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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone,
having friends who have just a completed sea survival course down here in Oz I was absolutely flabergasted when I was told the following story. I had three different friends do their respective sea safety course at 3 different teaching facilities in two different states. Part of the course was to do a simulated abandon ship. All participants were wearing manuel or self inflating life jackets. On every course some of these life jackets failed to inflate. What was amazing is that in one class of 15 people, seven of the life jackets failed to inflate. Now while you are training this is not so bad but what happens in a real life drama when you are out in the middle of the deep blue and the dam thing does not inflate.
All my friends are now going to the PFD with in built flotation, they may be bulkier but at least when you go into the drink its there working already,
Has anyone else had experience in this. It reminds me of the old parachute joke, if it does not open first go just bring it back for a full refund:rolleyes: .

Greg and Sue
Lake Macquarie
Australia
 

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Hopefully, they were 'used' and property of the training facility. While they should use PFD's that are maintained to standard, maybe they have huge numbers lying around that have been affected by salt and time...sound weak but I can't imagine a failure rate like that. I know that I am going to 'test' mine and while I only have 4 if one fails, they're gone. Thanks for the post!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Just to clarify my post, the people on the course each bought their own life jackets, they were not the property of the people doing the course. Just as a side issue the skipper of the boat I occasionally race on was at a life raft demo day at his local yacht club the other day, guess what, yep the raft would not inflate. Very embarrassed liferaft dealer. :eek:

Greg and Sue
 

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What Lifejacket do you wear
Greg and Sue,

We have a total of 6 inflatable vests onboard, four of which are Sospenders auto-inflate types. These are what my wife and I + crew wear whenever sailing offshore, or if I'm solo-sailing anywhere on the Bay. I keep on reserve, (4) CO2 cartridges with reload kits as well.

Additionally, we carry enough USCG Type I & II full floatation PFD jackets to accommodate all possible crew and passengers. These are stored in an easily accessible locker inside the pilothouse. By far though, crew will always choose the inflatables for comfort. I make sure everyone is familiar with their use and show how each can be inflated by mouth, in the event CO2 cartridge inflation fails.

Of course, if knocked unconscious, or otherwise unable to manually inflate the vests, they are useless - but at least my crew wears them. How many sailors would otherwise wear the alternative, bulky PFDs?
 

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A few points to consider....At $22 a recharge cylender from Whitworths...It is all-round easier to just use the by-mouth inflator on all of those jackets when doing a course.

point two...Most jackets are sold with the inflator cylender not all the way screwed in, to avoid accidental triggereing or damage to the little plastic protector n storage and handling pre-sale. A good store will tell you to give the bottle a clockwise turn or two until it is properly seated (or do it at the counter). For lack of this...there are thousands of people out there who's PFD's are set up for NOT going off in the wharehouse and shop.
This is not a fault of the PFD.

Finally, I have found that the majority of Sea Safety and Survival course providers prefer you to use the vest or even SOLAS type life jacket and not the inflating PFD's while on course.

Having had to do the course twice (Once in Yachtmaster and then needing to repeat it for Coast Guard because they did not recognise the yachtmaster quals) I wore the full vest first time around and then insisted on my Burke Offshore manual PFD with ibuilt harness...Because that is what I would most likely be wearing if it ever came to the crunch!

I inflated using the mouth valve (only takes about four lungfulls) jumped off the jetty and found that my head went straight through the neck hole and I was under water, looking up at the ring of my inflated lifevest floating overhead...attached to me only by the lower chest strap/harness....Not Good.
It was no problem to poke my head back through the hole and resume normal operations...but it was a thought to ponder.

now Roaring Forties and Stormy Seas PFD's both have a little upper chest strap and fastener to prevent exactly this...At three times the price, the Stormy Seas ought to offer an onboard coffee maker as well. I have since simply sewn a similar arrangement into the edge lining of my Burke, have retested and found it no longer tries to drown me. yay.

