"when I grew up sailing as a kid on Barnegat Bay, we virtually NEVER wore PFDs..." I have a long list of things we did as kids, and we all survived just fine. 'Cept for the ones who didn't, but nobody's asking them. Kind of a flawed way of thinking about safety.
Seems you've misunderstood my point, I am certainly not advocating any sort of 'return' to the rules (or lack therof) regarding stuff like PFD usage in the days of my youth. And, for the record, I raced on Barnegat Bay from the time I was 9 or 10, until I was 22 - and I'm pretty positive no one racing in the BBYRA was ever lost prior to the time PFD usage finally became mandatory...
Let me try another analogy... Another thing my family did throughout my youth, was driving back and forth from NJ to Vermont pretty much every weekend to ski. Everyone drove the big rear-wheel drive offerings out of Detroit back in those days, which were generally pretty terrible vehicles in the snow. Most everyone laid several bags of cement in the trunks back in those days, to compensate for the lack of traction... I'll never forget the seismic shift that occurred in the late 60's, when a member of our ski club bought a front-wheel drive Oldsmobile Toronado, it was akin to a sailor using GPS for the first time... :-)
Funny thing was, in all those trips back and forth in snowstorms and worse, it was remarkably rare for drivers to wind up going off the road... They understood the limits and capabilities of both their own abilities, and the vehicles they were driving, and drove accordingly... They understood it was up to THEM to keep the car on the road, and not today's modern technological advances like all-wheel drive, traction control, ABS, and so on to keep them 'safe'...
Fast forward to today, and driving up to Vermont in the winter (or, to Lake Tahoe, as I more often do these days with my brother and his family). Absolutely astonishing, despite the remarkable advances and capabilities in the sort of vehicles that people are now driving, how many are still winding up in a ditch... :-)
See the point I'm trying to make? Maybe, just maybe, the folks in our ski club back in the day simply knew how to DRIVE
? Or, that us kids who grew up sailing on places like Barnegat Bay 50 years ago developed an innate sense of how best to avoid falling off the boats we were on, instead of a reliance of some piece of gear
to keep us aboard ?