you now wear your PFD all the time. What is your story? "

Knowing my whole life, but ignoring most of the time that it is stupid not to--if you're not wearing it and find yourself in need of it, it is too late to put it on. Eventually I just read one too many stories about someone drowning while also reading in the same story what a good swimmer they were and how experienced they were. It just doesn't matter if it is warm out or if you're an amazing swimmer or if you've gone on a million trips. It doesn't matter, and it finally sank-in. I got myself a PFD that's actually comfortable to wear, and it is now one of my favorite pieces of gear.
 
03/27/2021 07:28AM  
As a pretty much non-swimmer, a good life jacket is an absolute must for me. Always on when in the water whether canoeing or "swimming" near shore.
 
santacruz
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03/27/2021 07:54AM  
Great post and an important one. As like most, I am also a good swimmer. I have never had a water event to force me to wear it, but I am 65 years young. I will not take any chances in my canoes. My pfd fits me well, and hugs me with safety. I will be safely paddling for years to come.
 
03/27/2021 08:26AM  
No story here. We just made a pact back when we went on our first canoe trip in 1971 that we would always wear them whenever in the canoe. Always. And we always have. Spartan1 got a vest with padded shoulders that he said was better for portaging, and I have had several, but my latest one was a PFDiva made especially for women and I love it.

Now when we paddle at the lake cottage we wear them too, in spite of the fact that the lake is small and shallow. It is just a good habit. When the children, and later the grandchildren came along, there was never any argument because we always put ours on before going in a canoe (or boat.)

 
nooneuno
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03/27/2021 09:04AM  
I Bought an inflatable last season and have no problems wearing it all the time. I bought the automatic version and the first trip out I woke up to find it inflated overnight while on the clothes line (activator never got rained on) I brought refills with me so no problem. The second trip of the year it inflated two different times, both times in camp. The moisture in the air is enough to activate them after several rainy days. Wearing one out the final day after accidental inflation sucks. The brand I bought (from Fleet Farm) came with a manual only kit in the pocket, I have switched it to manual activation only and am much happier with it. I have weighed the odds of me being unconscious or unable to pull the manual activation and have accepted them as justifiable. Always bring at least one recharge kit.
 
Banksiana
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03/27/2021 09:24AM  
Recently purchased a new NRS life jacket. Very comfortable, but the mass of padding on my shoulders prevent me from patting myself on the back for wearing it all the time.
 
03/27/2021 10:10AM  
PineKnot: "Curious here. I see a post saying there's a small amount of actual drowning in BWCA every year. Since I don't hear about any drownings, is this true? If so, and if half the paddlers are not wearing PFDs, then.....is there a problem?


I will admit I do not wear my PFD unless in rough water.....recently bought an inflatable NRS to fix my error....as others have said, with age comes wisdom. But, how can we teach folks that it is best to actually "wear" a PFD as opposed to sit on it or have it in the canoe/boat just in case it's needed....?"


Most casual paddlers just take a PFD because it's a law. Buy/borrow the cheapest to comply then never put it on. The secret to usage is comfort. Once past the cost of comfort both monetary and personal choice, continuous use follows.

butthead
 
R1verrunner
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03/27/2021 10:16AM  
3Ball: "nofish: "Now if you paddle with me you'll be wearing a life jacket. "


My partners can do whatever they please, but I always wear one myself.
"


Until one of them drowns.

You will have a change of heart.

When I worked as a deputy I pulled to many bodies out of lakes and saw the hurt the survivors went through.
 
03/27/2021 10:50AM  
butthead: "PineKnot: "Curious here. I see a post saying there's a small amount of actual drowning in BWCA every year. Since I don't hear about any drownings, is this true? If so, and if half the paddlers are not wearing PFDs, then.....is there a problem?



I will admit I do not wear my PFD unless in rough water.....recently bought an inflatable NRS to fix my error....as others have said, with age comes wisdom. But, how can we teach folks that it is best to actually "wear" a PFD as opposed to sit on it or have it in the canoe/boat just in case it's needed....?"



Most casual paddlers just take a PFD because it's a law. Buy/borrow the cheapest to comply then never put it on. The secret to usage is comfort. Once past the cost of comfort both monetary and personal choice, continuous use follows.

butthead"


I also admit I don't wear mine unless in rough water, but this thread is convicting and I may use my REI dividend to purchase an inflatable. I think the issue for me has been 1) I'm a good swimmer and 2) my PFD is somewhat uncomfortable to paddle in, and I've realized that if I were unconscious, it would flip me face down in the water.
This brings up the question of rentals. Most trips I'm on, nearly all members take the PFD given with the rental canoe as they don't own their own. I do own my own because I have a canoe. We all know that the PFDs that outfitters rent with their canoes are sufficient in keeping you afloat (if you're wearing it!), but we probably all recognize that they might not be comfortable for a given renter. Have those of you who require members in your party to wear them heard this argument?
 
Canoearoo
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03/27/2021 12:09PM  
I have lots of extra. If someone is going with me and wont wear one because of comfort I let them try on all the ones I have. I should have one to fit most people.
 
OldFingers57
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03/27/2021 12:11PM  
Having been involved in water rescue for almost 50 years is why I wear a PFD all the time. I have been involved with numerous water rescues and fatalities throughout all those years and have seen the difference it makes. In that time I have seen only one drowning where a person was wearing a PFD. This involved a tow boat barge worker falling off the front of a string of barges and going under them and the tow boat. Most of the people who drowned fell out of their boat and never resurfaced thus never had the chance to grab their Pfd let alone to put it on.
 
tumblehome
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03/27/2021 12:48PM  
To those that don’t wear a PDF because they are a ‘good swimmer’ is like saying you don’t wear a seat belt because you are a good driver. Stop fooling yourself.

I started wearing my PFD all the time about a dozen years ago. Age and wisdom caused this. Two years ago I took a spill in Quetico and I feel I would have drowned had I not had my PFD. I was in mild current in a river and underestimated the volume of water flowing through a channel. In a slight turn, it caught my canoe, flipped it around and tossed me out. All of this happened before I knew what was going on.

Wear your PFD, make not excuses not to.