My Wife's PFD (as well as the "guest" ones on board our boat) are a Plastimo manual activated "sandwitch yoke" style that is frankly way nicer then the Burke. Instead of needing to unfold itself as it inflates, it just has velcro running all along the seams between inside and outside and the thing just expands. This means you can wear it under clothing and still have it activate cleanly...It also offers better protection to the inflated bladder by continuing to shield it with the tough exterior fabric....A thought that might need thinking if youconsider that a dismasted, sinking reef-crashed sailboat is not the most rounded-corners and no sharp surfaces kind of places.

On that note. One of the guys in the last group was using his Hutchwilco PFD...I have always liked them and not just because their sexy blue colour matches my boat's topsides paint...Unfortunately, up close and when inflated I got to see that the very yellow bladder is actually made of the same unsupported vinyl fabric as really cheap pool toys! even the Burke has the fabric reinfoced canvassy type material for the bladder. This is likely why it is considerably heavier and bulkier then the sleek Hutchwilco...But I think the bulk is worth it in this case!

Sasha
 

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I'm with TB...

I have several auto-inflating PFDs, and these are the ones worn day-to-day. I also carry six Type I and four Type III foam floatation PFDs. The Type IIIs are the ones that get left in the dinghy, and Type Is would be used in the case of an abandon ship situation...since they're not dependent on inflation.

I don't know of any crew that would prefer to wear a bulky Type I when an inflatable is an option.

Most of the failures with inflatable PFDs relates directly to poor maintenance.
In most cases, it is because the CO2 cartridge is not properly installed. This is a pretty common issue, and if you do a visual inspection, the CO2 cartridge often looks like it is installed properly, but often it isn't screwed in completely, so when the inflation mechanism fires, whether it is triggered manually or automatically, one of two things happens: one) the CO2 cartridge isn't punctured or two) the CO2 cartridge is punctured but since the cartridge is loose, the CO2 leaks out instead of inflating the vest. So you should physically check to see that any CO2 cartridges are screwed in completely.

The third cause of inflation failure is usually a bad CO2 cartridge. You can't visually inspect one and tell if it is up to spec. You have to weigh them to see if they contain enough CO2.

The cartridges and triggers should be replaced at least once every two years, and inspected at least once a month during the sailing season. The exception to this is the new Hydrostatic release, that is supposed to last five years before requiring replacement.

A good PFD will have thigh or a crotch strap. This prevents the buoyancy of the vest from pulling the vest over your head, as happened to Sasha. I have several Mustang PFDs, which have been retrofitted with crotch straps and harnesses, but my primary harness/PFD is a Spinlock Deckware Pro Harness w/ PFD. It comes stock with a harness, thigh straps, strobe, whistle, and splash hood... and is one of the easiest to adjust and easiest to put on or take off. I'd highly recommend them. However, last I checked, they are SOLAS approved, but not USCG approved.

Finally, one word of warning... you should never wear an inflatable PFD under any sort of clothing or jacket unless it is designed for that specific purpose. They can pose a danger to the wearer if the clothing or jacket worn outside of them is too tight and cause serious problems with restricting the ability to breath, since if they can't expand freely, they will compress the chest. Also, wearing them under clothing will often interfere with their auto-inflation mechanism as well as impeding your ability to manually trigger them, often with dangerous consequences.
 

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This is a great thread.

Yes, I too wear the Sospenders auto/manual's. They are not cheap, but I KNOW there are many times I would wear those and would not wear any at all otherwise. If you say differently you are lying or have not been offshore much. Some of those PFD's are so bulky it is hard to even manuever in them.

That being said, you know what, I have NEVER tested the auto inflate!! I just assume it works. Perhaps this thread should go down to seamanship, because that is one I have not thought of and I am sure others have not as well. Of course, this is assuming I am unconscious as it also has a manual inflate... but still, probably worth checking.

- CD
 

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but my primary harness/PFD is a Spinlock Deckware Pro Harness w/ PFD. It comes stock with a harness, thigh straps, strobe, whistle, and splash hood... and is one of the easiest to adjust and easiest to put on or take off. I'd highly recommend them. However, last I checked, they are SOLAS approved, but not USCG approved..
I like the Spinlock harness as well, but I wonder if you couldn't get the same qualities in a mountaineer's climbing harness, which seems identical in construction and is manifestly strong enough. You could add the "accessories" as needed.

