Mainers -- Bill to require WEARING pfd's

Greg Nolan

Mainers -- a proposed bill to require WEARING pfd's AT ALL TIMES on the water.

The Maine legislature is at it again. On January 21, 2009, a bill (HP 143, LD 164 was referred to the Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and has not yet been reported out.

The official summary of the bill: "This bill makes it mandatory, with certain exceptions, that everyone in a watercraft wear a personal
flotation device." "Everyone" means operator and passengers; "watercraft" includes canoes.

The only exclusions are for campers in a certified summer camp learning to canoe under the direction of a camp counselor, log rafts carrying not more than 2 people, boats taking people to and from moored boats, and commercial boats that have the required pfd's for their passengers.

At present, wearing pfd's is required for all watercraft only on a couple of stretches of the Penobscot and Kennebec Rivers, and additionally while canoing on part of the Saco River between January 1 and June 1. In other words, at present canoeists are, for the most part, not required to wear pfd's at all times, just have them in the canoe.

Now I always have pfd's in my canoe, and I often wear one when appropriate (white water, windy conditions, power boats around, etc.). But I am a good swimmer, comfortable in, around, and even under the water, and frequently do not care to be encumbered by a pfd, as when paddling through the calm, windless waters of a bog or quiet dam empoundment on on a warm summer day.

The penalty for non-compliance -- ". . .a civil violation for which a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500 may be adjudged."

Do we really need this?
I don't know, Peter... I saw a guy with a PDF pinned to his shirt. He wasn't wearing PFD. What's really sad was that his PDF wasn't even readable- it had gotten all wet! Maybe you're right, though. Not many people wear PDFs, whether they're in the office or in a canoe, so you probably won't find a drowned guy wearing a PDF.

:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
Now I always figured wearing a pfd would make it easier to find a drowned person. Otherwise they sink. In Michigan the legislature from time to time entertains changing the helmet law for motorcylists. The helmet law, I favor. the pfd law I oppose. However I always advocate wearing a pfd. And always wear one myself. Mostly. But there are times I could just have it handy. Call your legislator. They actually do listen. Mostly.
It must be a joke

If I am crossing Moosehead, sure, I'll wear one. If I'm rafting on the Dead, sure, it's on... If I am fishing at Gilberts, it's in the canoe but come on, wear it? Not unless the wind really kicks up and even then I'm not so sure.
Maybe the law is to protect New Jersey and Massachusetts summer residents from hurting themselves.:D
Not to be too political but, now that the pendulum is swinging back the other direction, you can expect more of this type of legislation.

Here in MN, they are talking about "upgrading" the current seatbelt law to be a "stopable" offense, currently it can only be added onto reason to stop a vehicle.

From a truck camper BB I visit, it was posted that Oregon is considering legislation that would make it illegal to put any non eom part on your vehicle, including tires and wheels. (One of the 1st thing truck campers do is upgrade their tires to better carry the load.)


I respectfully suggest that without convincing, unbiased data to back up such claims, this “you can expect more” statement is an unfair blaming of one end of the political spectrum, and an unreasonable politicization of our outdoor pursuits. You could just as well have gleefully written a message applauding the likelihood that the “pendulum swinging in the other direction” will stop business interests from destroying our natural areas.

I, for one, am sick of finger-pointing politics. By the way, I oppose laws mandating the wearing of PFD (we can talk about motorcycle helmets by email), and I vigorously opposed licensing of personal, non-motorized watercraft in our area. It is these specific issues we should concern ourselves with. Instead of castigating one political party or another on general principles, perhaps we would best serve ourselves by devoting our individual and collective efforts to specific issues that affect us as paddlers, campers and otherwise outdoorspeople. What practical good comes from blaming the pendulum or a political party for a particular possible new legislative measure? Instead, maybe we should identify potentially onerous legislation, determine how we believe such legislation would harm or help our interests and outdoor environments, and then urge legislators (whatever their political affiliation) to do what we feel is best.

No offense intended… Just my quick thoughts on the subject.


No offense taken.

I wasn't necessarily attempting to place "blame" or "point fingers", but to just point out what is happening.

And yes, the “you can expect more” is an opinion, but it seems a low risk, accurate one.

As one who lives/grew up in a very liberal state, I kinda root for less regulation, but yes, there does need to be a balance.


BTW, I view myself as an Independent, and not constrained to follow either parties leanings.
Cost of enforcement??

