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Old 04-12-2014, 11:13   #1
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A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

I know that the recent advancements in small electronics for safety at sea use (e.g. PLB) have become more popular among some sailors. I want one on me when I next go far offshore.  But in addition to a PLB, I will also have a light on my PFD.

I will always have a light with me on my PFD. Why?

A light on your PFD may save your life!

I was once in an overnight offshore race going down the California coast when a big trimaran flipped in the strong winds and high seas at night off the rugged coast. The crew of that trimaran were rescued (luckily) by a USCG helicopter that flew right over the boat I was on (it was night), shining its search lights looking for the sailors in the water. The thought of being in those seas, in a PFD, at night, was cause for me to be prepared in the future and part of the reason I am posting this topic.

The following is an excerpt from an account where a rescue of a 45 foot sailboat in heavy weather (high winds and seas) somewhere around Bermuda, involved the rescue (by USCG helicopter) of several crew members of a foundering (taking on water) sailboat.

But, while those crew members were rescued by the helicopter, two others were missing from the sailboat.

Now imagine being overboard (in the water in a PFD) in seas of 20+ feet with 40 knot winds at night, alone in the ocean!

Synopsis: one of the missing crew had a light on his PFD and that allowed searchers on a tanker (578 feet long) ship to find him in those poor conditions, hours later! The little light saved his life!

Here is a link to the story (from 2005).
Sealift -- Seay crew shines in rescue operation


"Sealift -- Seay crew shines in rescue operation

That US Navy ship (Seay) that participated in the rescue is about 900 feet long! The other ship that later picked up two crew members was 578 feet long. I will post a photo of a sister ship of Seay and the other ship (a tanker) and a photo taken from the deck of Seay looking down at the 45 foot sailboat lying next to the ship (the ship provided some protection for the sailboat on the lee side of the ship).

Here is a big excerpt from the story:

"The 45-foot sailboat, Almeisan, was traveling from Connecticut to Bermuda when she began taking on water from 20-foot seas. A distress call went out from Almeisan as the crew prepared to abandon their foundering boat. While readying the lifeboat, the captain and another crew member washed overboard.

"The conditions were horrible," recalls Capt. Thomas Madden, Seay's master. "We were facing heavy rain and gale force winds with gusts up to 55 knots. Winds were sustained at 40-45 knots. We had 20 to 25-foot seas, easy."

The helicopter rescued all three remaining crew members from the flailing boat in less than 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the aircraft had to return to shore for fuel and was unable to search for the remaining two crew members lost at sea.

Seay - the only U.S.-flagged vessel in the area - took over as the on-scene commander when the Coast Guard left the scene. While maintaining communication with the Coast Guard, Seay directed a team of rescue craft including the Panamanian-flagged tanker Sakura Express, two other foreign-flagged container ships and two rescue aircraft. The rescuers scoured a 12-square-mile search area looking for the two missing crew members.

"At about 2 a.m., we directed Sakura Express to a specific location," said Capt Madden. "She looked around and didn't find anything, but we felt confident that she was in the right area and that something would be found.

"We asked them to tighten up the grid a little bit and conduct another search pattern. Sure enough, they saw a light."

The light they found was an illumination device attached to one of the crew member's life vest.

Seay immediately relayed the man's location to the Coast Guard. A Coast Guard C-150 plane arrived around 2:30 a.m. and spotted the two men, one in a life jacket and one in a rain slicker. The plane dropped a beacon, but lost sight of the crew members in the rough seas.

The aircraft returned to shore for fuel while the four ships continued to search in the driving wind and rain.

Finally, at 3:40 a.m., Sakura Express spotted one survivor and brought him aboard. The body of the other crew member, who did not survive, was recovered by Sakura Express a few hours later.
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Old 04-12-2014, 11:22   #2
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

I have a light in my lifejacket, and in all 8 lifejackets I have on board. But not only a light -- I also have a PLB in my lifejacket.

And don't forget your spray hood and crotch straps. You can quickly drown in a lifejacket from spray. A lifejacket without crotch straps is a death jacket (can't believe they are even allowed to be sold after all the deaths at Fastnet '79 caused by people falling out of their lifejackets).
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Old 04-12-2014, 12:01   #3
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

I agree.

Some of the most advanced PFDs have those spray hoods.

But some popular PFDs don't.

Features change with time, and with popular or market demand, and with needs.

Not every sailor goes off across oceans.

For myself, I would want an inflatable with the best features, including a harness, light, whistle, PLB, hood, and crotch straps. Another good thing is a webbing cutter.

My point with this post, is that even something as low tech as a tiny light on a PFD may make the difference in being rescued, even in heavy weather, far offshore.
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Old 04-12-2014, 12:27   #4
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

In many circumstances if you go overboard you are dead.

However, the best ifejacket might give you a fighting chance and it seems to be a small price to pay. The better units have a light, hood, crotch straps etc. Most important they are comfortable so you will wear them. This also means you will hook on which is the critical difference. However, it worth thinking about a supplemental light. Lifejacket lights are very dull.

What about something like this? It is a headtorch but is an ideal lifejacket light when the headband is removed.

400 hr battery life on low. 565 lm on high (these are genuine lumens, and that is bright).
Red illumination and flashing with the push of button.

That is what I use. Its primary use is for making coffee, engine checks etc. The red illumination is ideal for this. If I did go overboard it is a lot more visible than the standard lifejacket light even on the dullest setting.

This Nitcore light takes lithium batteries (rechargeable, or primary) that are not for everyone. Zebralight a are also worth looking at. They don't have red for night vision but are a bit smaller and most models take a single AA battery.
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Old 04-12-2014, 12:50   #5
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

Quote:
Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
In many circumstances if you go overboard you are dead.