Tom

 
bottomtothetap
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03/27/2021 01:05PM  
The inflatable I now own makes wearing a lifejacket about as comfortable as can be and it is always on when I am out in the canoe. When I organize a trip I urge fellow trippers to find and try on a lifejacket of their own to bring BEFORE the trip rather than plan on taking an available rental to use or buying one last minute. If the jacket fits well and is comfortable, it will have a much better chance to serve its purpose if needed. Even if you are wearing a life jacket, I further believe that a well-fitting one will do more to keep you safe than an ill-fitting one (which, granted, is still way better than nothing) which you are trying to make work.

For me, two incidents solidified always wearing a life jacket:

1. I was fishing with my brother-in-law on a central MN lake and our canoe dumped when we were buzzed by a speed boat (Jerks! They never even stopped!) I was wearing my life jacket but my BIL was not. For the first few moments we were okay as we assessed the situation. But soon my BIL started to panic as he quickly tired from working to stay above water and he started to cry out that he could not breathe even though his head was well above water. Fortunately, his life jacket was floating nearby and I was able to get it to him and help him into it. I was able to do that as I didn't need to expend the energy to keep myself afloat--the lifejacket was doing that work.

2. In 2012 I was guiding a church youth group and we were only about a mile from the end of our trip on Moose Lake off of the Fernberg Road. The rule on these trips was to absolutely ALWAYS have your lifejacket on ANYTIME you were in the canoe--a rule that the youth abided by but usually protested at least a little bit. This was implemented not only because it was a good idea but it helped simplify policy and part of our purpose on these trips was to teach good practice. The breeze that day was making it a bit choppy and suddenly a combination of that chop and boat wake sent two of our paddlers over--one of whom was my own son. They were stunned and slightly panicked but overall OK as their lifejackets were keeping their heads above water. Nothing was lost other than a little pride and a small amount of gear that got ruined when it got soaked. My boy did swallow a bit of water when he went in and it was surprising how quickly he became not hypothermic but at least notably chilled! I am convinced I still have my son today because of that lifejacket rule. And another family has their son too.
 
gravelroad
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03/27/2021 01:29PM  
I was raised right, right from the start. End of story.

Epilogue to the story: On occasion l’ve been called on to find the remains of those who weren’t raised right.
 
gravelroad
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03/27/2021 01:34PM  
MikeinMpls: "straighthairedcurly: "butthead: "Similar topic, capsizing. How many of you have actually practiced a capsize? Or tried swimming with the PFD on?
Easy, and a good learning experience!


butthead"

This is a requirement for anyone going on a trip with us or anytime we acquire a new/different canoe. I got in the habit of practicing this when I went to Camp Menogyn. "



I've wanted to try this, but it's very difficult in the big city. If we practiced this on a Minneapolis city lake (many close to us), 911 would be bombarded by calls reporting the capsizing. I'm not wanting the Minneapolis Fire Department to respond to my practice session!


Mike"


I called the local FD in advance whenever I practiced kayak self-rescues in NH. That message would be harder to distribute in a larger community, of course.
 
justpaddlin
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03/27/2021 02:08PM  
I think I started wearing a PFD for the same reason I sold my motorcycle; I just felt like I'd gotten away with risky behavior for a long time and that my luck might not last forever. We also have casualties nearby almost every year like the one marked by the makeshift memorial in the pics that I paddle past frequently. Although I'm a certified lifeguard there is still plenty of danger for anyone that gets unlucky around here whether it be current, high wind, cold water, sunken trees, irresponsible hunters, golf balls from golfers, the occasional high speed jet ski or other stuff I haven't experienced yet.


 
casualbriday
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03/27/2021 02:19PM  
I have a cheap one (onyx) that I always wear. It has enough pockets and spots to clip fishing tools, and it's a bit warm (just have to wear a cool shirt if it's hot out), which actually kept me comfortable when I got caught in a downpour in 50 degree weather and the waterproofing on the raincoat I was wearing over it completely failed.
 
ockycamper
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03/27/2021 02:57PM  
I have been taking groups to BWCA for our church for over 15 years. We have only one firm rule. . .if you are in the canoe, you are wearing a PFD, and it is secured. We have had several capsizes over the years. I cover the PFD issue with the group before we ever get in the cars back home. Those that don't like wearing PFD's don't go.
 
03/28/2021 07:50AM  
We started wearing them when we took our kids canoeing. We couldn't insist on them wearing the PFDs if we weren't wearing them too :)
 
Argo
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03/28/2021 10:11AM  
If you capsize wearing hiking boots you'll be really happy to be wearing your life vest.
 
jdrocks
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03/28/2021 10:39AM  
i started wearing a PFD every time on the water when i started duck hunting on the Mississippi River in about 1970. people who know that river also know it's a bad place to get in trouble, doubly so in the dark. a year later i lost the boat to a barge tow, it sank in seconds. the guy i was hunting with also had a PFD since i recommended he get one, and we got to the bank without much drama. everything that could float was headed down river, everything heavy was still in the boat, including 4 shotguns. the boat was easy to find on the bottom since the stern light was still on, and after much hard work it and all the gear was recovered. we hunted later that day and limited out, came away with a bunch of ducks and a hell of a story.

since then, i've been in the water more times that i care to admit, sometimes in trying circumstance and plenty of drama. always had a PFD...i'm still here.
 
03/28/2021 12:11PM  
Argo: "If you capsize wearing hiking boots you'll be really happy to be wearing your life vest. "

If you are referring to being "dragged down by the weight" pertaining to boots, rubber, or leather. That is an old wife's tail dis-proven many time. They do hamper swimming by limiting foot motion.

butthead
 
Argo
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03/28/2021 01:27PM  
butthead: "Argo: "If you capsize wearing hiking boots you'll be really happy to be wearing your life vest. "


If you are referring to being "dragged down by the weight" pertaining to boots, rubber, or leather. That is an old wife's tail dis-proven many time. They do hamper swimming by limiting foot motion.


butthead"


Indeed I was not referring to the weight of them, just the limiting movement. And it's a been-there-done-that thing for me unfortunately.
 
mgraber
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03/28/2021 02:06PM  
I think the dumbest excuse to not wearing them for canoe trippers is not being comfortable. By all means, get the most comfortable version you can, but really, how much of a wussy are you? We deal with wicked portages, miles of paddling, bugs, cold, heat, rain, scrapes, bruises, sprains, damage from fishing, sunburn, poison Ivy, blisters, sleeping on the ground, etc., etc. and you are too wimpy to wear a PFD because it is hot and sweaty, oh my! Or it rubs me, poor baby! I had to come to terms with this also. I also wanted to say that the opinion that I wear one, but my trip mates can do what they want, may not be the best either. If you witness a drowning your life will be changed forever, and your trip will certainly be ruined. NOONE is ruining my trips because they are too much of a wussy to wear a PFD.
 
