Guilty as Charged

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this one there is a gal walking past a rack of life preservers on her way down the gangplank. She is following a bunch of anglers who are also heading down to a boat, the trio being equally bereft of a life preserver. Rods, check. Tackle box, check. Lures, check. Sunblock, check. Life preserver…um????

The line of horse collar life vests are about as appealing as an apple at Halloween. I’ve got to admit, they are what I have traditionally kept under the hatch in my boat. Uncomfortable. Restrictive. Cumbersome. It’s hard to move around in them! They’re popular because they work and they keep me within my budget, but we’ve seldom put them on.

There have been a few times when we’ve really needed them. One time was when a circuit blew on my 4-stroke 90 and the outboard caught fire. I extinguished the blaze, radioed in for a tow, and set the anchor in the deeper water near an inshore island. The seas were big and the life preservers were ready for action. But it was hard getting to them with all the stuff piled high. It took a while, but we got them on.

Nowadays, life preservers are more streamlined, ergonomically designed, and they are comfortable like a t-shirt. The buoyancy that they add is tremendous, most of them are completely stylish, and they’re designed so that you can wear them all day. You don’t look or feel like a circus clown. You just go about your business and if something bad happens, like unusually stormy seas, engine problems, a boom that swings faster than planned when coming about among or other issues, you’re prepared.

Maybe it’s time I invested in new gear. When everyone on board is wearing PFDs then the battle is won. And in the end, isn’t that all that matters?

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at