However, the best ifejacket might give you a fighting chance and it seems to be a small price to pay. The better units have a light, hood, crotch straps etc. Most important they are comfortable so you will wear them and hook on. However, it worth thinking about a supplemental light. Lifejacket lights are very dull.

What about something like this. It is a headtorch but is an ideal lifejacket light when the headband is removed.

400 hr battery life on low. 565 lm on high (these are genuine lumens, and that is bright).
Red illumination and flashing with the push of button.

That is what I use. Its primary use is for making coffee etc. The red illumination is ideal for this. If I did go over it is a lot more visible than the standard light, but realistically your chances are pretty slim.
I agree that having a PFD is no guarantee of rescue and at night, offshore the chances are slim. But the example I posted up above shows that even when it may seem like a hopeless situation, little things and some preparation can help others find and rescue you.

If I were on the bridge of that tanker, I wonder how many of the crew would be saying that it was "hopeless" to search for a man in the water in those conditions and from such a large vessel AND at night.

My guess is that most sailors would consider it pointless to try. Yet, they did find the two missing crew and one lived!

I looked at two leading PLB units. They both broadcast for about 24 hours. They also have small LED lights, that may burn a bit longer after the unit stops its signal.

In addition to the little light on the PLB, I would have a secondary light, something like yours looks very good.

When I sailed offshore years ago, I had my inflatable PFD with harness on. And on it (the harness) I attached a small nylon zippered pouch that had a few things in it, including three small pocket penlight sized signal flares, and a pelican waterproof penlight. That light was good for multiple purposes, bright, but not LED, so it did not last long.

Today, something like your light would be my preference. I would look for waterproof, LED, and able to burn at least 12 hours at some level of light. Flashing or strobe effect can get attention, if one is near other constant lights.
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Old 04-12-2014, 13:01   #6
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
I agree that having a PFD is no guarantee of rescue and at night, offshore the chances are slim. But the example I posted up above shows that even when it may seem like a hopeless situation, little things and some preparation can help others find and rescue you.

If I were on the bridge of that tanker, I wonder how many of the crew would be saying that it was "hopeless" to search for a man in the water in those conditions and from such a large vessel AND at night.

My guess is that most sailors would consider it pointless to try. Yet, they did find the two missing crew and one lived!

I looked at two leading PLB units. They both broadcast for about 24 hours. They also have small LED lights, that may burn a bit longer after the unit stops its signal.

In addition to the little light on the PLB, I would have a secondary light, something like yours looks very good.

When I sailed offshore years ago, I had my inflatable PFD with harness on. And on it (the harness) I attached a small nylon zippered pouch that had a few things in it, including three small pocket penlight sized signal flares, and a pelican waterproof penlight. That light was good for multiple purposes, bright, but not LED, so it did not last long.

Today, something like your light would be my preference. I would look for waterproof, LED, and able to burn at least 12 hours at some level of light. Flashing or strobe effect can get attention, if one is near other constant lights.
Consider a strobe instead of a standard lifejacket lights. I use Firefly III's.
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Old 04-12-2014, 13:07   #7
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

We have these units attached to our life jackets and are cheap and water activated.
Survivor Distress LED Light

A handy safety device that is a must when you are venturing out in open water. Unit is small, lightweight with a lanyard and clip for easy attachment to any life jacket or clothing. The bright LED distress light activates automatically when submerged in water.

Features:
• water activated
• with lanyard and clip easy to be attached in any of life vest
• with waterproof construction
• battery replaceable

Specifications:
• Battery Life: up to 100 hours

Only $6.95 from our Au Jaycar electronics store.
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Old 04-12-2014, 13:58   #8
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

Yep, what you guys said.
I have an Inflatable jacket, with Crotch strap, light, whistle (all required by NZ Regs for offshore), + a PLB, Knife, LED torch and a Spray Hood. By the way, the Spray hood can be retrofitted if you don't have one. If unlucky enough to end up in the water in large breaking seas, the spray hood is invaluable.
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Old 04-12-2014, 14:52   #9
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

These days, USCG and Navy SAR units have advanced night vision goggles.

The crews of these aircraft say that at night a light....any light....will be seen and will aid in the rescue of a person in the water.

Source: Presentation by USCG HQ chief of air operations, 2013.

Bill
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Old 04-12-2014, 17:30   #10
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melani View Post
We have these units attached to our life jackets and are cheap and water activated.
Survivor Distress LED Light

A handy safety device that is a must when you are venturing out in open water. Unit is small, lightweight with a lanyard and clip for easy attachment to any life jacket or clothing. The bright LED distress light activates automatically when submerged in water.

Features:
• water activated
• with lanyard and clip easy to be attached in any of life vest
• with waterproof construction
• battery replaceable

Specifications:
• Battery Life: up to 100 hours

Only $6.95 from our Au Jaycar electronics store.
Used one of these recently during a class for a night time MOB drill. Worked fine, but is it possible to turn the damn thing off?

I finally just took the batteries out assuming it would reset, nope, put batts back in and it fired back up.

?
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Old 04-12-2014, 17:39   #11
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

Quote:
Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
Used one of these recently during a class for a night time MOB drill. Worked fine, but is it possible to turn the damn thing off?

I finally just took the batteries out assuming it would reset, nope, put batts back in and it fired back up.

?
Must be a fault with the one your had as ours seem to work fine. We did a water test thinking they might be just toys but all worked well with the water activation and turned off once dried. ???
Derek
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Old 04-12-2014, 19:34   #12
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Re: A Light on Your PFD May Save Your Life!

Good to know. Thanks.
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