Which state was it that wanted to register all canoes> (Michigan I think) After two years they found that the cost of doing that was enormous and did away with it. Ask your legislators how much money they are willing to budget
for enforcement. I have found that most of the people who would be required to the enforce the law don't want to waste their time on such stupidity. If you are on the water and an enforcing officier calls you ashore, do comply, but make him or her waste a lot of time waiting for you to paddle ashore.
Many, if not most, boat-related drownings involve one or more of the following -- excessive alcohol consumption, cold water, dangerous wind and/or water conditions, and inexperience.

Most of the time when I am canoeing, I am in no greater danger than I would be at a public beach or swimming pool, where, I believe, more drownings actually occur than in boat-related accidents. And just as I am willing to assume the risks of swimming in a pool without a pfd (goodness, I might hit my head on the bottom of the pool!), I am willing to run the risk having to swim to shore or to recover my pfd (something I am quite capable of doing) in the unlikely event that I were to fall out of my canoe -- something I have not done unintentionally for many, many years. But when canoeing in conditions that warrant it, I do wear the pfd (or even wear a different pfd that does not require inflation).

This past summer, on a warm, virtually windless day, Deborah and I enjoyed a lazy paddle on an impounded section of the Piscataquis River where, as usual, we saw not a single other boat. When returning, we noticed a state ranger waiting at our take-out at the little-used Dover-Foxcroft town boat ramp. Deborah was wearing her Sospender inflatable type III pfd; mine was on the floor of the canoe. Not seeing it, the ranger asked if I had a pfd, and I showed him my inflatable. He asked to see it, and when handed it, seemed to read the label, and then grumbled (incorrectly) that it was not a type III. After a short lecture on how it would be better if I wore the pfd at all times, he left.

Perhaps he had been waiting to see if we had violated any state fishing regulation and felt he somehow had to justify his hanging around when he saw that we had not been fishing. I don't know. But he made no inquiry as to my canoeing or swimming ability before giving his presumptuous little lecture, and all in all, wasted some 20-30 minutes of his work day, and irritated a member of the public who generally supports the police, reasonable safety regulations, and environmental law enforcement (my own field).

Just as law enforcement in the field should involve good judgment and sound exercise of discretion, so should legislation. That ranger, and this proposed legislation, give little evidence of either.

Take a look at the video of the 2007 Assembly paddle-by (use the search thingy above) -- are all those WCHA members who chose not to wear a pfd negligent? Irresponsible? Acting dangerously? Do they deserve a $100 fine? Is legislation really required to control such risky and wild behavior?

Should Maine rangers really spend their time with such things?
PFD to a Novice

Years ago the janitor who cleaned the building i worked in bougnt a used boat
i talked with him the following monday after his first weekend using it he said that his sholders hurt from wearing his life vest all weekend i inquired if it was an adult vest he said that it was marked right on it adult i asked him to bring it in so i could look at it he did the following night and guess what it was a boat cusion the square one with two handles to hold on to Phil had put his arms thru these two straps and wore it all weekend phil was 6 foot 4 inches tall with very wide sholders we both laughed a lot over this when i corrected him on its use. i still cant figure how he managed to get that life cusion on
bet that warden would have read him the riot act.
In Michigan the registration law was passed during a winter session of the legislature in the late '80's. (1980's) We first learned of it in the spring and people were being ticketed. We organized and Marched on Lansing and paddled the Grand River with our unregistered boats. After a few speeches we portaged our canoes to the steps of the capitol building. We got some media exposure and our picture in the magazine formerly known as Canoe Magazine. We contacted our legislators and they passed a bill that summer making canoes once again exempt from paying registration fees.

It might have been another state that took two years to rescind.

Also in Michigan, we have quite a few canoe liveries. Thousands of people with zero experience and gallons of booze shove off to their desitny. Nearly all of them do not wear the pfd. Some of them drown. I do not know all the specifics, but last spring with very high water one livery owner closed down because he thought conditions too dangerous. His competitor stayed open and a customer drowned. I do not know if the customer was wearing a pfd or not and unfortunately am only relying on info from a fly fishing guide who works the river, so my story is 2nd hand. Correct me if I am wrong. Also, every canoe rental comes with a release of liability statement that reads something like "If I drown myself I won't sue you." Livery canoes are required to be registered btw. Anyway, If anyone should have a mandatory life vest rule it should be liveries, which may affect business. If anyone has clout to lobby state government it would be livery associations. As Maine seems to be ground zero for recreational paddling it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
I haven't seen anyone wearing a seat-cushion float on their back since last fall. This may be more common than anyone realizes...

The odd thing is that, should somebody capsize while wearing the seat cushion like this, the cushion would turn them face down in the water. The old Mae West-type (horse-collar) PFDs had the big float chambers up front, so the wearer's face would be out of the water. Too tough of a concept for some? Yes, Survival of the fittest...