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Inflatable PFD Failures?
The Cheeki Rafiki tragedy got me thinking about something. Are our inflatable PFDs as safe as we think in heavy seas?
In the CR case, help was on-scene relatively quickly after 2 PLBs activated. I am assuming that these guys, based on their experience level, were all wearing PFDs. I am also assuming these were inflatables.
However, no one was found after the sinking although the search area was pretty well defined.
This is somewhat surprising to me. Does it mean that the PFDs did not inflate? Or, more alarmingly in the context of this thread, does it mean that they inflated - but then failed in the rough seas thereafter?
From what I've seen, Type V inflatables typically have a Type II (near shore buoyant) or, worse, Type III (floatation aid) rating once inflated. This, in itself, is an issue that we should think about when facing heavy seas off-shore. Is "near shore buoyant" enough of a safety factor offshore?
Now, there is PLENTY of research on the inflating methods and properties of many of these PFDs. But what about the durability and effectiveness of the bladder once inflated...especially in heavy seas? Are there studies out there?
Why were no bodies found in the CR case if they had PLBs? Could it be that the bladders failed after a few hours?
I've done a bit of research on whether there has been testing done on this scenario. And I'm not seeing much. It seems a pretty important issue for us sailors to consider. If the weather gets rough, should we ditch the inflatable and wear only a true Type I vest?
I'm considering writing a story on this - so what do you guys think?
Last edited by smackdaddy; 06-15-2014 at 05:57 PM.