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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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I recently had a survey for offshore insurance and the surveyor is recommending that we have Cat I lifejackets onboard for every person on offshore passages. Is this the norm? It would make more sense to me to have good quality inflatable life jackets with built-in harnesses that would be worn rather than bulky jackets stored somewhere. I asked him about this and his feeling was that you wear the inflatables until such time that you were thinking about using your liferaft and then you put on the Cat I jackets. Your thoughts ...
 

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i can think of a few reasons why you would want catI jackets...

the inflatables can fail....
if you encounter enough weather to sink you the likelyhood of the inflatable snagginf some rigging and tearing is much higher.. then you are SOL... sorry outta lifejackets,...LOL
 

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I agree with the surveyor. Inflatables are covenant, and cooler to wear. But If I knew I was going to in the water for any length of time a class 1 vest is what I would pick.
<TABLE class=sr-row id=srow_3 cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=sr-image style="WIDTH: 105px">
</TD><TD class=sr-info>Stearns Merchant Mate II Commercial Lifevest Same as I600 except without pocket, fall protection, and whistle. Non-reversible vest style Type I PFD designed for comfort and performance. Aquafoam?


</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
 

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Closet Powerboater
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I agree with the surveyor. Inflatables are covenant, and cooler to wear. But If I knew I was going to in the water for any length of time a class 1 vest is what I would pick.
If I knew I was going to spend a length of time in the water I wouldn't go on the trip. Period.

The conventional wisdom is that if you fall overboard offshore you're dead. If you're not dead, I seriously doubt it will be because you had a cat I jacket instead of a good inflatable or another type.

I would invest in grab handles, jacklines, harnesses (yes you are right you are better off wearing a harness/jacket than a cat I and no harness) lifelines etc.

Then I would spend your money and precious space on things like a liferaft, (portlandpudgy.com) supplies for the raft, EPIRB, survival suits if you're in cold water etc. Don't waste your space and money on a cat I jacket as you'll likely never wear it and a jacket you wear (such as a comfortable inflatable with harness) is better than the best jacket down below in the locker.

My 2c

MedSailor
 

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Tend to agree with Medsailor. I have gone for inflatable lifejackets (rated cat 1 here in Oz) with built in harnesses and good quality tethers for all persons on board. I would look at spending $ on other items; ie liferafts, personal epirbs, jacklines, more tether points, etc.

Ilenart
 

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Interestingly enough, at 22 lbs of floatation, that Stearns offshore life vest doesn't qualify in the ISAF Offshore Special Regulations (you need 33lbs of floatation). Not only you need floatation, but you also need one with an intergral harness and now you need it equiped with a crotch or thigh straps! I have had two accidental inflations while racing so I now switch mine to manual. I think you will run a much greater risk of falling overboard in one of the "normal" ways rather than having rigging, explosions, fire, gunfire, etc. ripping your vest. But most important - If you are wearing it, it is survival gear, if it is down in the cabin it is merely cargo.
 

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If I knew I was going to spend a length of time in the water I wouldn't go on the trip. Period.

What I was talking about is abandoning ship as opposed to falling overboard. Inflatables are good if a quick rescue can be anticipated such as the boat coming back to get you, just like any MOB drill. But inflatables have draw backs, easy to puncture and they leak down. Thats why they have a oral inflation tube. Inflate one and check it in 24 hours and again in 48 hours, you will see what I talking about. I don't think that is such a reassuring feature if I am bobbing around out in open water for 24 hours or more.

Type 1 vest, low maintenance, Idiot proof. Put it on, click it and forget it. Low maintenance is good thing!

I find it odd that you mentioned Immersion suits (gumby suits) unless they are worn they are ineffective also. And who is going to put one on unless you already know the boat is going down. But in your case you wouldn't be on the trip anyway, because your Crystal ball forecast would warn you of the sinking in advance.:D
 

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An alternative is a float jacket.

For my own part, while I enjoy the weight and convenience of the manual or autoinflate PFDs (and have yet to experience an accidental inflation), when in the tender or sailing something small I use a full-size kayak vest (floatation category unknown, but it keeps me up well enough). I have to have a different set of assumptions solo sailing or in tippy tenders than on a full-sized boat, and that includes something that will keep me above water if I'm "boomed" or otherwise (temporarily, one hopes) incapacitated.

Stories of people pulling the tab and nothing happening are uncommon, true, but it's the last thing I want to think about in rough weather.
 

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We keep cat I, but wear the harness/inflateable. THose jackets are horribly uncomfortable for me and we personally would be less likely to wear them.

That is just me and Kris. The kids(kid at that time) wear Mustangs.