03/28/2021 04:13PM  
My story involves picking up duck decoys while wearing waders and my pfd. I was in about 3 feet of water and was pushing my canoe and throwing the decoys in when I hit a deeper hole and my feet went out from under me. I had one arm on the side of the canoe but my feet went under the canoe and icy water funneled down the back of my waders. Air trapped in the legs and feet of the waders made getting my legs under me almost impossible. My weight pulled the gunnel under water and the canoe filled up about 1/2 way so it was no help. Picture me floating flat on my back with my boot toes poking out of the water holding on to a half sunk canoe, at dusk, no one around in mid October. The water displaced the air in my waders finally and I could stand up again now in waist deep water. The whole thing lasted only a minute or two but scared the crap out of me! I feel certain that without the PFD holding my head out of the water I would have drowned or damn near.
One thing I should mention is that I don't usually ware the PFD in the marsh only when crossing the main body of the lake so why I put it on early I have no idea.
 
afromaniac
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03/28/2021 05:10PM  
I’m a huge deadhead. Jerry Garcia’s dad died while swimming to get a football during a family vacation. I’d love to be able to inspire my kids to become rock stars, but there is probably a better way than giving them that trauma. Dying while on vacation seems like a pretty bad way to go.
 
JWilder
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03/28/2021 08:24PM  
Canoearoo,

Your opening statement to this thread says, " I know wearing life jackets all the time is a hotly debated topic..."

I understand this was not the purpose of your post, to debate whether it is wise to wear or not to wear your PFD, BUT. This thread crushes that debate. It is over. The consensus from the experienced is: wear your damn PFD.

Thank you and God bless,

JW
 
Northwoodsman
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03/28/2021 08:38PM  
Over the past 5 years or so I have taken 4 newbies, or people that haven't paddled in 20 years or so. If I recall each of them have thrown their PFD into the canoe and watched me put mine on. They have all grabbed theirs and said "that's a good idea" and buckled theirs on.

Perhaps Adam should add another "badge" to our profiles. For those of us who pledge to wear a PFD WHENEVER we are on the water we get an "PFD" icon by our name. Maybe once people, whether novices or seasoned paddlers, take notice or ask what it means more people would follow suit. A flying moose wearing a PFD.
 
Canoearoo
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03/28/2021 10:13PM  
JWilder: "Canoearoo,


Your opening statement to this thread says, " I know wearing life jackets all the time is a hotly debated topic..."


I understand this was not the purpose of your post, to debate whether is is wise to wear or not to wear your PFD, BUT. This thread crushes that debate. It is over. The consensus from the experienced is: wear your damn PFD.


Thank you and God bless,


JW"

Yup exactly... Real stories might save real lives
 
Pilgrimpaddler
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03/28/2021 10:36PM  
I had 2 friends about 40 years ago that tried to canoe across the St. Croix in October on a cold and windy day. They capsized and one of them made it to shore. PFDs would have saved one life then, so 40 some years of life and untold heartache for the family of the guy who didn’t make it would have been prevented but for the lack of a PFD. I learned a lesson then.
 
Canoearoo
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03/29/2021 08:24AM  
Pilgrimpaddler: "I had 2 friends about 40 years ago that tried to canoe across the St. Croix in October on a cold and windy day. They capsized and one of them made it to shore. PFDs would have saved one life then, so 40 some years of life and untold heartache for the family of the guy who didn’t make it would have been prevented but for the lack of a PFD. I learned a lesson then. "
What is crazy is we did the paddle boat ride on the st. Croix and we saw 100s of canoers with no life jackets. I'm very suprized there aren't more drownings on that river.
 
mgraber
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03/29/2021 09:41AM  
Since we know canoearoo's real objective now, here is one more thing to think about for all of the "great swimmers" out there who choose to not wear a PFD. If you capsize or tumble out without capsizing, are you going to swim around to find and recover your paddle, possibly put packs back in canoe, or tow the canoe back to shore? Or are you going to high tail it to shore leaving everything behind? The latter is going to suck once the reality of having NO equipment settles in and the former is risky and very difficult. Much easier with PFD.
 
Chuckles
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03/29/2021 10:10AM  
Canoearoo: "me. What is your story?


A few years ago we were at the island site on Crab, first weekend of October. Temps and water were chilly for swimming, but not a real factor. Calm day, casually pulling two canoes into camp. Everyone is wearing pdfs. A guy gets out of the front of the other canoe onto shore, as he gets out the weight shifts, the front lifts and the guy in the back goes into the drink. He goes completely under and then pops up. He frantically gets hold of the canoe and eventually finds a rock that he can just balance on to get is face over the canoe. Throughout this whole process (maybe 5 seconds) he's totally silent.

He then starts braying like a dying donkey and spitting out water. It was a scary sound. He inhaled water as he want in and couldn't breathe. It took him no less that 5 minutes to clear his lungs enough to walk the 10 feet to shore. We were laughing about it 5 minutes later. No way he survives without that PFD to hold him up while he coughs that crap out.

He was:
-a healthy, strong adult
-good swimmer
-10 feet from shore
-in water only a deep as he is tall
-two steps from knee deep water
-in calm water

I believe we could have rescued him, but I'm not 100% sure. The strong swimmer argument fell 100% apart that day. Breathe in water and you're dead.

We usually trip in shoulder seasons so PFDs are a must. I got back and called my brother to discuss PFDs on our summer canoeing trip with our kids and we instituted the 100% PFD rule.

One other funny/scary note: The son of the guy who went in was in our canoe 20 feet away. We were in about 1 ft of water, so he jumps out, takes off his PFD and starts to charge over to help is Dad. After some not-so-gentle words we convince him to leave his PFD on for rescues.

