One thing that worries me, swimming in full gear - SailNet Community

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Old 06-02-2008
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One thing that worries me, swimming in full gear

One thing that's on my mind these days is going in the drink while wearing full/a lot of foul weather gear and/or other heavy clothes. I am a good swimmer and have taken to wearing my PFD 100% of the time. I'm talking about wearing pants, jacket, layers underneath, and shoes. These days the water is still a bit cold (and so can the air temperature) so I'm often wearing a fair amount of clothes.

Does anyone worry about this? Does anyone practice by jumping in with gear on? Thoughts comments?
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Old 06-02-2008
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if it worries you....swim naked.......

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Old 06-02-2008
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I think it's something to think about and plan for, but not to worry excessively about. Except when you are planning to go swimming, most folks that fall overboard ARE fully clothed. In cold water, the clothing can actually help to keep you a bit warmer. On smaller boats, if you are sailing in EXTREME cold water temps, you should be wearing an exposure suit.

Late spring/early summer water temps in New England are pretty darn chilly, but you could last long enough to be recovered by a competent crew -- if you're wearing a PFD. If you are solo sailing, you'd better make darn sure you don't go over. That means wearing a harness and clipping in.
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Old 06-02-2008
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I can not swim...I hear drowning is not really that uncomfortable..
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Old 06-02-2008
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Find a warm spot and try going in with all your clothes on (with and without a life jacket) just so you know what to expect.
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Old 06-03-2008
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Merlin, MANY years ago, while at Girl Scout camp we were required to jump in the water fully clothed. Then practiced taking our clothes off while in the water, using our pants or shirts for floatation. Then we discovered the boy scout camp... another story. Go to a swimming pool right after they open. Talk to the life guard and tell them what you're doing and why. Get all your gear on, jump in. See what it feels like to inflate your PFD. What it feels like with wet, heavy clothing on. You'll realize that the PFD will hold you up, wet clothes and all. But it's uncomfortable, for sure. IT IS VERY helpful to know what it feels like, and if you should fall in, fully clothed, even with good crew, it's going to take a while to get you back on the boat. This may sound a bit silly to do, but you will be more confident and better prepared if you do it. Take a friend with you and you can both feel silly! And if you sail solo, clip on my friend.
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Old 06-03-2008
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In my opinion, swimming is not an issue. In a "man overboard" situation, I don't think one has anywhere to swim. To swim to catch the boat is more or less impossible. One need to hope that one will be missing and that a MOB-alert is issued. This will take some time, so one will need to keep warm and be afloat as long as possible.

The best thing is of course not to fall in the water. That is why many sailors rather use a lifeline to attach themselves to the boat so that they never leave the boat.

Even if one manages to be warm and keep afloat, the problem of being able to reenter the boat still remains. It may be useful to try and reenter the boat fully clothed.
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Old 06-03-2008
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As a firefighter we were taught that our turnout gear provides quite a bit of flotation. The heavy coat and pants trap air, the high rubber boots hold quite a bit of air (you have to get your toes up) and the helmet can be held on the chest with a bubble of air in it.

Foul weather gear should do pretty well also. Button the collar up and scoop air under the jacket with your hand (an old Boy Scout trick) to increase buoyancy. Even wet the clothes will be pretty close to neutral buoyancy and the added insulation will be very important in cold water.
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Old 06-03-2008
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I once hosted one of these sessions, for about 20 people, as part of a larger safety conference. We worked with the hotel that was hosting the conference, closed their swimming pool to the public for an hour, and all jumped in with our inflateable pfds and fully clothed. (That POP! when the inflateable goes off is startling, the first time).

One of the other hotel guests reported us to security - "There's a bunch of drunks swimming in the pool with their clothes on!"

Seriously, knowing that your pfd will support you is something that's useful to try once. After that, use a jackline or whatever it takes to keep yourself on the boat.
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Old 06-03-2008
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In the Marine Corps boot camp of the past you had to pass water survival training by jumping in with full gear (cammo's, boots, a dummy rifle and Alice pack) - yep, it sucked - even tho the pack floated minimally.

My floatation point dead still in the water is roughly equivalent with my hairline (i.e., I do not float). Both fresh and saltwater, I just plain sink.

Wear, and I'll say this again, wear - not just buy, but again in case you missed it - wear a PFD. At the minium a manual inflatable fanny pack style PFD.

It causes minimal discomfort, doesn't affect sun tan lines - you can adjust it fore and aft for those of you that don't want lines at all.

If you can't swim or tread water as you are normally dressed for at least 20 minutes or you are sailing alone you are literally taking your life in your hands every time you go out.
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