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post #2 of Old 10-29-2004
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Are you buying the PFD for compliance reasons...or because you really want to improve your safety? The right answer is the latter, of course. And given that the only PFDs that work are the ones that are routinely worn AND provide adequate buoyancy, then the most likely choices will be inflatables. This still leaves you lots to pick from, but be sure to also look at the integral harness PFDs. They cost more but will last almost indefinitely and, by slippin on one piece of gear, you''ll add to your safety in two ways when also attaching yourself to the boat (e.g. to make a trip forward).

One suggestion: when you pick a product and purchase it, buy at least two extra bobbins and bottles. Yes, that will increase the price but it''s going to be well worth it because you''ll get six things for the add''l cost.

Before the weather turns colder, put on the PFD and hop in a pool or over the side. Everyone wearing (and depending on) an inflatable PFD should at least once experience USING an inflatable PFD. First, you''ll learn what its like to be wearing the thing when it inflates. Second, you''ll discover that it most likely will be VERY uncomfortable, restrict easy breathing and limit movement (when e.g. trying to scamper into a raft) unless you adjust the inflation pressure. And third, you''ll learn how to adjust it, in the water, by deflating it a bit. (Deflating the unit is something that, if your first use of a inflatable device is when you fell overboard and you really do need it, is NOT an intuitive action. Some people have suffered medical problems from sustained overinflation, but damn if their going to let go of some of that air!) Fourth, you''ll be able to better adjust the straps for actual use while in the water.

The 5th benefit is that you will now learn how to rearm the device. It''s easy but easier to do it a 2nd or 3rd time, which is why it''s nice to have unlimited time to do it a first time ashore. And the 6th benefit is that you''ll still have a spare bobbin and bottle to carry with you on the boat, should you need one when underway.

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