Life Jackets


All children under 13 years of age must wear Coast Guard approved life jackets, that fit, when underway on a recreational vessel*, unless they are in an enclosed cabin or below decks.


If a child is less than 4 years of age or under 50 pounds, the personal flotation device SHALL feature ADDITIONAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS, as appropriate for an infant, toddler, or young child.


* (see “Maryland Waters” below)


wearit3Each year, more than 80% of those who die in boating accidents drown, most of them because they were not wearing life jackets. That means each year, hundreds of lives could be saved by simply wearing PFD’s.

Life jackets really do save lives, but they won’t work if you don’t wear them. Little kids are so fast, that even when being closely supervised, they can be overboard in a heartbeat. Adults can make decisions about whether or not they want to wear life jackets while they’re on or near the water, but kids depend on adults to make those decisions for them. Make sure children are wearing a properly-fitted life jacket with crotch straps, while in a boat or around the docks.This simple act of love can make for a fun day on the water, and most importantly a happy trip home!

A reminder from “Commander Bob” at

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

All recreational boats must carry one wearable PFD (Type I, II, III or Type V PFD) for each person aboard. A Type V PFD provides performance of either a Type I, II, or III PFD (as marked on its label) and must be used according to the label requirements. Any boat 16ft and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must also carry one throwable PFD (Type IV PFD).

PFDs must be

  • Coast Guard approved,
  • in good and serviceable condition, and
  • the appropriate size for the intended user.



  • Wearable PFDs must be readily accessible.
  • You must be able to put them on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.).
  • They should not be stowed in plastic bags, in locked or closed compartments or have other gear stowed on top of them.
  • The best PFD is the one you will wear.
  • Though not required, a PFD should be worn at all times when the vessel is underway. A wearable PFD can save your life, but only if you wear it.
  • Throwable devices must be immediately available for use.

Inflatable PFDs

  • Inflatable PFDs may be more comfortable to wear.
  • The best PFD is the one you will wear.
  • Inflatable PFDs require the user to pay careful attention to the condition of the device.
  • Inflatable PFDs must have a full cylinder and all status indicators on the inflator must be green, or the device is NOT serviceable, and does NOT satisfy the requirement to carry PFDs.
  • Coast Guard Approved Inflatable PFD’s are authorized for use on recreational boats by person at least 16 years of age.

Child PFD Requirements

  • Some states require that children wear PFDs
  • applies to children of specific ages
  • applies to certain sizes of boats
  • applies to specific boating operations
  • Check with your state boating safety officials.
  • Child PFD approvals are based on the child’s weight. Check the “User Weight” on the label, or the approval statement that will read something like “Approved for use on recreational boats and uninspected commercial vessels not carrying passengers for hire, by persons weighing __ lbs”. They can be marked “less than 30”, “30 to 50”, “less than 50”, or “50 to 90”.