All ended well. We tease Dad about his donkey braying and his son the knight in shining armor who sheds his armor before battle.

 
03/29/2021 10:16AM  
Canoearoo:
The Secret purpose of this post was to attract attention with a hot topic title to lure them in with real stories to try an convince people to wear their life jacket. I make a Pfd post evey year trying to convince people to wear them. Real stories might save real lives "


And keep on posting these!
Very important reminders and items to think about.

butthead
 
Argo
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03/29/2021 10:42AM  
mgraber: "Since we know canoearoo's real objective now, here is one more thing to think about for all of the "great swimmers" out there who choose to not wear a PFD. If you capsize or tumble out without capsizing, are you going to swim around to find and recover your paddle, possibly put packs back in canoe, or tow the canoe back to shore? Or are you going to high tail it to shore leaving everything behind? The latter is going to suck once the reality of having NO equipment settles in and the former is risky and very difficult. Much easier with PFD."

There's another option here...which is to put your life vest on in the water. That option isn't perfect. But it is, by far, the least worst option. I can't see folks swimming for a paddle first.

On the other hand...

Considering a lot of inexperienced people are clueless about safety, it would be interesting to run an experiment to determine how many would consider the option of putting on their life jacket in the water if no options were presented in your scenario. Or put another way - show them a photo of canoe trippers paddling across a lake without wearing their life vests (make no remark about that), and ask them what they should prioritize if they capsized.
 
missmolly
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03/29/2021 01:34PM  
When I was 25, my brother was murdered, a friend died in a plane crash, and my brother-in-law died running from first to second base. Since that year of funerals, I've simply accepted that I too am mortal and chosen accordingly; I know I'll have a final breath and I don't want to inhale water that last time.
 
Canoearoo
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03/29/2021 01:57PM  
butthead: "Canoearoo:
The Secret purpose of this post was to attract attention with a hot topic title to lure them in with real stories to try an convince people to wear their life jacket. I make a Pfd post evey year trying to convince people to wear them. Real stories might save real lives "



And keep on posting these!
Very important reminders and items to think about.


butthead"


I edited my post because I realized it was not exactly every year I post a post like this, just a lot of years, and I didn't want to sound as preachy and the original edit sounded a little to preachy. I am not trying to trick people into wearing there life jackets, but though stories maybe others can learn without a hard lesson.
 
treehorn
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03/29/2021 02:17PM  
When I saw my trip partners tip and take a swim while we were out fishing. They were close to shore and the water was warm, so not a big deal...but talking to them afterwards, they said it happened so quickly they couldn't even react before they were in the water, and both said if they were in deeper water it would have been a real struggle.

After that, I keep the PFD on in the boat, always.
 
Canoearoo
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03/29/2021 02:40PM  
All these stories are amazing and humbling. Thank you everyone for sharing.
 
tumblehome
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03/29/2021 07:03PM  
Canoearoo: "All these stories are amazing and humbling. Thank you everyone for sharing. "

I don’t think you’re preachy if you bring this up every year. There is a new crop of canoeists every season and maybe just one person changes their thinking when reading this to later on save their own life.

Repetition in training can help.
Tom
 
beanpole
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03/29/2021 08:06PM  
When I'm in a vehicle, I wear a seat belt. When I'm on the water (in some form of boat), I wear a life jacket. Habit.

Several years ago while kayaking on the St. Croix River with 2 friends and a friend's daughter, we came upon unexpected rapids (the river was very flooded but every report I saw said the flow was manageable - not fast). My friend's daughter went in - wearing a life jacket - and then my friend went in - not wearing a life jacket. It all ended well, but she has never had such a harrowing experience. She wasn't sure she was going to make it. If her daughter had not been wearing one, I don't think she would have made it. She wears her life jacket on a regular basis now.
 
bottomtothetap
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03/29/2021 09:03PM  
As naturally as my 20-something boys put on a seatbelt when they get in a vehicle because mandatory use is all they've ever known, they put on a lifejacket as well because that too is all they've ever known. When they were little we called it their "fishing jacket" and to them wearing one--even from a pier or shore--was just part of the fun of fishing.
 
JWilder
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03/29/2021 09:16PM  
tumblehome: "Canoearoo: "All these stories are amazing and humbling. Thank you everyone for sharing. "


I don’t think you’re preachy if you bring this up every year. There is a new crop of canoeists every season and maybe just one person changes their thinking when reading this to later on save their own life.


Repetition in training can help.
Tom"


Totally Agree.
 
03/30/2021 10:29AM  

Canoearoo: I edited my post because I realized it was not exactly every year I post a post like this, just a lot of years, and I didn't want to sound as preachy and the original edit sounded a little to preachy. I am not trying to trick people into wearing there life jackets, but though stories maybe others can learn without a hard lesson."


Just thought you'd like to know that because of this thread I have decided to purchase a PFD to replace my current one and wear it always. Thank you!
 
03/30/2021 11:18AM  
I do wear my lifejacket all the time while canoeing. There is no story behind this decision, just that I am not as strong of a swimmer as I once was and I have heard too many stories of people drowning while canoeing.
 
LDB
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03/30/2021 03:17PM  
When I was in college, early 70s, I took a lifeguard course. After the school year, we were invited to do the long swim from point topping on Lake Okoboji. I know I cannot swim very well any more.

Thirty years later on Basswood while being wind bound, I saw two young guys dump way out from shore, heading straight west from Green Island. Neither had on life jackets. We made it to Sunday Island. They could not swim fast enough to catch up to their canoe. We were in the process of getting out to them when an empty towboat came across the lake to their rescue.
 
03/30/2021 03:56PM  
I own an expensive, very nice, live vest. But I admit that I do not wear it all the time. If the day is sunny and warm and the water is calm, It is sitting behind my seat, and not on my body. It goes on during wavy days, stormy days, rainy days, and any time I just feel it should be on.

I was my stations rescue swimmer (no, not the type in that one movie, no helo jumps for me) in the Coast Guard. So even though my swimming game is strong, I of all people, should know better. Even on nice days you can flip the boat and have it konk you in the back of the head... then that's all she wrote.
 
CabinAfter
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03/30/2021 07:46PM  
Because of all the panic and stress that happens during an emergency/flip. Wear one so you can concentrate on OTHERS, rather than swimming.

