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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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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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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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Great discussion regarding PFDs. A couple of questions and observations.

For you proponents of foam style vests: What brand do you recommend that fulfills the ISAF offshore requirements of integral harness and 33 lbs (150 newtons for you euro folks) floatation?

Is there a PFD out there that has 50 lbs floatation and is Coastguard approved?

Does the laser flare really work well and would that eliminate the need to carry pocket flares? I carry my mini mag light on a lanyard around my neck (with a red lens cover). That I find useful around the cockpit at night. Do you guys carry a light on your person in addition to the laser? Do you have a picture of the pocket you rigged to your PFD? I'm assuming that it is attached to the waist strap? Do you have access to your jacket (foulie) pockets?

What I'm getting here is wear your inflatable all the time as insurance if you go overboard quickly, but if the boat is sinking (I'm assuming relatively slowly) then grab the foam PFD. I'm not getting the nuance. I would think that the inflatable would be an advantage when you are in the life raft as you can (temporarily) deflate it. Having sat in a raft with three others (rated capacity was four). There was hardly enough room for the people, not sure how a bunch of extra gear would fit in too. The skipper of Savage Beauty (the FT that went on the rocks this year in the 2nd half opener) said he was afraid of popping the inflatable as he swam through the wreckage and rocks to get to the rescue boat.

We take our PFDs home and orally inflate them each year as a safety check. All of them have held pressure for more than 48 hours. If one did develop a leak we would probably toss. We check cartridge tightness too. And I examine and replace pills when necessary.

<O:pStorage? Our aft stateroom is affection ally known as the "garage". And yes, we swap out sails pretty frequently (you guys should fly your spinnakers more often!). When it's just us, not much of a problem, but when we have guests on board, ugh! Where do you put all that stuff? You know, things like those porta seats the Mrs. had to get at the boat show which never store flat and the cockpit cushions, extra food , ice chest, my quarter scale laser etc. How do you guys draw the line between convenience, fun and safety? Besides buying a bigger boat.
 
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