Having undergone an unintended in-the-water situation while singlehanding just 10 days ago, I have updated my understanding and...hopefully...my practice.
Won't go into all the details, but on a blustery morning on the Chesapeake while exiting a tributary, I snagged a trout line
float while on autopilot
and on the foredeck readying to sail.
One thing led to another, and eventually I found myself ejected into the water from my Caribe dingy. Thankfully, I was wearing my Mustang
model 3184 inflatable PFD with a hydrostatic release (takes immersion to 4" to inflate).
Just as advertised, it inflated quickly and rolled me onto my back. That's the good news. The bad news is that with the vest inflated, your ability to maneuver and do anything useful is GREATLY diminished. There was quite a current running at the time, and the boat was pounding up and down in the chop.
To make a long story shorter, I found that it was IMPOSSIBLE in my state of exhaustion (I'd been working from the dingy for some time trying to free up the snag) to get back into the dingy. At most, I could get one leg part way over a tube, but lacked the power to do anything else.
I briefly thought about, but thankfully discarded the idea of removing the vest; that would have been tantamount to suicide, IMHO.
I could not get back on the boat, due to its high freeboard and to the fact that I stupidly had left the boat, gotten into the dingy, and failed to deploy my s/s boarding ladder
. I could not reach it from the water.
My "backup plan", had not help come along in the form of a crabber with a big cage, was to simply roll on my back and paddle to shallow water about 50 yards away...if I could make it.
Looking back at the stupidity of the morning, I resolved in the future to do the following:
1. never, ever leave the boat without deploying the boarding ladder
2. try to fashion some means of releasing the folding boarding ladder
from the water, in the event of an inadvertent overside;
3. follow my own teachings as a sailing instructor and never leave the dock or anchorage with the sail covers on or otherwise not ready for INSTANT hoisting of the sails
4. continue my growing love affair with the Mustang 3184; wear it all the time.
And, yes, when sailing offshore I use jacklines (flat 2" wide nylon) and harness
clipped to the Mustang
PS...my son later suggested that it might have been possible to deflate one of the tubes on the dingy -- if I could have reached the valve -- enough to get into the RIB. Maybe someone ought to try this.