Inflatable PFDs -- Manual or Automatic? - SailNet Community

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Old 09-30-2011
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Inflatable PFDs -- Manual or Automatic?

Was wondering about the choice between automatic vs manually inflatable PFDs. I can see an advantage to the automatic ones; it's kinda hard to inflate something if you're unconscious in the water, but realistically, how does that happen? Is there any other advantage? Is it worth the extra price and the hassle of an unintended inflation? How often does THAT happen? Another thought: is there any reason to have a harness seperate from the PFD? Why not go with a combination PFD/harness?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Old 09-30-2011
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My thoughts..

I have a variety of PFDs . I like the thought of the auto-inflate. You never know what will put you in the water and in what shape you'll be to pull the tab. The disolving pill is tucked in pretty good so you'd really have to try to get it soaked. I have built in harnesses, it's one less thing to put on and adjust.
I'd be more concerned with puncturing the vest in conditions rough enough to toss me around or over.
I like the inflatables when it's really hot out..and I'm inland or near coastal. I'd probably put on a traditional vest further offshore/ with a seperate harness in rougher weather. I also like the type 3's they come in many sizes and have pockets!

Keep in mind.. that the CG doesn't count the inflatable as one of the required carriage unless it's being worn. Don't know if that matters in Haiti. But, it's one reason, I have multiples.
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Old 09-30-2011
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Thanks for your thoughts. Hadn't thought about the puncture factor. We sail a bit here in the Bay of Gonave, but it's on the lee-side of the island and both winds and waves are generally negliable. My main focus currently is crewing on OBP's during the bi-annual north-south migration and want to be fully equipped so I'm not dependant on whatever might be onboard.

Why one for off-shore and another for coastal? You think a built-in harness isn't sufficient for really bad weather?

And no -- there are no real rules in Haiti. Sorry if that sounds facetious; I've been here too long.
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Old 09-30-2011
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"Why one for off-shore and another for coastal? You think a built-in harness isn't sufficient for really bad weather?"

Sorry, the inflatables have built in harnesses. The type 1 and types 2's don't, So I have a separate harness for those.
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Old 09-30-2011
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If I were to get an inflatable vest. I'd want the auto-inflate version. Think about how much you'd enjoy jumping into the water and HAVING to blow up your lifevest manually while you tried to stay afloat, kicking and paddling with waves washing over you. It might be hard enough just to breathe. Having the auto feature would perhaps reduce that problem. You do hear about issues with getting the cartridges through airport security, but perhaps that is less of a problem than it was, with smartphone access to the relevant regulations available to those who need to show officials the real rules. All the same, my own PFD is not inflatable, and I wear a separate safety harness when it's needed. Bon vent!
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Old 09-30-2011
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We replaced our manual inflate (Meaning that you have to pull the tab to trigger the Co2, not that you have to blow them up with lung power) combination harness/PFDs with auto-inflate units. We had heard of the salt pill type going off in storage due to the pill dissolving in the high humidity environment of the Pacific Northwest so we chose the hydrostatic trigger type; more expensive, but much more comfortable
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Old 09-30-2011
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Hi, Vega,

The hydrostatic triggers sound like a major improvement; I've heard tales of the pills dissolving too. Triggers are supposed to be good for five years and cost $80 to replace. Granted, my life's worth a bit more than that, but still...

What was your rationale in switching from manual to auto?
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I must be honest here - I deeply distrust the inflatable PFDs and will not wear them, especially for offshore sailing.

There are plenty of comfortable PFD styles using traditional reliable flotation.
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Old 10-01-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WDSchock View Post
I must be honest here - I deeply distrust the inflatable PFDs and will not wear them, especially for offshore sailing.

There are plenty of comfortable PFD styles using traditional reliable flotation.
Is your distrust based on intuitive fears, or actual experience? I've heard about them accidentally deploying, but have not heard any reports of auto-inflatables actually failing to go off. Can you post a link to some examples?

FWIW, I use the auto-inflate ones on my Catalina, but in very protected waters. I wear traditional PFD for the Trophy (because I ski with it) and Phantom (because it's a very wet ride that would likely dissolve the pill). I have used a traditional PFD on the Catalina when letting guests have the auto-inflate ones, but moving around the cockpit requires some close encounters with the split backstays, and a traditional PFD adds just enough bulk to get hung up on them.
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Old 10-01-2011
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I actually have auto and manual (ie pull the cord) inflatable PFD's on my boat and my general rule is that the inexperienced crew wear the auto inflatables and the experienced crew (ie me) wear the manual inflatable PFD's. There have been plenty of cases of yachts capsizing (mainly due to losing their keels) and in those circumstances the last thing you would need would be to wear a auto inflatable PFD as this would prevent you from swimming out from under the capsized yacht.

However inexperienced crew are far more likely to fall or be knocked overboard, hence it makes sense for inexperienced crew to wear the auto inflatable PFD's.

I also find the inflatable PFD's far more comfortable to wear than the traditional "floatation" style PFD's. Hence everyone is also more likely to use them. All the one's I have also have the built in harness.

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