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Old 02-28-2012
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Hammer vs Pro-sensor (paper disk)

Have pretty much decided to get a Spinlock 170N Hammer life jacket but....
is there anything I've missed?


The Plan: 1-2 years of boat deliveries and shakedown cruises in the Med before a transAtlantic to the Caribbean. I'll need to be able to work all positions on 28-40 foot yachts in all weather. In the heaviest offshore foul weather gear.

2 Questions:
1) What's the best firing head for an offshore inflatable life jacket for the above plan?
Hammer or Pro-sensor (paper disk)?
Pros and cons?


2) Is there any reason to go for 275N (eg if crew weighs about 140 lbs)? How likely is it to trap air in the all weather gear and need more oomph to turn over in the water? (This is what the sales guy said the 275N was for).

Would really appreciate feedback and others' experiences.
Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-28-2012
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"Is there any reason to go for 275N"
Yes. Simply put, the more buoyancy you have, the further above the water your face and nose will be. You CAN drown from inhaling wind-blown water mist and spray in rough weather, and every inch you get further above the water helps. More buoyancy, less water inhaled.
And in the event that someone else is in the water with you, you will find that having enough buoyancy to support both of you is a very nice thing as well.

"Hammer" is the job that puts a spring-loaded flap over the whole mechanism, so it stays drier until submerged. That's better than a plain aspirin tablet, although I take issue with them for calling it a "hydrostatic release".

I haven't hread of paper disks but Crewfti and others use a spring-loaded piercing needle which in turn is held compressed by some papier-mache wrapping. Once the papier-mache gets soggy, the spring bursts it off and the needle pierces the cylinder, inflating the vest. I've had and used one for years and from what I am told, it was more expensive than the "aspirin" but far more reliable against false alarms. I confess, I added a wrapping to make sure it wouldn't go off except when submerged--as opposed to any conceivable splash.
But the bobbins have always been harder to find (in the US) so the Hammer may be a newer better way to go now. Still has a weakness, if there was any moisture inside the head, that aspirin tablet is going to get soggy and inflate. Either way, travel with at least one spare repack kit.

Whichever you get, if it doesn't have crotch strap or leg straps, it is useless because it will ride up on you when in the water. Use the straps! Practical Sailor tested a number of vests some years ago, with any of them whether you float "face up" is a matter of properly adjusting the vest, and having enough buoyancy. Some foul wx gear has little tabs on the front, that fit the toggles found on some PFDs, so they position correctly. (Crewfit and Henry Lloyd used to do this.)

You may want to consider taking your PFD and cloths into a pool or pond, inflating it with the oral inflator if you don't want to waste a repack it, and see how it fits and works. Then rinse with fresh water before repacking. Much easier to trust it once you've seen how it works and floats you. And of course, that gives you a way to inflate it and let it sit for 48 hours, to make sure there are no leaks. Even a new PFD can be DOA.
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Old 02-29-2012
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Dear hellosailor,

Thank you very much for your advice! This helps a lot - really appreciate the detailed answer.

I take it you have the 275N then? Do you find it is significantly bulkier? or interferes with completing tasks? or it's something you just get used to?

Thanks again,
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Old 02-29-2012
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Kitty, I'm not sure what my antique has in terms of lift, it predates the "newton" vests. An uninflated vest doesn't have much bulk. The only point where it really impacts you will probably be chafing the back of your neck when you are in light clothing. I won't tell you how many years to took me to figure out that some adhesive velcro and a scrap of good silk solved that problem.

In the water, inflated, EVERY vest of every type becomes a mixed blessing. If you want to float, you want lots of buoyancy so you can bob around. But if you are trying to swim, you want to let out as much gas as you can and slim it down. Any full Type-I or fully inflated PFD is going to make swimming difficult, with a sidestroke or backstroke being easier if you need the inflation.

Then there's pockets or belt pouches or what-have-you. If you keep a ministrobe, or a small folding knife, or a smoke cannister, mirror, etc. "in" the vest, there's usually little provision to realy keep anything in it. I've got a whistle, mirror, and small knife folded inside mine, a PLB couldn't fit, no way no how. And I keep the manual inflation cord tucked up inside the vest so it can't foul and catch on anything. I figure, if I'm concious when I need the vest, I'll manage. But if it gets pulled by accident--I've got no automatic backup left.

Sometime when you have sheltered water, great weather, extra crew, and nothing better to do, try jumping overboard while underway and doing a real MOB drill. There's nothing like actually being IN the water, to see how the vest works, how it fits, whether anything needs adjustment. Yes, it will cost a repack but there's nothing like "I've been here before" to give you confidence in case it happens for real.

Last edited by hellosailor; 02-29-2012 at 01:04 PM.
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Old 03-13-2012
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Re: Hammer vs Pro-sensor (paper disk)

Thanks again!
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