Other reasons:
-It has emergency gear that I want access to all the time
-You never plan on an emergency. Wearing a PFD all the time is a first step to being ready.
 
Canoearoo
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03/30/2021 08:43PM  
RT: "I own an expensive, very nice, live vest. But I admit that I do not wear it all the time. If the day is sunny and warm and the water is calm, It is sitting behind my seat, and not on my body. It goes on during wavy days, stormy days, rainy days, and any time I just feel it should be on.


I was my stations rescue swimmer (no, not the type in that one movie, no helo jumps for me) in the Coast Guard. So even though my swimming game is strong, I of all people, should know better. Even on nice days you can flip the boat and have it konk you in the back of the head... then that's all she wrote."


Maybe try an inflatable for the nice days?
 
JWilder
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03/30/2021 08:54PM  
trstuck: "
Canoearoo: I edited my post because I realized it was not exactly every year I post a post like this, just a lot of years, and I didn't want to sound as preachy and the original edit sounded a little to preachy. I am not trying to trick people into wearing there life jackets, but though stories maybe others can learn without a hard lesson."



Just thought you'd like to know that because of this thread I have decided to purchase a PFD to replace my current one and wear it always. Thank you!"


This thread (and others like it) are planting seeds of wisdom, and that wisdom is bearing fruit in those willing to heed the warnings of those who wish to share there experiences.

Every situation provides an opportunity to educate and improve. Take a minute to celebrate...

JW





 
Argo
distinguished member (248)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/30/2021 10:33PM  
JWilder: "trstuck: " Canoearoo: I edited my post because I realized it was not exactly every year I post a post like this, just a lot of years, and I didn't want to sound as preachy and the original edit sounded a little to preachy. I am not trying to trick people into wearing there life jackets, but though stories maybe others can learn without a hard lesson."
Just thought you'd like to know that because of this thread I have decided to purchase a PFD to replace my current one and wear it always. Thank you!"

This thread (and others like it) are planting seeds of wisdom, and that wisdom is bearing fruit in those willing to heed the warnings of those who wish to share there experiences.

Every situation provides an opportunity to educate and improve. Take a minute to celebrate...

JW "

For me, I'm like RT just mentioned. When the water is warm it usually goes behind me.

But I have been paddling for as long as I've been playing hockey - about fifty years. About fifteen years ago I watched a teammate lose a couple of chicklets as he took a puck in the mouth. To this day, recreational men's hockey only requires the use of eye visors, not full face protection. At that time I used a half-visor too. As Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone's got a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Or gets a puck or a stick in the mouth.

So I switched right then and there to a full face shield. At first it sucked. Your game suffers a bit. But you suck it up and thank the lord that you don't have to learn the hard lesson the way my teammate did.

So I will get a good comfortable PFD and suck it up when I'm roasting in the summer heat. And I will curse you Canoearoo for being so clever and persuasive :)
 
RunningFox
distinguished member (128)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/31/2021 08:08AM  
Two days ago on March 29, two twenty-one year old men lost their lives while canoeing on lake Winnebago near Fond du Lac, WI. The winds were gusting 45, water temps were in the mid forties, and waves were four to five feet. The pair called 911 at approximately 8:30 p.m., while still in the canoe. Authorities could immediately pinpoint their location and sent help (patrol cars at first and then a rescue boat). The canoe and personal items have been recovered but not the men — the two men had not taken any flotation devices and were never seen. Recovery efforts remain underway.

A very sad situation. I think drownings & hypothermia should be studied in school. It just keeps happening too often.

 
Canoearoo
distinguished member(2475)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/31/2021 09:35AM  
Taking my kids to the local beaches over the years it amazed me that I was one of the few parents requiring my kids to wear a life jacket till they could swim. Usually the other parents would bring their kids with only a float and then sit down and watch their phone or chat with friends. Over the years I myself have saved 5 kids from drowning do to their parents inattentiveness. They usually just looked up from their phones or from chatting with their friend and said thanks. Then told their child to play closer to shore.

You all need to watch drowning doesn't look like drowning

And read this article
 
Canoearoo
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03/31/2021 10:22AM  
Argo: "So I will get a good comfortable PFD and suck it up when I'm roasting in the summer heat. And I will curse you Canoearoo for being so clever and persuasive :)"

If you are too hot then take a quick swim. The PFD can help keep you cool as well when it is wet.
 
AdmAckbar13
senior member (57)senior membersenior member
 
03/31/2021 11:06AM  
Like most everyone else, I used to think I was invincible when I was younger and often sat on my lifejacket or had it stowed under my seat. When my daughter was born I started to wear a lifejacket at all times; not only because I wanted to be around for her for a long time but also because I wanted to set a good example. It's such a simple thing to do that can have such a huge impact on yourself, your family and your friends. Seems silly to me now that I used to be so careless.
 
07/20/2021 10:38AM  
 
Gaidin53
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07/20/2021 10:53AM  
Very good swimmer! I was a lifeguard for years in high school and college.

We had to wear them at Northern Tier when I want for my 1st trip a few years ago since college. We even had to wear them swimming at Northern tier. I enforce it now religiously on trips I lead with family! I also enforce it for swimming with some room for removing it while being supervised depending on the swimming location. Wet boots are always on while swimming which is part of the reason it makes more sense to swim with the PFD on. You don’t swim nearly as well or float as well wearing the boots!

I’m leading a trip with 3 other adult men friends of mine end of August and we’ll have to see how it goes with enforcing the we paddle with them on and the other rules I follow like wearing the boots. Those rules make so much sense on canoe trips in the BWCA and Quetico.

Ryan
 
mmrocker13
senior member (98)senior membersenior member
 
07/20/2021 11:34AM  
mgraber: "Have been a constant PFD wearer for many years and, other than getting older and wiser, there were three incidences that changed my mind.

One did not involve a canoe, but did involve going into 45 degree water. I found that I could barely move anything within five minutes and was lucky to get out.
We do frequent spring trips so I will never go without.

The second was intentionally capsizing my canoe in windy conditions and discovering that the canoe drifted much faster than most, if not all, swimmers could swim, especially in wet clothes. You will not always be near shore.

