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inflatable lifejackets - what's what?


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The idea of a lifejacket is to a roll an unconscience person to their back and lift head out of water. Which INFLATABLES do not.

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11 minutes ago, harrytom said:

The idea of a lifejacket is to a roll an unconscience person to their back and lift head out of water. Which INFLATABLES do not.

Untrue. Automatic ones certainly do this, and are required to to meet the safety standards. In fact the manual ones do too, but obviously need manual triggering.

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Have read a lot about PDFS and most countries consider them as an aid rather than a lifesaver. Never owned never will,forced to wear one once and never again.

Why muck around blowing in to tube or pulling a string ,when in the water I want something that works straight away even if unconscience.Yes may say inflate automatic,but do they in time of need.Below is just one example of many coastguard etc 

https://www.boatus.org/life-jackets/types

 

Currently, there aren't any Coast Guard approved Type I inflatable PFD's available to the general public.Good for protected, inland water near shore, where chances of immediate rescue is good. Not suitable for extended survival in rough water. Will turn SOME unconscious wearers face-up in water. Poor performer in rough water, often requires you to tread water in order to keep your head above water.

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Nonsense. 

Type 401 - inflatable

Achieves buoyancy by either a:

  • water-activated switch
  • manual pull cord

May include a mouthpiece

Designed to keep the wearer vertical during unconsciousness

Comfortable and convenient to wear at all times

Must provide 150 newtons of buoyancy

Guidelines for inflatable lifejackets

Download nationally agreed guidelines to help choose the right inflatable lifejacket, and know how and when to service it.

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It is a requirement of 150n inflatables to keep the wearers head above water. Not to do so means the jacket does not meet the NZ standards. Type 401 is the standard.

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4 hours ago, aardvarkash10 said:

We have two on board, looking to add another pair.

They seem to range widely in price - from this sort of thing to this sort of thing.

What are the real world differences?

Hi Ash,

In my opinion it depends on your criteria, as an indication mine are in red (and for context I have a 30ft trimaran with no lifelines):

  • intended usage worn 100% of the time on deck, so must be comfortable.
  • area of use coastal - offshore PFDs are spendy, like your second example (tasty though).
  • integrated harness I intend to short hand and solo occasionally so the ability to tether is essential.
  • adult vs child adult - life jackets for children are a whole other issue.
  • inflatable vs 'solid' I prefer inflatable due to comfort of wear, 'solid' PFDs need to be really well fitting.
  • manual vs auto for me manual inflation, as getting trapped by an auto inflating PFD under an upside down multi would make a bad day a whole lot worse. 
  • cost - purchase and through life (annual servicing for some PFD types) I have this one and it will need annual servicing due to racing requirements, note that you can also self service these jackets.
  • maintenance overhead (cleaning, storage etc.) I like easy, so a PFD that can be given a quick spray in fresh water, hung up to dry and then stored is a bonus. Inflatables are great as they don't take up much space.

As Kevin mentioned above, if you do go with an inflatable option then a crotch strap is essential, and that in my opinion, is not negotiable.

Anyhoo, just my 2c worth. Off to get my popcorn...

Cheers

 

 

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After crotch straps, another consideration is a hood. Having done a few HUET's an a offshore survival course in a wave pool, the hood adds a significant level of comfort and survivabilty.

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9 hours ago, Island Time said:

Nonsense. 

Type 401 - inflatable

Achieves buoyancy by either a:

  • water-activated switch
  • manual pull cord

May include a mouthpiece

Designed to keep the wearer vertical during unconsciousness

Comfortable and convenient to wear at all times

Must provide 150 newtons of buoyancy

Guidelines for inflatable lifejackets

Download nationally agreed guidelines to help choose the right inflatable lifejacket, and know how and when to service it.

disagree with you but thats fine,personal choice

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Has anyone seen 150N solid vests before ?  I intensely dislike the inflatables and don’t quite trust them to inflate in winter if I go overboard in full kit . Flotation jackets look interesting but $$$ and not 150N 

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Just to clarify, crotch straps should be on all PFDs, not just inflatables. You can buy suitable straps with buckles for about $10.

The last time I sailed on Spirit of NZ they had some very very nice new PFDs with dual legstraps but I can't remember the make and model.

When I went offshore I rigged up a sprayhood, strobe and a matchbox sized PLB into my PFD.

