Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic? - Page 2 - SailNet Community
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post #11 of 32 Old 05-17-2012
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Re: Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic?

Just buy the cheapest model and ignore the shelf life aspect of the water sensitive pill .It's only safety equipment you hardly ever use. On the other hand they can be useful if you are wearing it when you need it and it works. I offer a full complement of self inflating Mustang PFD's to my guests which I would replace with life jackets in an emergency .Replacing the pills is easy insurance and environment would say how often.
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post #12 of 32 Old 05-17-2012
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That is what I was wondering as well. Here is the link to the West Marine review. Third one down, written 3/17/2012.
Given the fact that there are a lot of other users in equally humid states (SC, FL, MD, etc.) That reviewed and used the device, both here (SN) and via the WM website, I think there is something else going one with that reviewer's storage area than just plain humidity.

Again, I own several WM Automatic Inflatable (Pill) Vests and never had a real issue, except the one which inflated after 5 years of use. Some of them are now 6 years old and still intact.

We also wear ours anytime we are off the hook in our boat which is about 50X a year, so it's not like we store them neat in a locker for most of their life.

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post #13 of 32 Old 05-17-2012
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Re: Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic?

We have i think 6 autoinflatable PFD's onboard. In the last 7 years only 1 has self-deployed while in it's locker. We repacked it swapped out the trigger and canister from the spare supplies and moved on. It would in no way dissuade me from continuing to use them, or purchasing them in the first place.

Bottom line is the more comfortable a PFD is the more you will wear it. This type is simply the most comfortable, less intrusive, and if you get the model with the built in sailing harness, it's by far the most useful.

The newer mustang ones by the way are definetly more comfortable than the original models.
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post #14 of 32 Old 05-17-2012
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Re: Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic?

We had the pill units go off twice last year

The manual deal puts a lot of faith in you being in good condition when you hit the water

The newer and of course more costly hydrostatic units from mustang and spinlock with the built in harness points seem much nicer

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post #15 of 32 Old 05-17-2012
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Re: Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic?

South Florida, Mustang Offshore with Sailing Harness, never had it go off. I wouldn't have anything other than an auto-inflate. And if you are going to do anything offshore, you might consider buying the ones with harness.

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post #16 of 32 Old 05-17-2012
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Re: Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic?

I have inflatables by west marine and mustang that have inflated in the locker that was dry.I felt it was due to heat & maybe age. One wonders the value of them,as I am leaning towards a harness and simply staying on the boat. 40 degree water and a inflatable just = a body! Inflatables only count as life jackets if you wear them. I am begining to think they may be more work than they are worth....Dale

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post #17 of 32 Old 05-18-2012
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Re: Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic?

I'll try and address your question from two perspectives. One, from a medical point of view, and two, from someone who worked at West Marine for a summer.

1: If you go overboard unconscious, you're dead. It's my opinion, but I think there is some good reasoning behind it. If you are unconscious then your only chance of survival is wearing a Type I OR Type II PFD and being in dead flat calm water. Type III, and V PFDs will NOT hold an unconscious person's head above water. All inflatables (that I know of) are USCG certified as Type V PFDs. Some will say "when inflated it performs like a type I" but to be sure, read the label on the device. They wont be USCG certified type I or II, so they will NOT hold you face up when unconscious.

Many many American and British Army troops, seamen and airmen drowned in WWII with foam (or Kapok) vests on while unconscious because they all immediately turned face down. After WWII the British Navy attempted to figure out how to design a PFD that would hold an unconscious victim face up.

Engineering a PFD to hold an unconscious person's head above water is actually very difficult to do. So much so, that someone "acting" unconscious isn't even close to a working model. The only way that they were able to tell how a body would act, and engineer the vests appropriately, was when Dr. E. A. Pask of the British Royal Navy allowed himself to be anesthetized in the water for experimentation purposes.

Now that you know that only type I and II PFDs will keep your head above water, it's also good to know that your typical inflatable will only keep the wearer's mouth 3inches above the water. If you're unconscious wearing our automatic inflatable and, by some act of God, you float with your face out of the water, it'll be 3" above the water. A couple wavelets or the wake of the boat trying to rescue you will push water into your mouth, past your incompetent larynx and you will drown.

From Mustang Survuval, trying to sell their product that holds you higher out of the water:
"In general, inflatable PFD’s are designed to suspend a user’s head above water to prevent drowning. The Inflatable Vest with LIFTTM provides freeboard that far exceeds the minimal 3” generally provided."
Reference Here: http://www.mustangsurvival.com/sites...0Aug2011_0.pdf

2. Now, the other perspective. I worked at West Marine for one summer in order to pillage their discount. And pillage I did.... I kept a mental poll going of replacement cartridges for lifejackets. I asked every single person who I sold a re-arm kit to, "how did it go off? Was it intentional, accidental, or were you unconscious and overboard?"

100% of them were automatic inflatable vests that went off when they didn't want them to.

I have a manual. I don't want it going off when it's not supposed to, and I don't believe in the false security of it keeping me from drowning while unconscious. So since, in my mind, the automatic offers NO benefits, the manual is the better choice because of price. Or does the manual actually have advantages over the automatic?

