Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Personal Flotation Devices

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Every pleasure vessel operated upon the waters of New York must carry at least one USCG approved Type I,II or III Personal Flotation Device (PFD), or fife jacket as they are more commonly known, for each person on board. All life jackets on your vessel must be:

  • Serviceable - free of rot, tears, punctures, waterlogging and all straps functional;
  • Readily accessible - quickly reachable in an emergency situation, never kept in plastic bags or under lock and key;
  • Appropriate size for the intended wearer - check the USCG approval label for information on the intended user for a particular PFD.

Wear Requirements for Personal Flotation Devices

The following persons must wear a Type I, II, III or V PFD of proper size and serviceable condition:

  • Children under the age of twelve unless they are in a fully enclosed cabin. The PFD must be the appropriate size for the child.
  • Anyone operating or riding on a personal watercraft (Jet Ski, Wave Runner, or similar craft)
  • Anyone being towed behind another vessel such as waterskiers, tubers, para-sailing, etc. You are exempt if you are on a disabled vessel and being towed.
  • Anyone riding in a pleasure vessel less than twenty-one feet, including rowboats, canoes, and kayaks, between November first and May first.

Types of Personal Flotation Devices

  • Off-Shore Life Jacket (Type I PFD)
    Effective for all waters, this type of lifejacket provides the most buoyancy. They are designed to turn most unconscious wearers in the water to a face-up position. There are two sizes: adult, with 22 lbs of buoyancy; and the children's size with 11 lbs of buoyancy.
  • Near-Shore Buoyant Vest (Type II PFD)
    The near-shore buoyant vest is intended for calm, inland water, where there is a good chance of a quick rescue. This type of lifejacket will turn some wearers over, but not reliably. The adult vest provides 15.5 lbs of buoyancy, and the child's vest 7 lbs.
  • Flotation Aid (Type III PFD)
    Good for calm, inland water, where there is a good chance for immediate rescue. These are designed for special recreational activities such as water skiing. The Type III provides the same buoyancy as the Type II, but without any turning ability. They come in many colors and styles, and in general, are the most comfortable type of lifejackets available.
  • Throwable Devices (Type IV PFD)
    These PFDs are designed to be thrown to a person in the water, and grasped and held until rescued. These devices are not intended to be worn. At least 1 Type IV PFD must be carried on all vessels 16' or greater in length.
  • Inflatable PFDs
    The United States Coast Guard is now approving both automatic and manually inflatable PFDs for use on recreational vessels. Please keep in mind that while they are comfortable and lightweight, they are not suitable for non-swimmers, waterskiers, youths under the age of 16 and riders of personal watercraft. Always consult the approval label on any PFD to determine if it is approved for the activity in which you plan to use it.