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  #1  
Old 09-05-2006
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Life Jacket, Life Vest, PFD....Recommendations

I am still very new to sailing and have decided it is time to buy my own PFD and quit bumming them off others. I am a pretty big guy so I need something that has some room in the belt. I would also like something the self rights and would keep my face out of the water if I got knocked cold. Any and all suggestions as well as criticisms of PFDs would be welcome.

Thanks!
Matthew
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Old 09-05-2006
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I am a fan of the inflatable PFDs. The best ones also incorporate rings for attaching a harness just in case. Make sure it's automatic, not manual.

Mike
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Old 09-05-2006
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Matt-

What PFD to get really depends on what kind of boat and what kind of sailing you'll be doing. An inflatable PFD isn't really recommended for dinghy sailors, like those who sail Lasers, as the boats are so wet, you'd be having to recharge the PFD rather regularly. Likewise, a Type III vest is not really that great an idea for a boat that is going bluewater.

It would also help if you defined big guy a bit better. Are you 7' and 140 lbs., or 5' and 300 lbs, or something in between.

For a PFD to be self righting, it usually needs to be either a Type I (best with most floatation of the foam types, but really uncomfortable), a Type II (a bit less flotation, not as likely to flip you over, and still pretty uncomfortable), or a Type V. Type V's are inflatables and must be worn to count in your USCG inspection as a PFD.

There is a new hydrostatic release PFD, believe Mustang makes one, that will not trigger no matter how wet it gets until it is a certain distance under the water's surface. They're still a bit pricey though.

If you're going to get an inflatable—make sure it has both a harness (with crotch strap preferably) and an automatic inflator. Personally, I like the Spinlock Deckware Deck Pro Harness with integrated PFD. Very nice, and very comfy...also fairly easy to get in and out of. However, it is NOT USCG Approved, so carry a Type I, II or III PFD with you to make it legal.
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Old 09-05-2006
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Matt, there's no problem finding PFDs in larger sizes. You have to make some personal choices about what's important to you.

For convenience the automatic inflatables are tops, but they do require some vigilance about inspection and maintenance, and it will cost you a fast $30 to replace the mechanism when it pops--accidentally or otherwise. And you've got to carry a spare, so you still have a working vest after it has popped. ANd if you're going to sail offshore or after dark, it pays to get one with a harness built in, which is going to bump your price to something like $200++

I consider manual inflatables worthless, since a large number of MOB's get sent overboard after or with an impact and are unconcious when they hit the water.

With traditional PFDs, Type1 are so bulky that they are impractical for most recreational sailors. Type2 seem to get ignored, and Type3 are certainly convenient and stylish and affordable--but they don't offer much floatation, they're really intended for "I fell off my skis and the boat is coming right back for me."

You may want to try some on, in the water, to see how much floatation you need. It takes a surprising amount of floatation, located low down on your body, to get your mouth above the water and spray and keep it that way. And a crotch strap to keep the vest "down" and make the most of what floatation it has.

My personal choice? An inflatable PFD with harness, bought before they were USCG approved in the US, because I'd used floatation devices in SCUBA and knew how reliable they could be. And with anything bulkier...I know I'd just never be wearing it on a regular basis. Nothing really works, unless you're going to wear it.

Practical Sailor did a review of them, might be available online. The Uk Crewfit came out tops for them but oddly enough it still is not USCG approved, or popular in the US.
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Old 09-06-2006
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Well, has usual I am always learning from your responses, thank you!

Concerning more information on my side of things, I am still just learning so I will probably be on a dingy a lot and a small sloop, no offshore sailing yet. As for my size, I am 6’1” and about 275 lbs give or take a couple pounds.

Thanks again,
Matthew
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I'd go with the Mustang inflatable PFD with automatic Hydrostatic release. It has the least chance of activating accidentally, while you are sailing a dinghy and has the option for a sailing harness IIRC.

The one I've linked to is their "LIFT" version, which has additional buoyancy to help keep your head further out of the water. I have a couple of these on my boat for use by my crew. They are USCG approved IIRC.
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Old 09-06-2006
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Micetic - do you anticipate wearing the inflatable at all times, or is it for emergency use only?
If you are going to wear it all the time, you have to go with an inflatable or a vest - if you are in a dingy, most sailors use vests like http://www.layline.com/prodinfo.asp?number=ESRA which are designed to be worn with comfort. If you are not in a dingy, you can go with an inflatable.

if its for emergency use only, buy the best type I http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs...roductId=13096 and equip it with a whistle, light and mirror.
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Matthew, in a dinghy you'll often be wet and occasionally in the water, so I'd avoid the water-activated ones. Wearing a Type3 and leaving a Type1 handly for when you need it--or when you spill the boat--might be a good compromise.
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Old 02-17-2007
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I am going to wake up this old topic rather than making a new one.

After many years of owning a manual Sospenders inflatable I got myself Mustang autoinflatable PFD last year. Today I decided to test it in a bathtub - see if it actually inflates (better find out now than if I have to use it).

Well, sure enough it inflated nicely - but here is the problem. It sits nicely on me when packed, but when inflated the damn neckhole is so tiny it almost choked me. And I wore it on my bare neck essentially. Were I wearing my foul weather jacket - that would be it.

Now, how do I find an inflatable PFD that will be reasonably sized and won't close off my air pipes? I can't actually inflate them in store, can I?

Any advice would be welcome.
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Old 02-17-2007
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Brak-
Most (all?) of them also have a manual inflator and deflate mechanism, expect that you might have to deflate it somewhat for a btter neck fit. (If you really want to learn what a pencil neck means, try an airline life preserver. Can't fit it over your head unless you're a small woman or child, and that's without even inflating it. UGH.)

I was lucky, the Crewfit guy at a boat show I was at (that long ago) was ambushing us sailors. "Here, try this on" and then WHOOSH he hit the inflator tag. Grabbing live demos from the crowd. Well, at least I knew it fit.

By the way, when I bought my HL foulies I couldn't figure out wtf the little loops on the front by the zipper flap were for. First time I put my Crewfit on over the jacket, I found out. The PFD has little toggle buttons that button into the jacket--ensuring the correct position. And, yes, it fits around the collar. Worn bare, it rides on the back of the neck though. (New ones may be better.)

Boat show, demos! Blow it up manually if the guy doesn't want to pop a cart. The Practical Sailor review and equipped.org reviews also both say you really need to try it on in the water to get the straps adjusted properly--if you want it to float you face up. For pretty much all of them. And manual inflation is fine for that, as it also is to test once in a while to make sure there are no leaks.
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