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.
<OStorage? 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.
How long will my inflatable PFD stay inflated?
CO2 will permeate through the bladder material over a period of time because it is lighter than oxygen. If the unit is orally inflated it will stay inflated indefinitely. If the unit deflates right away, please send it back to us immediately so we can check for holes in the bladder.
I always manually inflate the harness/vests every year--if they don't hold pressure overnite, its off to the rubbish tip (and some have gone).
There is a downside to wearing the big life jackets, and even the vests if you load them up with gear. It makes you more awkward and more likely to go over the side. We had a 150 lb crew go over the leeward lifelines with a non-inflatable lifevest full of strobe/handheld/gps stuff and it took four strong guys to get him back on board because all that stuff got hung up on the lifeline--we had to lift him well clear of the top line to get him back aboard.