I considered if the manual has advantages over the automatic. I am a decent swimmer and I don't know if you've tried to swim with those inflable horse collars on, but it's nearly impossible. (everyone who owns one should spend the money on a cartridge and try this). I can imagine scenarios where I might want to swim first, and then inflate if necessary. Another nightmare scenario is where you might be trapped under a capsized boat or raft and have to swim out towards daylight. Or maybe the mast went down and you're overboard and tangled in the lines. I'd want to be able to swim DOWN and free of the boat and rigging and THEN inflate the vest.

These scenarios are extreme to be sure, but then again, so is being hit in the head by the boom AND it knocking you unconscious, AND your unconscious sack of potatoes body going overboard in the process, which is the only scenario I have heard mentioned that makes the automatics supposedly superior.

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Last edited by MedSailor; 05-18-2012 at 03:45 AM.
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post #18 of 32 Old 05-18-2012
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Re: Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic?

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Originally Posted by MedSailor View Post
I'll try and address your question from two perspectives. One, from a medical point of view, and two, from someone who worked at West Marine for a summer.

...
2. Now, the other perspective. I worked at West Marine for one summer in order to pillage their discount. And pillage I did.... I kept a mental poll going of replacement cartridges for lifejackets. I asked every single person who I sold a re-arm kit to, "how did it go off? Was it intentional, accidental, or were you unconscious and overboard?"

100% of them were automatic inflatable vests that went off when they didn't want them to.

I have a manual. I don't want it going off when it's not supposed to, and I don't believe in the false security of it keeping me from drowning while unconscious. So since, in my mind, the automatic offers NO benefits, the manual is the better choice because of price. Or does the manual actually have advantages over the automatic?

...
Great post

Some comments: Most of the Automatic that they sell here are also manual and the difference in price is not that much.

Regarding the PDF going off, do you ask them how many years they had them without changing the pill? To my knowledge there are several types of triggering pills, ones made of salt others made of cellulose. It seems the first ones had more problems and the last ones are much safer.

I had for seven years 8 inflatable PDF with a hydrostatic system (and harness) and none had deployed itself (I think that with hydrostatic system that problem will not happen).

I sold them with my boat and I bough new ones with a cellulose pill and automatic and manual deployments, also with harness.

Why the cellulose pill over the hydrostatic system? After three (or four?) years they recommend to change the gas bottle and the trigger device. The hydrostatic device is so expensive that operation is almost the price of a new PDF.

Cellulose pills are inexpensive and I can change them even every year with a much lesser cost.

Regards

Paulo

Last edited by PCP; 05-18-2012 at 08:00 AM.
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post #19 of 32 Old 05-18-2012
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Re: Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic?

THat was a good write up. Last year on a perfect May afternoon in calm conditions I had a guy pass out and nearly go over the railing without a life jacket. He ended up on the cockpit sole and cutting his head on the way down. Was unconsious for several minutes. Woke up as if nothing happened and told me it has happened to him a couple of times before. He wont be coming back.

I decided then to invest in auto inflate jackets and make people wear them. I've had them in the locker on Tampa Bay and have done some drenching offshore sailing and have not had one inflate.
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post #20 of 32 Old 05-18-2012
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Re: Inflatable PFDs in the south: Manual or Automatic?

My wife and I chose auto-inflate models. The reason is that I think the most probable scenario, where someone goes overboard, is a case where they slip and fall or are hit by the boom.

Now, if you slip and fall, it is not likely to be a clean fall into the drink. That is, you are going to hit the lifelines, you are going to hit some part of the deck, you are likely to suffer some sort of injury before you ever get to the water. You are probably not going to be unconscious, but you are going to be hurt and disoriented.

Same with getting hit by the boom. You may be knocked out for the count, but my guess is that a more likely scenario is that you are hurt, disoriented, and if unconscious probably only for a few moments. In fact, I have personally seen some one injured by the boom only once in my sailing career, and this is exactly what happened. In this case he fell into the cockpit, was extremely disoriented, and I believe he might have been "out" for a couple of seconds, but no more than that.

In both of these kinds of cases, due to the degree of disorientation that is likely, I want an auto-inflating PFD. I think the scenario where you are trapped under the boat is much less likely, and if I have the wherewithal to be able to swim out from under the boat then I expect that I will have the wherewithal to let the air out of the PFD before doing so.

Of course, I could be wrong. Until you are in the situation, you really don't know what you will need or how you will react. Still, that's my reasoning.

Oh, yeah, to the question of them inflating due to humidity... Not seeing it. I suspect that there would have to be some serious neglect going on for that to happen. You can't toss an auto-inflating PFD into a locker, leave it there for months or years at a time, and expect it to work right. It needs to be kept as clean and dry as possible when not in use. It needs to be stored carefully. It needs to have the auto-inflate mechanism checked and replaced periodically. Do these things and I just cannot believe that it is going to inflate, all by itself, just from humidity.

Last edited by denverd0n; 05-18-2012 at 10:40 AM.
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