I agree with what Bubb said too. Perhaps the best solution is to wear the inflateable, but put the Cat I's on the ditch bag?

- CD

PS Buy a Catalina and you won't need them. HEHE!
 

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"but put the Cat I's on the ditch bag?"
Raise your hands if your ditch bag is big enough to hold four Cat1's. And your crew includes two Sherpas to haul the ditch bag topside.

The problem with Cat1's is that NO ONE wants to see them, let alone wear them, because the damned things are simply bulky and uncomfortable. And at that point...Why waste money on fluffy paperweights when you could just buy a couple of spare inflateables that people would actually use and wear?

At the same time...22 lbs. of inflation is a cruel joke, but so is 33. Years ago my SCUBA buddy had a problem and I had to use my own BC (similar to a PFD) to float both of us while it got sorted out. With over 50 pounds of lift, it kept BOTH of us heads above the light chop. And in a PFD, you want the same thing. "Floating" isn't enough, spray can drown you. Any part of the PFD that is out of the water, is not providing any bouyancy. Be a pig, go for as many pounds of lift as you can. And a spray mask and hood. (Both new-ish concepts that may be ORC requirements by now.)
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I am pretty well-equipped now

If I knew I was going to spend a length of time in the water I wouldn't go on the trip. Period.


I would invest in grab handles, jacklines, harnesses (yes you are right you are better off wearing a harness/jacket than a cat I and no harness) lifelines etc.

Then I would spend your money and precious space on things like a liferaft, (portlandpudgy.com) supplies for the raft, EPIRB, survival suits if you're in cold water etc. Don't waste your space and money on a cat I jacket as you'll likely never wear it and a jacket you wear (such as a comfortable inflatable with harness) is better than the best jacket down below in the locker.

MedSailor
I have good handles, harnesses, tethers, jacklines, liferaft, EPIRB, flares and inflatables along with PFDs and we are not going to be in cold water any time soon. The question was specifically about these jackets. I can't imagine wearing them so the only time I might use them would be when abandoning ship. Seems like unnecessary expense and a lot of bulk to store.
 

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The ISAF Offshore Special Regulations is the governing document for the ORC. In regards to 50lbs of floatation, most (but not all!) inflatables meet the 33lbs limit, but you will be hard pressed to find one that exceeds that. I tried, and the best I could do is an Eastern Areo Marine vest of 35lbs. Also required is the integral harness. The spray hood and crotch/thigh straps are still only “recommended”. Who is Eastern Areo</ST1:p you ask? They are the world’s largest purveyor of PFDs and life rafts to the aviation industry. And I figure, what’s good enough for the F-18 jocks (35 lbs), is good enough for me. The spinlock is the only PFD that currently meets all the requirements and recommendations for offshore racing.

Going beyond the PFD controversy, I’d like to learn what your thoughts are in regards to safety at sea. We had two sinkings last year with the loss of one crew last year and two more sinkings this year and by a miracle, no loss of life. Safety is always in the back of our minds now. When do you wear your PFD and what gear do you carry on your person and where do you carry it?<O:p
 

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We've always used inflatables with harnesses, but I'm considering buying the Cat 1s for the reasons mentioned in several posts above.

One draw back of the Cat 1s is storage. Where do you keep them? I'm thinking about getting the ones that are basically flat (approx 24" x 14" x 2") and building a wrack to hold them in the ceiling in an out of the way place.

Any other solutions to the storage problem for an item you never want to use?

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GeorgeB,

Our SoP is to have anyone in the cockpit or on deck wear the inflatable vest at night (sun down to sun up) and anytime during the day when we need to put in the second reef. In such circumstances the helmsman and anyone working on deck is clipped on. All our PFDs have a strobe and whistle. I encourage offshore crew to carry a pencil flare while on watch, but leave it to them to decide if they want to have such a device in their pocket. On my PFD I have a small pouch attached to the harness webbing that has a small mirror, a knife and a pencil flare and when I'm sailing offshore I carry a small ebirb and a laser flare in the pouch as well. All these items are secured to the pouch with a 24" +/- length of cord.
 

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BillyRuffn, I do essentially that, the only real difference is I’ve rigged my PFD with a crotch strap and added reflective strips to the air bladder. The crew on Heatwave said they wouldn’t venture outside the Gate again without a handheld on their person. My old Raymarine handheld is way too big and I’m thinking about replacing it with an ICOM model but my jacket pockets get blocked with the vest inflated so I don’t know where I’d clip it. Besides, I don’t want to be too encumbered with safety gear that will take away the enjoyment of sailing. I saw that spinlock sells a tether cutter that you can put inside your vest. Any thoughts? I don’t have that much room on board to store type I’s without putting them somewhere impossible to reach. One thing I have found out (the hard way!) is the Orion hand held flares spit out a tremendous amount of slag and I’d be worried that they would burn a hole in the vest. The ones I tested got almost too hot to hold without gloves and the slag burnt my hands. On the other hand, the SOLAS were a dream but way too pricey!
 

