“Gone Coastal” column By Amanda Nalley. I hate to admit it, but for years, our two neon-orange over-the-neck lifejackets (aka personal floatation devices or PFDs) acted primarily as seat cushions in our 40-year-old canoe. We didn’t have much money, and the thought of spending $40 on a personal floatation device seemed… unnecessary. We told ourselves the things everyone tells themselves: we are really good swimmers, this is how it was when we were growing up, we aren’t “required” to wear them, etc.
Of course, we had a life jacket for the dog, who was a poor swimmer, but otherwise we crossed our fingers and forged ahead.
That was until this year, when on our way with a 5-year-old for her first ever canoe trip, I decided to invest in a new life jacket I hoped I could wear comfortably in the hot Florida sun and not get chafed while paddling.
As someone who grew up around the water, I get it. I can’t tell you how many times as a kid I was shoved into a giant orange lifejacket, sweating to death, feeling like I could barely move. But honestly, today’s personal floatation devices are different.
Next time you visit a local tackle shop or sporting goods store, check out the lifejacket aisle. You’ll find not only a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes, but some are built right into fishing vests or hunter coats. Others are inflatable and as compact as a scarf or fanny pack until they hit water, when they automatically fill with air.
Also, pockets! Oh, the pockets. One for my phone, one for my snacks. Hidden pockets inside pockets. Anyone who has ever reached into the depths of a dry bag for something the size of a pocketknife will know… pockets are your friend.
For more on lifejackets, including where to get them and more, check out Wear it Florida MyFWC.com/boating/safety-education/wear-it-florida.
The quarterly Gone Coastal column is one of many ways that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Marine Fisheries Management is helping recreational anglers understand complex saltwater regulations and learn more about saltwater fishing opportunities and issues in Florida. We are also available to answer questions by phone or email anytime, and we would love the opportunity to share information through presentations with recreational or commercial fishing organizations. To contact the FWC’s Regulatory Outreach subsection, call 850-487-0554 or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.