Following Matt's useful post I checked the Maritime NZ website again. I still think, although it's improved, it is severely lacking. I downloaded their Life Jacket Guidelines and it's also deficient.

For heavier people and if you've got lots of gear on there are 275N jackets.

I also have a rigid foam AS4758.1 Level 100 which I use for the seakayak

Despite the claims some people make for a 150N they will not always turn an unconscious person upright or keep their face out of the water.

-----------

And I just found this post on a 2017 thread from member=Rigger
"

The other week a bunch of folks from work had a go with several different Inflatable Life jackets - I think there were about 10 Life jackets tested - 4 types, 2 of 275N and 2 of 150N

First one I tried was my old work one - about +10years old and 18months since last serviced - a 275N one

- inflated gently and rolled me onto my back head clear of water, easy to breath, no crotch strap

Second one was a 150N jacket - failed to roll me onto my back, if unconscious I would have drowned. No crotch strap, once on my back the jacket just did not feel as comfortable as the 275N one.

In every case where the wearer was wearing wet weather gear the 150N units failed to roll the wearer onto their back

One of the guys tested a jacket with it fitted loosely - end result was that wearing the jacket loosely meant you would die - the jacket would drown you unless you could make it tighter.

 

Tried putting a 275N inflated jacket on in the water - easy enough in the pool but would be much harder with a bit of chop.

 

Points:

- crotch strap made little difference with the 275N jacket as it inflated - in a chop it may well do.

- excess buoyancy in clothing, boots, wet weather gear may turn a 150N life jacket into a death jacket

- falling head first into the water with wet weather gear on increases the risk of you wearing a death jacket

- a poorly fitted inflatable Life jacket = death jacket - well you might as well wear a weight belt.

- lights were fitted incorrectly on nearly every jacket we tested and some had not been armed by the supplier.

- Could not fit the spray hood in the water - need to practice that.

 

My current jacket is 275N (with crotch strap that I use) but I am looking for a replacement that is easier to adjust as once in the water it is very hard / impossible to adjust.

 

My 2cents worth...."

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And I forgot to say, keep your safety knife attached to your body at all times and be able to use it single-handed. I have a nice Wishard. I reckon our young Optimist sailors should be trained for that habit.

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I like my manual inflatable harness combo and find it provides much more freedom than a bulky life jacket.

I do not wear it always but certainly if I have to leave the safety of the cockpit in more sporty conditions.

Like everything out of sight is out of mind- the CO2 cartridges need regularly checked as do the little plastic sacrificial bit designed to provide resistance to a accidental discharge-the auto ones have have a soluble trigger device, you would be amazed at the state some of these bits can get to and the vest still look 'normal'

Used to service all manner of them and frequently found canisters that had been partially pierced rendering them useless and in one case a racing powerboat driver and his navigator asked us to service theirs found both canisters empty and the manual trigger devices had clothes pins inserted effectively disabling the devices from ever triggering. That was an eye opener. The drivers complexion did change when the problem was pointed out.

Have four on board two dedicated to self and wife which we have adjusted to fit including crotch straps and two for guests that get adjusted for the guest before we get underway.

Auto in my opinion is a waste of time on a sailing yacht- have seen numerous events where a big wave has caused inflation.

They are not dark art devices very simple to check and maintain and should be opened up and checked regularly.

They do not like being put away wet and you may not like it when you really need it, check them regularly.

https://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/recreational/safety/lifejackets/documents/Lifejacket-guidelines-manufacturers-retailers.pdf

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Thanks for the input all.  I especially appreciate rigger's expertise living on posthumously, and thanks Rats for the insider's view.

I have found hard bouyancy jackets too bulky and so don't wear them when I should.  This imo negates the positive features they have.  An inflatable has risks, but at least I am inclined to wear it all the time.  This balance of convenience against compliance weighs in favour of an inflatable for me.  

It looks like I should head to the spendy end of the market though. And get it regularly serviced. 

Such is life.

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I suggest anyone who has an inflatable jacket manually blows it up and jump in with it on. Try it. Make certain it works for you. Then try again with foul weather gear on, and whatever you normally carry. This will give you confidence if it works fine, and let you know if you need to upgrade.

My offshore jacket has crotch strap, hood, knife, plb, and a small but decent led torch attached. It is deliberately a manual unit, as I have had to use it several times as a harness, getting overboard to cut crap off the prop etc. seems that’s always the middle of the night….

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