What life jacket do you recomend... - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 08-16-2007
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Question What life jacket do you recomend...

I currently have a "full" life jacket that I use when I'm dinghy sailing but trying to break into racing I see a lot of people have these cool "off shore" lifejackets that are very low profile. I guess they need a cartridge to inflate, and then once they are used you replace the cartridges?

something like this:
http://shop.sailnet.com/product_info...=life%20jacket

What do you recommend or use?

Also how universal are the cartridges, and how much do they run for in general (the cartridges)? Are they one size fits all or what?

Any help or advice is appreciated! Cheers!
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Old 08-16-2007
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Hello,

The PFD you are referring to is called an inflatable. As you guessed, they use a cylinder with CO2 to inflate the PFD.

There are two basic kinds, manual and automatic. The manual kind required you to pull a lanyard to inflate. The automatic have a disc that dissolves when you hit the water and then automatically inflates.

Some of the inflatables have built in harnesses for use with tethers.

I recently bought a manual inflatable right here in Sailnet. The one I bought is here:

http://shop.sailnet.com/product_info...flatable%20pfd

It was on sale when I bought it and is comes with a whistle and light.

It is comfortable and I wear it when racing, single handing, or feel like I need it.

I don't know much about the re-arm kits, but I believe they are pretty cheap.

Good luck,
Barry
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Old 08-16-2007
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They aren't "cool" off-shore lifejackets, they're auto-inflating (usually) PFDs. (There are manual-only versions, as well--such as the one your URL points to.) The advantage is they aren't bulky and uncomfortable during normal wear.

Personally, I don't see much sense in the manual-only versions. If you get knocked off the boat, and you hit the water unconscious, well...

The auto-inflating ones have a lanyard for manual activation. Both the manual and auto-inflation ones have a mouth tube for really manual inflation. (And to keep the pressure up if you find it has a small leak.)

Probably the top of the line in these, right now, is the Mustang with integral safety harness and "hydrostatic" auto-inflation release. But they're also very expensive. The advantage to Mustang's "hydrostatic" auto-inflation release is that, allegedly, simply getting wet won't trigger it. The "trigger" has to be submerged in at least six inches of water, IIRC. The "normal" auto-inflation trigger has a "pill" that, when it gets wet, disolves and releases the pin. There have been the occasional report of these triggering when the PFD got extremely wet for an extended period. Others report not having had that problem.

My wife and I have the Mustangs with hydrostatic release, but w/o the integral harness. To be completely honest: The only reason we bought those was the store had them mis-marked, so we got them for the price of the non-hydrostatic Mustangs. We would've been hard-pressed to justify the real cost.

Either system is the same in that, yes, once it triggers, you have to replace the inflation mechanism. I understand that isn't cheap, either. Also, even if they're not activated, they have a "life span." You need to replace bits of them (just the trigger mech?) every few (?) years, I believe.

I'm not sure, but I'd bet the inflation mechs and gas cartridges are proprietary to each manufacturer's product lines.

Had we not lucked into the deal we did, I would have satisfied myself with either SOSpenders or Mustangs with the "normal" auto-inflation system. If I had my druthers, I'd go with the Mustang with hydrostatic release and integral safety harness .

Jim

Last edited by SEMIJim; 08-16-2007 at 10:50 PM. Reason: More info added
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Old 08-16-2007
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I wouldn't use an auto-inflating lifevest for dinghy sailing. If it's a breezy day, it could be awfully expensive to replace the cartridge every time you capsize... I'd use the manual version on normal days and then use a full-on vest on breezy days (when you may be more likely to be surprised by the boom hitting you in the head).
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Old 08-16-2007
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I would agree with Labatt. For dingy sailing find something that likes to get wet that will save your life if needed. An auto inflatiable is a big shock when it goes off when not needed. Been there ...did that.

However, my grand daughter thinks that our auto inflatables are great. Sne likes the comfort when on board, and loves testing them every other year when I push her off the dock. Best of both worlds for her.
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Old 08-16-2007
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The Mustang is real nice. I wanted it but couldn't justify the cost, particularly as I was looking for one for me and one for my wife. I went with the top of the line West Marine model, I think it's the 4000. It is an auto inflatable with harness. They're normally $240 but they go on sale a couple times a year and I picked it up for $160.

