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How You Can Get Properly Fitted Life Jackets—For Free

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Sea Tow

A happy beneficiary of the Life Jacket Loaner Program. Photo by Brian Baker, regional manager for Vinings Marine Group

Last month, we brought you some tips for making sure that the life jackets on your boat are the correct size for every adult and child you regularly bring aboard. This month, we’re following up with a way that you can get correctly fitting life jackets for surprise guests: The Sea Tow Life Jacket Loaner Program.

The idea behind the program is that it’s impossible to have every size life jacket in your stowage locker, for every possible guest. At the same time, you want to be sure that everyone aboard your boat wears a life jacket that fits correctly. Our Life Jacket Loaner Program provides access to lots of different-size life jackets. You borrow them when you need them, and we trust you to bring them back when you’re done.

Some of the Sea Tow franchises taking part in this program include Sea Tow Hampton Roads, Va.; Sea Tow Fort Loudon, Tenn.; Sea Tow Boston; Sea Tow Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Sea Tow Lake Murray and Sea Tow Georgetown, both in South Carolina.

“It’s actually getting quite a bit of use, especially on the children’s size life vests,” said Capt. Chad Walters, who offers the loaner program at his Sea Tow Fort Loudon franchise. “People who don’t have kids generally don’t keep kid-size life jackets on their boats, so when guests with kids come aboard, we have those available.”

Capt. Ed Schrader, who runs Sea Tow Hampton Roads, also says infant and children’s life jackets are among the most popular in his loaner program.

“We’ve built this tree, I guess you’d call it, to hang the life jackets on,” Schrader says. “We put these trees in local marinas like the Vinings Group that are supportive of us, at the dock and in the offices—places where they can be available to the public. We have six or seven of the trees, each of them holding about eight life jackets.”

Most of the life jackets get returned as requested, Schrader says.

“We’ve had to replace a few that came back a little dirty, but that’s expected,” he says. “We’ve had some not come back, but not enough that it’s a problem. We find that people are pretty receptive and responsible, especially when the boaters don’t have children’s life jackets for their friends. It’s a necessary item. It bothers us to see kids on the water without life jackets, so this is a way for us to help our boating community.”

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