Thank you! I looked into the West Marine PFds. The Practical Sailor page is notoriously difficult to navigate (IMHO) and I could not find a recent test. There is a test from 2008 which liked the WM PFD but it complained that it had just enough buoyancy to fulfill USCG requirements (22.5#). Otherwise they thought it was good. (oh, they also said that WM PFDs are made by Stearns). The one listed for $99.- has 35# buoyancy so I suppose this is good. Certainly the price is unbeatable, half of what you usually see for a self-inflating PFD with harness.Black Friday has come and gone, but many of the sales continue through the weekend. Please post your good ideas here.
Pep Boys usually has some great deals on little things that are useful for the boat. This year was no different. I bought a handheld rechargeable spotlight there for $4 after rebate 3 years ago, but last winter the SLA battery froze and burst, and replacement battery would have been $20, so I waited to see if it came up on sale again. Sure enough, it did, $4 for an equivalent (updated) model.
While there I saw a nice little jump starter for $20 after rebate. I already have one (Vector 012C), but it's 10 years old and losing some battery capacity. Just like the flashlight, a replacement battery ($36+$15 shipping) is much more than Pep Boy's price for a whole new unit, so I grabbed it. This one is actually nicer because it doesn't have the worthless "inflator," so it's smaller and much lighter. It also has a real nice % charge indicator. My overnight test of its capacity indicates it has approximately the same 18A-h capacity battery as the bigger, heavier jump starter that I already have.
By the way, I don't use the jump starter for my motor since I have a pull-start as backup on my outboard. For some reason, my CPAP machine has difficulty starting up on 12v flooded batteries, but does much better on SLA batteries, so the jump starter is used for the CPAP while on the hook, camping, and during power outages at home. That's why I care more about A-h capacity than cranking amps.
I see that WM has an offshore inflatable PFD for $99. I might consider picking up one, but would like to know your comments on whether it's any good.
So I placed an order for two of them. I have two PFDs (Stearns) which work great (I wear mine every single time I go out) but they are over a dozen years old. Seems like this is a good time to replace them. Or, rather, put the existing ones on the light-duty schedule (for guests) and the new ones for regular use.
Next thing I will do is look for re-arming kits. I like to have a couple around.
Thanks again for the useful post.