The last is also not canoe related, but is boat fishing related, so probably still appropriate. I was trolling for walleye on a calm sunny day a mile off shore in a 20 ft Lund. I was not wearing a PFD. I hooked a large fish and, while fighting it, stepped onto the front deck where I slipped on the vinyl floor and fell overboard. I still had my rod and the fish as I watched my boat troll away from me.

Why am I still here? My buddy was with me and circled back to pick me up, but I often fish alone. I doubt I could swim a mile, especially wearing boots, a flannel shirt and jeans."


I wear one 100% of the time in the canoe (the why is another story, but like many others', involves suddenly going from calm conditions to not calm in a blink). I've gotten in the habit of also wearing a PFD while we're moving in our regular boat, as well. Your story reminded me of earlier this summer when we were up on Birch (Babbitt Birch) in our 18 ft lund. Birch has a lot of rocks and snags (and small to edium walleye :D), but is very well marked both with buoys and on maps. It's also not a busy lake like the tourist lakes, or even like Vermilion. We were done fishing for the day, and just putzing back to home, lollygagging and looking at cabins, probably 75 feet off shore.

We hit an unmarked rockpile that was right below the surface and highsided. As the wind picked up and we continued to teeter, unable to get off the rocks, we had to wait and hope someone came by to pull us off. Just being in the boat was precarious as we rocked and rolled like a busload of angels balanced on the head of a pin.

The hazard wasn't on any map; no marker in the water (and we can only assume the cabin owners nearby knew where it was). If we had been going any faster than a stroll--if we had hit it going 45 mph (hell, even 25 mph)--it could have been ugly.

Not the reason I wear one, bc I already had gotten in the habit, but certainly reinforced the smart decision to do so :D
 
ockycamper
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07/20/2021 11:46AM  
I am always amazed at the number of posts that say they don't wear one because they are a really good swimmer.

We go up in September when temps are cooler. We really only have one hard fast rule for the group of men our church brings up. PFD's must be worn, and fastened on, all the time when on the water. No exceptions.

We also don't allow inflatables. If someone goes in unconscious the game is over. Also, we want to be able to "tow" the swimmer by the PFD if needed to the shore.
 
07/20/2021 11:51AM  
Gaidin53: "Very good swimmer! I was a lifeguard for years in high school and college.


We had to wear them at Northern Tier when I want for my 1st trip a few years ago since college. We even had to wear them swimming at Northern tier. I enforce it now religiously on trips I lead with family! I also enforce it for swimming with some room for removing it while being supervised depending on the swimming location. Wet boots are always on while swimming which is part of the reason it makes more sense to swim with the PFD on. You don’t swim nearly as well or float as well wearing the boots!


I’m leading a trip with 3 other adult men friends of mine end of August and we’ll have to see how it goes with enforcing the we paddle with them on and the other rules I follow like wearing the boots. Those rules make so much sense on canoe trips in the BWCA and Quetico.


Ryan"


I'd settle that issue as soon as possible, preferably before leaving.
 
R1verrunner
distinguished member (116)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/20/2021 12:17PM  
boonie: "Gaidin53: "Very good swimmer! I was a lifeguard for years in high school and college.



We had to wear them at Northern Tier when I want for my 1st trip a few years ago since college. We even had to wear them swimming at Northern tier. I enforce it now religiously on trips I lead with family! I also enforce it for swimming with some room for removing it while being supervised depending on the swimming location. Wet boots are always on while swimming which is part of the reason it makes more sense to swim with the PFD on. You don’t swim nearly as well or float as well wearing the boots!



I’m leading a trip with 3 other adult men friends of mine end of August and we’ll have to see how it goes with enforcing the we paddle with them on and the other rules I follow like wearing the boots. Those rules make so much sense on canoe trips in the BWCA and Quetico.



Ryan"



I'd settle that issue as soon as possible, preferably before leaving. "


No PFD worn NO going on trip settles it.
 
PeaceFrog
senior member (75)senior membersenior member
 
07/20/2021 12:41PM  
boonie: "Pretty much the same story as everyone else. No big dramatic event of my own. Never wore one when I was younger, it was just a seat cushion. Learned to swim about the time I learned to walk (literally - thanks Dad). Other people's stories, older and wiser, experience. You go whitewater rafting here and wear one or you don't go. You never see a guide without one (they ain't crazy). You not only wear it, but the guides make sure it's strapped on tight enough they can haul you - not just the PFD- back in by the straps. If you flip/fall out in a class3+ rapid, you'll be damn glad it's on and on tight. "

+1
 
doorbluff84
member (17)member
 
07/20/2021 12:59PM  
Have two little boys. Switch flipped and now everybody in my canoe wears a PFD. Every. Damn. Time.
 
brp
distinguished member (146)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
07/20/2021 01:02PM  
I was only able to get one night away from home and therefore was gong to miss my annual college buddy BWCA trip. I decided to make it work anyway. After a few hours of paddling on the first day. I was dropped off at The Devil's Cascade and hiked around 8 miles on the Sioux Hustler Trail back to the car....wearing a life jacket.

This forum has made me a PFD "radical." I always wear one and I am the only adult wearing one on my extended family's pontoon outings. It is a subtle way to tell my kids I love them.
 
07/20/2021 01:04PM  
I was a lifeguard in high school, trained lifeguards while attending college. Swim team in High School and College, NCAA letter in swimming -

Wear a life jacket 100% of the time while in a canoe or Kayak.

I am leading two Boy Scout groups in August and with a planning meeting schedule for tonight we will be discussing how wearing lifejackets on this trip is not optional. Seeing this thread was a great reminder.
 
KawnipiKid
member (14)member
 
07/20/2021 02:11PM  
Forty years ago in the Quetico, I helped get two guys to shore after they swamped and completely disappeared in a rapids and then surfaced downstream in an eddy with PFDs still on. We stupidly thought we could run the rapids after portaging our gear. Our folks and the Boy Scouts had always required we wear a PFD. What was "pretty much" habit by then in our late teens became non-negotiable and dead-serious business that day. Still is.
 
mjmkjun
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07/20/2021 05:35PM  
Inflatables. You really do forget you have one on. I don't take mine off at portages.
 
4keys
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07/20/2021 05:56PM  
Years ago we rarely wore them, only in storms or whitewater. Then we had kids. We made the kids wear PDFs, so then we had to also so we wouldn't hear every kids lament - "why don't you have to?"