Secondly, just as there is a disconnect at times between the Canadian safety regs and certifications and the USCG ones, I find that in certain areas the USCG regulations (and the ABYC recommendations, in some cases) are behind those of organizations such as SOLAS. Canadian and U.S. regs are very similar, but they are bureaucratic in the sense that they require endorsements from both countries if they are expected to be considered "legitimately safe" in both countries.

Does everyone need SOLAS-grade gear? Probably not, but I find in what I've read and what I've heard from serious voyagers that the USCG standards are considered "minimums", whereas the SOLAS regs exceed these standards, sometimes by a wide margin. Lifevests, liferafts, and flares, for instance, would appear to be a few examples of where SOLAS is clearly the better standard.
 

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I am very satisfied with my inflatable’s made by Eastern Aero Marine (one of the largest builders of rafts, evacuation slides and life vests for the aviation industry). If I have one complaint, it would be that they inflate far too easily! I have inadvertently snagged the inflation tab with the wheel while going around Pt. Conception and have them automatically inflate on two different occasions by boarding waves. I now disable the auto feature if I’m racing as forepeak. They have 35# of reserve buoyancy and an integral harness. Another nice feature is they have sewn in pockets that are handy places for pen flashlights, whistles and whatever. I attach my strobe to the manual inflation tube so it is both handy and out of the way when the vest is closed up. I have augmented mine with a crotch strap more to keep the vest in place during the MOB recovery phase as you tend to grab the tether to haul somebody in. I have found that you want the chest strap snug, not tight as the inflated chambers will cinch up the entire rig. The vest was on tight for my first accidental inflation and I almost took a knife to it as it was too tight around the neck and choking me.<O:p</O:p
 

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Val-

You don't want to use a climbing harness for a safety harness on a sailboat. A climbing harness fastens around your lower torso, and if you fell overboard, would drag you face down in the water and drown you very quickly. A sailing harness is designed to attach a bit above your center of gravity, so that you will get dragged head up, and hopefully not drown in the process.

A climbing harness makes sense for use as a "bosun's chair" replacement... but not as a sailing harness replacement.

All of the safety gear on my boat, PFDs, Flares, etc are SOLAS grade. The price difference between SOLAS grade equipment and USCG grade equipment is fairly low, and the performance difference is huge.
I like the Spinlock harness as well, but I wonder if you couldn't get the same qualities in a mountaineer's climbing harness, which seems identical in construction and is manifestly strong enough. You could add the "accessories" as needed.

Secondly, just as there is a disconnect at times between the Canadian safety regs and certifications and the USCG ones, I find that in certain areas the USCG regulations (and the ABYC recommendations, in some cases) are behind those of organizations such as SOLAS. Canadian and U.S. regs are very similar, but they are bureaucratic in the sense that they require endorsements from both countries if they are expected to be considered "legitimately safe" in both countries.

Does everyone need SOLAS-grade gear? Probably not, but I find in what I've read and what I've heard from serious voyagers that the USCG standards are considered "minimums", whereas the SOLAS regs exceed these standards, sometimes by a wide margin. Lifevests, liferafts, and flares, for instance, would appear to be a few examples of where SOLAS is clearly the better standard.
 

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I like the Spinlock harness as well, but I wonder if you couldn't get the same qualities in a mountaineer's climbing harness, which seems identical in construction and is manifestly strong enough. You could add the "accessories" as needed.

Secondly, just as there is a disconnect at times between the Canadian safety regs and certifications and the USCG ones, I find that in certain areas the USCG regulations (and the ABYC recommendations, in some cases) are behind those of organizations such as SOLAS. Canadian and U.S. regs are very similar, but they are bureaucratic in the sense that they require endorsements from both countries if they are expected to be considered "legitimately safe" in both countries.

