Clothing To Be Seen In

Don’t worry, while The Boat Galley is not turning into a fashion blog.

But . . .

Do you ever stop to think about what you’re wearing when you’re doing any of the typical activities associated with being on the water or cruising? Things like kayaking, dinghying, paddleboarding, or walking alongside a road where the cars are whipping by at 50 miles per hour?

I’ve read lots of magazine articles talking about brightly colored foul weather gear so that people can be seen if they go overboard, but I haven’t seen anything about wearing bright colors to avoid being hit when doing water sports or walking on the shoulder of a busy road.

But what you wear has a huge impact on when and whether other boaters or cars see you. When Dave and I moved into our current house — in a rural area — we had some close calls on our daily walks, with cars not slowing down one bit as they passed us. I happened to see some “hunter orange” ball caps in a local store and bought them for the two of us; all of a sudden most cars slowed down before they passed us.

The lake we live on has lots of waterskiers and bass boats speeding around. Our gray dinghy just isn’t very visible, and we had some high speed boats coming closer than we were comfortable with. I started wearing my orange hat when driving the dinghy, and had far fewer scares.

We got a couple of OSHA/ANSI yellow t-shirts to wear when riding our bikes on the country roads, and again we get far more respect from cars. (We got the t-shirts a size larger than normal so we can wear it over other clothes and then take it off and look presentable when we get where we’re going.) I also wear mine on the dinghy on high traffic weekends such as 4th of July and it makes a noticeable difference.

More recently, I’ve been doing a lot of paddleboarding. Now, I have the only paddleboard on our lake; boats aren’t used to watching for them. Often Dave is out sailing our Y-Flyer while Paz and I are out on the board. A couple of days ago he remarked on how much more visible I was when wearing our bright yellow life jacket instead of the gray one. And after he mentioned it, I realized that the bass boats had given me a little more clearance when I was wearing the yellow one. It’s now become my preferred SUP PFD.

Be Seen is a Great Safety Rule: Bright clothing = less chance of being hit while having fun!

Interestingly, when we got Paz’s life jacket, we chose hot pink instead of a dark blue (why would anyone design a life jacket that’s dark blue?). I thought that it would be really visible on the water. Admittedly, Paz isn’t very big, but I was surprised when my friend Jan took this picture of the two of us at how much more visible my yellow PFD is.

All of this has made me much more conscious of wearing bright colors — generally yellow, orange or neon green — when I’m doing something in a high traffic area. When I have to replace the hat and t-shirt, I’m planning to get ones that aren’t just bright, but which also have reflective stripes on them.

Of course, my local stores no longer sell the OSHA/ANSI neon t-shirts, and the hats are available only occasionally during hunting season. Amazon to the rescue again! I’ve found a few that aren’t expensive and look to be great for improving my visibility:

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  • Lupari Sue
    Posted at 21 July 2014 Reply

    Very important if you are going to and from shore in a busy anchorage…or have kids on boards in busy anchorages…

  • Seagal
    Posted at 21 July 2014 Reply

    Very good suggestions Carolyn! While cruising, we had “chaps” made for our dink, I think it would be a good idea to have the chaps made from a neon color with a few reflective stripes. I might even add some large neon patches, since our chaps are already made.

    Thanks for the links!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 21 July 2014 Reply

      That is an absolutely BRILLIANT idea (oooh, bad pun). But again one of the reasons I love TBG — building on each other’s ideas!

  • Gloria Rooney
    Posted at 21 July 2014 Reply

    I have often wondered why off-shore jackets and gear made for women was often white or light blue, when they really should be red or yellow (of course with lots of reflective patches). Good reminder about the hiking, biking and small water toy apparel as well. Keep making us all smarter (and safer).

  • Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor
    Posted at 22 July 2014 Reply

    As always, great tips Carolyn! The idea about wearing an orange hat while out and about on the roads is a great idea.

  • Relinda Ted Broom
    Posted at 15 March 2016 Reply

    When i/we shop for boat clothes they are always bright colors. We always want to be seen in the water… Not blend in.

  • Rick Garvin
    Posted at 15 March 2016 Reply

    Great article. We started wearing a high viz best when we walk out dog at night. Cars definitely slow down, even the suburban psychos who drive 50mph on our 25mph streets.

  • Stephanie Starner Greiner
    Posted at 15 March 2016 Reply

    My parents lived aboard here for a few years. So fun to visit!! The dockside
    We met a wonderful man named captain jack, he must be almost almost 100. He moved his boat down to a different marina a few years ago. If you’ve met him you’d know it. . Enjoy!

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