And after reading all these stories for years on this board, we still wear them, Even on calm water while fishing, even with no kids at home anymore.
 
corvidologist
senior member (54)senior membersenior member
 
07/20/2021 06:40PM  
How big was the fish, though?
 
07/20/2021 09:02PM  
4keys: "Years ago we rarely wore them, only in storms or whitewater. Then we had kids. We made the kids wear PDFs, so then we had to also so we wouldn't hear every kids lament - "why don't you have to?"


And after reading all these stories for years on this board, we still wear them, Even on calm water while fishing, even with no kids at home anymore.
"


Also the PFD now are so much more comfortable than the old PFD and some had those air pockets in and over time they became very inefficient.
Spend the extra money to get exactly what you want-than wear it.
 
Canoearoo
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07/20/2021 10:20PM  
 
Duckman
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07/21/2021 06:31AM  
Count me in as a wearer. All day when I'm moving. I'm usually solo, so it's an obvious good practice. And my shoulders appreciate it on portages.

I make me dog wear hers, so it'd be silly for me not to wear mine.
 
07/21/2021 07:21AM  
Mcsween’s story changed things for me.
 
yellowcanoe
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07/21/2021 07:39AM  
Have heard of too many paddlers lost and they were not wearing them. Herb Pohl being one of many. Some on this board too.

Doing capsize and realizing that I am not an octopus capable of putting on the PFD in the water and hanging on to the boat and paddle at the same time is an eye opener. I can get my PFD on in the water but it takes two hands. Where are the extra hands to grab the boat and paddle before they escape?
 
Savage Voyageur
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07/21/2021 09:05AM  
timatkn: "Mcsween’s story changed things for me."

Yup, Mikes story finally convinced me to always wear mine too.
 
Bromel
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07/21/2021 03:37PM  
When I started planning trips to the Boundary Waters in 1989 for me and my brothers, none of us wore PFDs. We all brought those foam seat cushions to sit on. My first trip to the Boundary Waters was in 1984 with the Boy Scouts and the guides told us that if the canoe every flipped, "just stay with the canoe because it floats." This is what I always told my brothers. Just hold on to the canoe.

In the early 1990s, my brothers and I were on our annual trip and had just crossed south from the Quetico into Basswood Lake. The wind was blowing down the length of the lake towards the East and there were big rollers coming down the lake. We were paddling our Old Town Canadienne south and parallel to the waves trying to cut around a point. Well, we got caught in the trough of a big wave and it tipped both of us out. The canoe stayed upright and was immediately blown away by the wind. We had no chance to "stay with the canoe."

My older brother was in a T-shirt, jeans and boots and he was doing OK treading water. I, on the other hand, also had a thick fleece on. I was struggling to tread water and stay afloat. The wet fleece felt like a heavy anchor around my neck. And my big hiking boots and jeans didn't help any. I felt really bogged down.

All that I could think about was getting that fleece off. So I yelled at my brothers in the other canoe that I was going under to take off my fleece. I knew that the second I stopped treading water I would sink like a rock. So I put my hands back over my shoulders and tried to pull the fleece off as I usually do. But the wet fleece stuck to me like glue. I pulled and pulled and I finally realized that it was not coming off. Then I looked up toward the light and realized that I was about 20 feet underwater. I was deep and fully dressed with boots, jeans and a thick wet fleece. This is about the time that my life flashed before my eyes. I knew this situation was getting serious. I had been struggling a lot and needed air fast.

I kicked my legs like a mother and swam towards the surface. I just had to get to the surface then figure out the next step. I kicked and swam and struggled. Finally, I broke the surface and was completely exhausted. I had never been a good swimmer. But I remembered that when I was in swimming lessons when I was a little kid, I would just do a back float if I was tired. So I took a huge breath and and just relaxed and tried to float on my back. It worked and I floated for another minute until the other canoe arrived to help me. I can't tell you how relieved I was to grab that canoe. That's the closest that I have ever come to dying.

Needless to say, everyone in our group always wears a PFD. You never know when something might happen. It's just better to have it on than to not have it on. If you think that I'm a sissy for wearing a PFD, I can show you hundreds of news reports of people dying because they didn't have a PFD on.



 
Bromel
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07/21/2021 03:37PM  
When I started planning trips to the Boundary Waters in 1989 for me and my brothers, none of us wore PFDs. We all brought those foam seat cushions to sit on. My first trip to the Boundary Waters was in 1984 with the Boy Scouts and the guides told us that if the canoe every flipped, "just stay with the canoe because it floats." This is what I always told my brothers. Just hold on to the canoe.

In the early 1990s, my brothers and I were on our annual trip and had just crossed south from the Quetico into Basswood Lake. The wind was blowing down the length of the lake towards the East and there were big rollers coming down the lake. We were paddling our Old Town Canadienne south and parallel to the waves trying to cut around a point. Well, we got caught in the trough of a big wave and it tipped both of us out. The canoe stayed upright and was immediately blown away by the wind. We had no chance to "stay with the canoe."

My older brother was in a T-shirt, jeans and boots and he was doing OK treading water. I, on the other hand, also had a thick fleece on. I was struggling to tread water and stay afloat. The wet fleece felt like a heavy anchor around my neck. And my big hiking boots and jeans didn't help any. I felt really bogged down.

All that I could think about was getting that fleece off. So I yelled at my brothers in the other canoe that I was going under to take off my fleece. I knew that the second I stopped treading water I would sink like a rock. So I put my hands back over my shoulders and tried to pull the fleece off as I usually do. But the wet fleece stuck to me like glue. I pulled and pulled and I finally realized that it was not coming off. Then I looked up toward the light and realized that I was about 20 feet underwater. I was deep and fully dressed with boots, jeans and a thick wet fleece. This is about the time that my life flashed before my eyes. I knew this situation was getting serious. I had been struggling a lot and needed air fast.

I kicked my legs like a mother and swam towards the surface. I just had to get to the surface then figure out the next step. I kicked and swam and struggled. Finally, I broke the surface and was completely exhausted. I had never been a good swimmer. But I remembered that when I was in swimming lessons when I was a little kid, I would just do a back float if I was tired. So I took a huge breath and and just relaxed and tried to float on my back. It worked and I floated for another minute until the other canoe arrived to help me. I can't tell you how relieved I was to grab that canoe. That's the closest that I have ever come to dying.