Does everyone need SOLAS-grade gear? Probably not, but I find in what I've read and what I've heard from serious voyagers that the USCG standards are considered "minimums", whereas the SOLAS regs exceed these standards, sometimes by a wide margin. Lifevests, liferafts, and flares, for instance, would appear to be a few examples of where SOLAS is clearly the better standard.

The spinlock harness is WAY, and I mean WAY overpriced. Got a great harnes from REI for $35 on sale. Spinlock: $165 BTW, a climbing harness is 10x for comfortable than bosun's chair. As a matter of fact I have yet to be up long enough to get uncomfortable in it. But this thread was about PFD's so: don't use a climbing harness to keep you on the boat! nuff said :)
SOLAS (safety of life at sea) is more of a international commercial standard, no? I'm sticking with these:



just kidding.
 

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check these out

I still wear my PFD from my whitewater kayaking days. It has a built in harness with a ring in back (that way water hits the back of your head and you can breathe in the air bubble- this really does work, at least on rivers and I can imagine a boat dragging would be very similar). Its not bulky feeling at all because the flotation is around your abdomen and back, not your shoulders and face. I wear mine whenever it's crappy out or I'm singlehanding, I don't own an inflatable, and I have a type I if the ship goes down. This isn't my jacket but you'll get the idea:


http://www.outdoorplay.com/store/Product.asp?DID=69&PDID=5&SKU=ELJ_STXTR
 

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Floatcoat

On our boat we use floatcoats or kayaking vests exclusively - well, except for the full backup set of regular type II's accessible from the deck.

In my experience, when it gets chilly enough to want a jacket, you should be wearing flotation anyway, and nobody seems to object to the bomber-jacket style float coats.

In really warm weather a kayaking vest stays out of the way while it's on.

The problem is kids - our 1-year-old screams bloody murder when we put the PFD on him, and I haven't seen a comfortable alternative.
 

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On our boat we use floatcoats or kayaking vests exclusively - well, except for the full backup set of regular type II's accessible from the deck.

In my experience, when it gets chilly enough to want a jacket, you should be wearing flotation anyway, and nobody seems to object to the bomber-jacket style float coats.

In really warm weather a kayaking vest stays out of the way while it's on.

The problem is kids - our 1-year-old screams bloody murder when we put the PFD on him, and I haven't seen a comfortable alternative.
I was lucky with my kid. From about 4 months old he equated life vest with boat.. for some reason he likes the boat, so all happy :)

Float coats are an awesome idea. In the US Navy sometimes it is the only way to get a sailor to wear a PFD! They use Mustang almost exclusively. In Alaska, the norm is to skip the foul weather gear and go straight to a full one piece work suit. These however, are NOT considered PFD's until worn.. so make sure you wear them!
 

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I'm with TB...

A good PFD will have thigh or a crotch strap. This prevents the buoyancy of the vest from pulling the vest over your head, as happened to Sasha. I have several Mustang PFDs, which have been retrofitted with crotch straps and harnesses, ....

Was the retrofit to the Mustang a DIY or is there a crotch strap kit that one can buy? [I just received a Mustang LIFT vest as a gift.]
 

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Was a kit that you can get...wasn't a Mustang kit, but a generic kit for retrofitting any PFDs.

Was the retrofit to the Mustang a DIY or is there a crotch strap kit that one can buy? [I just received a Mustang LIFT vest as a gift.]
 

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Val-

You don't want to use a climbing harness for a safety harness on a sailboat. A climbing harness fastens around your lower torso, and if you fell overboard, would drag you face down in the water and drown you very quickly. A sailing harness is designed to attach a bit above your center of gravity, so that you will get dragged head up, and hopefully not drown in the process. .
It was a vague supposition based on the superficial resemblance. I have some old but massive Lirikis harnesses, plus an integral harness in my SOSpender auto/manual, but ideally I'd like a harness alone, plus a "floater" vest. This is possibly the best combo for sailing alone or when on night watch, because it doesn't require you to be conscious should you somehow fail to hook on and get washed over, and there's nothing to go mechanically wrong.