It's comfortable enough that I don't mind wearing it and I put it on whenever we're shorthanded and I leave the cockpit.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by labatt View Post
I wouldn't use an auto-inflating lifevest for dinghy sailing. If it's a breezy day, it could be awfully expensive to replace the cartridge every time you capsize... I'd use the manual version on normal days and then use a full-on vest on breezy days (when you may be more likely to be surprised by the boom hitting you in the head).
Yeah, I meant to mention that, and forgot. But I'd forgo the manual version entirely. If I was dinghy sailing, I'd just wear a full-on vest and be done with it.

Jim
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Old 08-17-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tommyt View Post
I would agree with Labatt. For dingy sailing find something that likes to get wet that will save your life if needed. An auto inflatiable is a big shock when it goes off when not needed. Been there ...did that.

However, my grand daughter thinks that our auto inflatables are great. Sne likes the comfort when on board, and loves testing them every other year when I push her off the dock. Best of both worlds for her.
It's simple for me: Am I alone or not?

Alone in the Zodiac? Full vest Mustang PFD...no gadgets, no cylinders. It's similar to what kayakers wear and yes, it's hot and it's heavy-ish. It requires neither my attention nor a magic pill to work.

In the Zodiac with crew? Manual inflate PFD. The lightest and the easiest to use when sitting on a pontoon.

Alone in the boat? The Stearns auto-inflate PFD with D-rings. I clip on in any kind of weather. I nearly fell off the low side once sailing solo in October in a 35-knot beam reach doing 7 knots with no PFD. Know what I was doing? Retrieving fenders that had rolled off the deck so I wouldn't look like a newbie! I was lucky I only lost some finger skin when I hauled myself up to release the mainsheet and not my bloody life.

With crew on the boat? Frequently nothing, but in more than 15 knots or 15 degrees of heel, on goes the PFD, either the Stearns or the Mustang inflatables. My five year old isn't allowed on deck without it, and no longer needs to be told (or to hear "one hand for the boat!).

One thing to be aware of: Auto-inflate PFDs are considered some type of explosive by the airlines, and you can't take the cartridges on board. I didn't have time to get a replacement cylinder in Portugal, so on my first salt-water delivery, I was essentially PFD-less (although there were plenty of floating vests aboard.) Next time, I'd just bring the floating vest.
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Old 08-17-2007
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First—as noted previously, inflatable PFDs don't make any sense for dinghy sailors... dinghy sailors get too wet for even the hydrostatic release ones to really make sense.... the refill kits range in price from about $19 for the older automatic salt-pill type inflators, to about $50 for the automatic hydrostatic release inflators.

If you do get one for use on a bigger boat...get one with an intergral harness... they're much less of a PITA than a separate harness and PFD...and most of the time, when you'll be wanting a PFD, you'd also be wanting a harness. Also, reduces the number of things you have to carry or wear.

I would second/third there being little if any point to getting a manual inflatable... too many variables could prevent manual inflation... automatic is much better IMHO.

If you do get an inflatable, I'd also recommend trying it out in operation... jump into the water in a protected anchorage and see how it works... it is quite an experience...and better that you have an idea what will happen before you need it. Buy at least two refill kits and keep them aboard—preferably in waterproof containers. I highly recommend vacuum sealing them—as it prevents corrosion and the humidity from affecting/degrading the salt tablet in the older variety of automatic triggers.

BTW, the cartridges, tablets and other parts to the recharge kit are fairly specific to a brand or model... so get the right one... and check the fit.

Finally, if you do get one and use it.... check to make sure the cartridge is fully engaged/screwed in... in many cases, I've seen them where the cartridge is only partially engaged and if the vest triggered, it would either not inflate or lose much of the gas and only inflate partially. Get in the habit of doing this every time you put on the vest.... it could save your life.

BTW, most airlines have a specific policy on carrying the CO2 cartridges aboard. You have to check with each airline. FAA regs say that you're allowed to carry two cartridges on a given flight, but some may require you check the cartridges as baggage, others require that they be carried on.
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Old 08-17-2007
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only one choice for me

I've been in the water with a water-ski vest helping someone recover a jet ski, and since then I bought a complete set (8) of Stearns Merchant Mate II life vests. Yes, they are bulky but qualify as Type I vests with 22 lbs buoyancy. I never have to worry about whether the vest will inflate. If I had to spend any time in the water, its what I would want to have on. You can get them for less than $80. Are you going to buy an inflatable for all the people who can be on your boat? Or hand out one of those itty bitty cheapy orange life vests to your guests?
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