Needless to say, everyone in our group always wears a PFD. You never know when something might happen. It's just better to have it on than to not have it on. If you think that I'm a sissy for wearing a PFD, I can show you hundreds of news reports of people dying because they didn't have a PFD on.



 
hobbydog
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07/21/2021 04:27PM  
It was about 20 years ago fishing right after ice out. I am always in the stern but this one time my buddy wanted to try the stern. Walleyes were biting as we drifted jigs across a bay. I had a big one on and when I got it to the boat I brought it to my buddy in back to net. He reached for it with the net on the port side and as he pulled it back into the boat he kept right on going over on the starboard side. I flipped over backwards with the canoe. Water temp was probably low 40s. My life jacket was floating in front of me. The island we just drifted by was about 40 yards away and the wind was taking us further away. No time to put the life jacket on as the far shore was a mile away....had to make it to the nearest shore asap. My buddy had did the gasp reflex in the cold water and sucked a lot of water in...no lifejacket either and was the aluminum canoe in tow. It was fully submerged, held up only by floatation. Not sure how I got it to shore but when I did, my lungs were burning and I was completely gassed. My buddy wasn't able to help much as he was still coughing up water. We were very fortunate we capsized near an island. Everything stayed in the boat except the fish I had caught. Somehow he got out of the net and unhooked himself. I can remember as clear as day watching him swim out of the bow of the canoe and under my chin. It was a warm sunny day and soon we were in dry clothes and back out fishing. I have worn a life jacket ever since.....except for the time I lost it 3 days into a 10 day trip....but that is a different story.
 
07/21/2021 04:35PM  
Wonder how many even think about a what if situation of capsizing. Also if any wind you will go one way and the canoe will go another. Anyone ever practice tipping over in shallow water?

Like I said get a PFD you like.
 
R1verrunner
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07/22/2021 05:59AM  
Pinetree: "Wonder how many even think about a what if situation of capsizing. Also if any wind you will go one way and the canoe will go another. Anyone ever practice tipping over in shallow water?


Like I said get a PFD you like.
"


When I Younger I practiced flipping and recovery a lot in shallow and deep.

What's shallow any thing you can stand up in below chest level is fairly easy to recover from.
 
07/22/2021 10:59AM  
3 instances come to mind.
I was paddling with Gunsmoke on Seagull with the wind in some pretty big waves and dropped my paddle and two things caught my attention, 1st was how fast the paddle was left behind and thinking that I wasn’t sure could swim into the waves and wind to rescue it and if I could, it would be almost impossible without a life jacket. The other problem was trying to see the paddle as it was disappearing between the waves. If I’d been actually in the water it would have been almost impossible to keep track of it.
Another time I was with a new new and we dumped the canoe and trying to drag the canoe into the wind to shore was impossible even with a life jacket on,
Lastly Gunsmoke and I were practicing an eddy turn and dumped the canoe in rapids. I was caught in under tow and I didn’t panic as I had my life jacket on. I remember thinking just hold your breath and eventually you’ll pop to the surface. Without the life jacket I would’ve been in full mode and might not be eating this post right now. And these rapids were on the mighty Root River so not like some major white water or major river!

 
schwartyman
senior member (63)senior membersenior member
 
07/23/2021 10:20AM  
Pinetree: "Wonder how many even think about a what if situation of capsizing.
"


This is a great question. I haven't much. This year my group thought of it on a layover day with nice weather, so we practiced right in-front of camp.

5/5 people got back in our 2p kevlars, but only 1/5 could get in the fiberglass solo. The solo is my canoe and I wasn't the one who could get in. Definitely opened my eyes, and made me think more. More practice in my future.

I cannot imagine the panic id feel if i tipped in that solo with no life-jacket on. Wear em.
 
07/23/2021 10:31AM  
Thanks, I hope that article got a few people to wear their PFD’s
 
MikeinMpls
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07/23/2021 11:18AM  
I wonder if there is a correlation between BWCA experience (trips, knowledge, etc) and wearing a pfd. In other words, the more experience, the more likely one is to wear a pfd. As I noted above, I would estimate more than half of trippers I see are not wearing pfds. Of those not wearing pfds, a lot of them are paddling outfitter boats. I know I flaw in my reasoning is that paddling an outfitter boat does not equate to less experience. Nevertheless, I'd be very curious about this.

Mike
 
07/23/2021 08:14PM  
I like the pockets to keep a ditch kit (firestarter, headlamp, emergency blanket and sealed packet of nuts). I also have a cut-away knife attached to the outside in case I get tangled in lines from the boat. Plus it looks badass. Except mine doesn't have a point so I don't stab myself. It's sharp though.
 
Dolpho
member (10)member
 
07/24/2021 01:23PM  
I and my family wear a PFD almost all of the time.. the ONLY exception is dead of summer trip with warm water, sun shining, no wind, the lake is like glass, and we are dressed in shorts, tshirt and lite weight footwear. And only then if the canoe is fully loaded with our gear traveling for a campsite. Same day and conditions after the canoe is unloaded to go fishing or exploring then PFDs on.

I have tested the stability of our canoe when loaded and unless I’m practically standing on a gunnel it isn’t going over.

So if this scenario is viewed as too risky I would ask if you allow anyone to swim while on your trips? Can they freestyle swim with their head in the water and rotate to breath? Do you allow anyone to swim completely under water? “ Dive” and put their head under while standing knee deep to take that first plunge?

As mentioned in the OP, drowning is the inhalation of water. I see less risk in paddling in the very narrow set of circumstances listed above then swimming and frolicking in the water at our campsite.
 
07/24/2021 02:22PM  
When swimming you are usually close to shore and don't have to worry about grabbing hold of gear or the boat, or being separated from it by a gust of wind. Not having a firm rule about PFD's can lead to rationalizing in a more hazardous situation since nothing happened before. Just my 2 cents. That's not to say I've never left it unzipped on a very short paddle to the next portage on a small lake, but it's still not best practice. If nothing else I'm paranoid and feel like I'm jinxing us to have an accident the one time I get complacent.
 
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