I tend to wear floatation vests in the Zodiac for the same reasons...if I get knocked out, I need to float head up and I can't expect my six-year-old to haul me in. Maybe to lash me on...

When there are other crew on deck or at least aware of me moving about the boat, I prefer the "deflated collar" types, because they are cooler and less confining.

One point for those intending to crew: you can't take the cylinders on planes and buying replacements overseas is not always possible.
 

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Valiente-

Actually, you can take up to two cylinders on a plane... usually as checked baggage... but the exact regulations are airline specific.

The non-PFD safety harnesses I have on the boat I got in an unusual manner. They're made by Henri Lloyd and were normally included in one of their off-shore line of foul weather jackets. I got the jackets on clearance from WM for $26 each...and took the harnesses out and gave the jackets to friends of mine who don't sail. :) They love the coats... and I got some very nice harnesses for dirt cheap.
 

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BTW, the TSA regs on the CO2 cartridges is located here. According to the TSA you can carry two in vests and two spares... However, about half the airlines don't allow them, half do... so you really have to check with your air carrier. Good article from US SAILING on the issue here.

There's some more to read about this here:

TSA History - Small CO2 cylinders associated with self-inflating life jackets were initially banned after September 11, 2001 onboard aircraft. During early 2006, adopting polices used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the TSA began to allow carriage of self-inflating personal flotation devices (PFD) that used CO2 cylinders. Following the liquid explosives threat occurring later in 2006, the TSA reversed their decision again and prohibited passage of these life jackets through airport screening stations. The Safety at Sea Committee of US Sailing requested a formal evaluation from TSA concerning their policy on the life jackets. Following this request and a review by TSA, CO2 cylinders associated with a self-inflating life jacket will be allowed to pass airport screening stations again on 4 August 2007.

Federal Exception for Self-Inflating Life Jackets - The current exception is found in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Section 175.10 (25), "With approval of the aircraft operator, a passenger or crew member may carry in checked or carry-on baggage no more than two small gas cartridges containing no hazardous material other than a Division 2.2 gas that are fitted into a self-inflating life-jacket for inflation purposes, plus no more than two spare cartridges." TSA screeners should be aware of this change and prepared to allow self-inflating PFD through their checkpoints. A key disclaimer in this entire regulation is that the airline must also approve carriage of this gear on their aircraft. Most airline passengers aren't carrying PFD's on a routine basis and it shouldn't be a surprise that company polices will vary and not be understood by all employees.

A boater wishing to carry a self-inflating life jacket needs to consult with their airline of choose. Some carriers allow the PFD's to be in carryon baggage, others permit them as part of checked baggage and many prohibit them outright. Check company websites and call ahead of your planned trip. A recent check of published company policies produced these results:
  • Alaska Airlines - No mention of self-inflating life jackets in their baggage policy
  • Continental Airlines - Accepts one carbon dioxide (CO2) powered inflatable life jacket as checked or carry-on baggage. The life jacket may be packed in a checked or carry-on bag or carried as a single item in lieu of a checked or carry-on bag
  • American Airlines - No life jackets inflated by CO2 cartridges allowed
  • Delta Airlines - Accepts one self-inflating life jacket that contains one small carbon dioxide cylinder as checked baggage only
  • Northwest Airlines - CO2 cartridges are allowed in carry on and checked baggage for self-inflating life vests. Two cartridges may be installed in the life vest and two spares may be carried. CO2 cartridges may not be carried for any other purpose.
  • Southwest Airlines - Allows self-inflating life vests with two small gas cylinders and two small spare cylinders in checked baggage
Remember these regulations may not be applied consistently and may change. If a TSA screener prohibits an inflatable PFD from passing their checkpoint, ask for the supervisor and refer to 49 CFR 175.10 (25). Boaters often attach knifes or place flares in their PFDs, don't go anywhere near the airport until these are removed from your life jacket. Be familiar with the baggage policy of your air carrier.
Please note that you should remove any flares or knives from the PFDs before trying to bring them aboard a plane. :)
 
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