life vests on ferries and boats in Nica?
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Aug 3, 2012 7:35 AM Last Post By: SoloHobo
Apr 30, 2012 2:33 PM
life vests on ferries and boats in Nica?My wife and I will be in Nicaragua for 30 days in June/July. We've been there once before but not with much time so we didn't take any ferries/boats, etc. Do any of them have PFD's (Personal Flotation Devices, i.e., life jackets or floating seat cushions, etc.) aboard? Is it a paranoid idea to bring inflatable life vests for my wife and I to keep handy when on long boat rides? We had a scary experience several years back in Guatemala on a lancha in Lago de Atitlan, so I'm just wanting to feel a bit more safe when riding old, ill-equipped boats/ferries in the future. Anyone have input/suggestions regarding this?
Apr 30, 2012 5:22 PM
1I guess it depends on the boat/route. But your concern is very valid. I always advise people in developing countries like this region to know where the the PFD is located. I think the main issue is the Corn islands in the open ocean though, though there have been accidents over the years in Lago Nicaragua to and from Ometepe, those enclosed fast boats are a death trap, a PFD wont help you much in those coffins on water. The regular car ferry is nice though.
Apr 30, 2012 5:47 PM
2Your concern doesn't sound crazy to me. Much though I've enjoyed my visits to that part of the world, the fact is that safety standards do tend to be pretty relaxed.
So if bringing life vests would make you feel more comfortable and enable you to enjoy the trip more (especially in light of your previous experience), I say it's a good idea.
May 1, 2012 9:05 AM
3Impromptu PFD: remove pants, tie bottom of pants legs together as tight as possible. With open waistband behind your head, thrust pants up and over you, capturing air in the process. Cinch your belt around waist to keep air in. Place head through the new 'hole' in between tied pant legs. Float happily.
May 1, 2012 9:15 AM
May 1, 2012 9:39 AM
May 4, 2012 6:03 AM
6I live on Ometepe Island and travel by the launchas( small boats) and ferries regularly. They are all equipped with life jackets in the overhead compartments. In fact, there is a sign that says, "These are not pillows." I try to avoid taking the small launchas, only because when sitting on the upper deck, the wind blows the diesel into my face and makes me sick. The ferries to and from Ometepe are air-conditioned, and have comfortable bus seats. When the lake is rough, sit in the middle section of the ferry on the second deck.
About a month ago, one of the ferries broke down in front of our house ( we live on the beach), another ferry pulled up beside it and towed it into Moyogalpa. As far as I know, there has never been an accident where a ferry sunk and people died. You will enjoy your trip to Ometepe. It is a magical entrance with two volcanoes looming above the horizon.
If you are afraid to travel by ferry, our new airport should be open in November. You can fly directly to Ometepe and land right in front of Concepcion volcano. Personally, I think I'd take the ferry. Happy travels.
May 5, 2012 12:59 AM
7I also think it is a valid concern. We took the boat from Papaturro to San Carlos - 3 hours mostly across Lake Nicaragua - last January, and there were 19 life jackets onboard for over a hundred passengers. Some of the locals were complaining loudly, especially to the soldiers that came and inspected the boat before departure. The soldiers looked very concerned too, so they probably decided to take a larger bribe than usual before sending us on our way.
I would have felt a touch safer if I had had life jackets of my own for my family.
On other boat trips (to and from Ometepe, down the Río San Juan and in the Corn Islands), there seemed to be enough life jackets for everyone.
May 8, 2012 8:13 AM
8A valid concern indeed. It all depends on the diligence of the appropriate authorities in enforcing the safety codes. On the Bluefields to Pearl Lagoon trip by panga, the naval prefecture officials were very diligent in ensuring that all passengers had a working life vest that was properly fitted. On the return leg, as there didn't seem to be any officials at the time of departure, it was full speed ahead without safety instructions or any attempt to ensure passengers had their life vests on. The lack of safety, either by not providing safety instructions or actual life vests was particularly glaring in the sea taxis between Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island, no interest at all in the safety of the passengers. This can be of special concern because the swells are large and fast, if someone falls overboard, it would be very difficult to retrieve him/her before becoming a shark appetizer. To make it worse, the pangero on the return leg Little Corn Island to Big Corn Island was well and truly drunk. The private excursions that one could hire from Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge (South margin of Lake Nicaragua) usually provide life vests. I have been told that after the local hotels made several complaints about drunk pangeros on the Corn Island-Little Corn Island route, the safety issues improved somewhat.
Aug 2, 2012 5:08 PM
9A very valid concern, especially if you can't swim. I can't imagine getting on some of those decrepit boats not knowing how to tread water for a LONG time. But you could probably buy a cheap inflatable device and while its nothing like a lifejacket, it might save a non-swimmer's life in a calamity. Learn to tread water people! Its so easy. Far more important than knowing how to swim. Lots of YouTube videos can instruct you. Lots of local pools to practice in before your trip. In fact, in teaching people how to swim I found it very advantageous to get the treading water comfortable first as this removes the fear of "going under" that always preoccupies them when trying to grasp swimming concepts and techniques.
Aug 3, 2012 7:35 AM
10People always they think if they can swim, they will be fine, but actually, it you knocked on the head, or have a broken limb, or the waves/currents are strong, a PFD makes a huge difference.
My wife is not is a good swimmer, and we are headed to canoe the Platte River today in Leland Michigan at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, so not only is her PFD a must, I have to make sure when we do tip over, she does not panic..and save my fishing rod and tackle....haha
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