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"but put the Cat I's on the ditch bag?"
Raise your hands if your ditch bag is big enough to hold four Cat1's. And your crew includes two Sherpas to haul the ditch bag topside.

The problem with Cat1's is that NO ONE wants to see them, let alone wear them, because the damned things are simply bulky and uncomfortable. And at that point...Why waste money on fluffy paperweights when you could just buy a couple of spare inflateables that people would actually use and wear?

At the same time...22 lbs. of inflation is a cruel joke, but so is 33. Years ago my SCUBA buddy had a problem and I had to use my own BC (similar to a PFD) to float both of us while it got sorted out. With over 50 pounds of lift, it kept BOTH of us heads above the light chop. And in a PFD, you want the same thing. "Floating" isn't enough, spray can drown you. Any part of the PFD that is out of the water, is not providing any bouyancy. Be a pig, go for as many pounds of lift as you can. And a spray mask and hood. (Both new-ish concepts that may be ORC requirements by now.)
Hello, I said put the Cat 1's ON the ditch bag, not IN the ditch bag. When offshore, we put our ditch bag either in the V or under the salon table. It looks tacky but is easy to get to. When at anchor, we happily put it as far out of sight as possible. Point being that most people leave the things hidden in a locker (the life jackets). I feel they are better out in the open.

Regarding the floatation, I was a little surprised by what you wrote. Sometimes when anchored Kris and I will sit on the cheap life hackets out behind the boat and they keep me well above water. I cannot imagine the Cat1s. Now I understand that this is in relatively calm water, but still! And when I go scuba, it is all I can do to get my fat arse to sink. Last time out we had to start tying pieces of the ship onto me... HEHE! Well, almost at least. I am 5'10, about 180lbs. So not my ideal weight, but not obese by any means either. Kris is 5'4 and we will never know her real weight, but I guess 110-120. SO I am not being a smarty, but I am trying to figure out why we think a CatI would bob us around like a hot air balloon and you don't?

Just curiously, on your scuba trip, did your DP drop his weight belt? Did you have a wet suit on? If I wear a wet suit, I really have to load up on weights. I wonder if maybe your DP did not drop his belt? Just curious.

- CD
 

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Quick story about inflatables. My wife was wondering how they work, so I had her pull the string. This is just last week. It popped open just like it is suppose to do. It startled her, and I was laughing very hard.

It was late, and I told her I would show her how to replace the cartridge the next night. I went down into the workshop the next night, and the vest was completely deflated. It was a very rude awakening to see that deflated vest laying there. Moral of the story, it is for a short time use only. Get the proper vest for the proper situation.......i2f
 

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CD-
Different people float differently. I'm a cork, add a heavy neoprene suit and I need an incredibly heavy weight belt, don't ask. Dunno about the buddy. No, they didn't drop weight, let's just say there was a problem and the solution was for me to get us both out of the water (to the surface) in a convenient manner. Buddy's BC was not inflating, either--similar to being in the water wearing a PFD and finding you have company who isn't wearing one at all--for whatever reason. (Bottom line was "pilot error" not a gear failure, fwiw.)

Bear in mind that when you are SITTING on a PFD, you are getting nearly 100% bouyancy from it because it is fully submerged. Now, WEAR one. The half of it that is on you chest and shoulders is not providing any bouyancy at all, it is no longer submerged.
And every inch, literally inch, that you can get your mouth and nose above the water level, helps to ensure that you won't inhale spray and drown in storm conditions. (What works in flat water just won't work as well, say in a two foot chop or a 30-knot wind with driving rain.)
Which is why spray hoods were invented. I suppose one day I'll have to update my PFD to catch up to that.<G>

i2f-
If that vest didn't stay substantially inflated (not stiff, but full) for a week, there might have been a leak, or some crud in one of the valves, making it leak. Shouldn't need more than a puff every day to keep it inflated for the week. We used to regularly test BCs the same way, blow 'em up from the tank connection, set 'em aside, see if they'd last multiple days without wilting. And if they wilt--something needs looking at.

Which is probably the most valid argument against inflateable PFDs, they can't just be kkept and used, they need to be inspected and maintained.
 
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