Renting or owning an inflatable raft can be great fun. From whitewater escapes to just floating around in the water, inflatable rafts can provide hours of enjoyment. No matter what you decide to do with an inflatable raft, there are a few important points of safety to consider.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
There are a number of different styles of personal flotation devices, commonly referred to as life jackets, or PFDs. If you are using your inflatable raft on any public body of water, whether it's a river, lake, or whitewater stream, maritime laws all over the world require a PFD for every single individual on the boat. These laws apply to all forms of watercraft including inflatable rafts.
Types of PFDs Include:
- Offshore life jackets that also provide a neck support
- Lightweight life vests that do not provide neck support
- Throwable PFDs like ring buoys, cushions, or horseshoe buoys.
- Buoyant Clothing—PFD approved jackets, shirts, and pants.
Each PFD that you have on board must meet maritime standards and will have a tag attached to indicate such. Be sure to have one item per person on your raft. Contacting the maritime agency in your area can provide you with specific details for the type of flotation device required depending on your rafting venue. Remember, in case of an emergency, a PFD may save a life. Be prepared.
Avoid Swimming Areas
Stay out of swimming areas. It is a violation, often with an accompanying fine, to bring an inflatable raft into a swimming area. People can get trapped underneath, making it a potentially dangerous situation. Stay out of swimming areas that are marked as such.
Make certain that if you are using an inflatable raft as a diving station that you follow all maritime guidelines for marking your divers and making those markers clearly visible. An inflatable raft will not be as visible to other boaters using the waters; therefore, extra precautions are required for diving with an inflatable raft.
Some inflatable rafts can have a small engine attached. Know before you go when it comes to understanding waterway restrictions for motors. Areas where motorized boating equipment is restricted also prohibit inflatable rafts that have an engine attached.
Inflatable rafts can be an excellent way to get out on the water, but there are a few important safety precautions to consider. If you have any questions, consult with your local water safety board before you head out onto the water.