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Old 29-03-2018, 13:30   #1
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Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Getting ready for sailing in the Arctic, I am wondering about my life jackets.

My inventory of life jackets includes two Seago 275N jackets and a bunch of Seago 165's.

The big Seagos have spray hoods, lights, etc., and have pockets for PLB and MOB beacon. One of these is mine, and the other is for whoever is working on deck. The smaller ones are worn by anyone else.

But I will be wearing a proper drysuit (Ocean Rodeo Boss) with its own buoyancy bladder, so I'm wondering whether 275 newtons is just too much buoyancy? Or whether there is such a thing? I know I couldn't swim in the 275N, but I don't know whether that's going to matter or not.

I'd be grateful for any tips. I sure as hell don't want to lose anyone overboard this summer in those frigid waters and outside of SAR coverage. I'm requiring everyone to carry PLB's and AIS MOB beacons and to have some kind of drysuit, and we will do quite a bit of practice and training.

And so I'm wondering whether the lifejackets are not best suited to this. I like my 275N, which I've worn over thousands of miles of ocean sailing. It's fairly bulky but I don't find it all that uncomfortable to wear for deck work. But maybe it's time for something different.
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Old 29-03-2018, 13:46   #2
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

I think he poses an excellent question. A dry suit changes the underlying assumptions. Obviously, you still need a harness.

The first thing I would do is jump in the water with the Boss. How does it compare with a PFD? I doubt any of us have experience with it.

Another thing to consider is that a dry suit is only a full immersion suit if you are wearing a suitable hood and gloves. When the air is warm, there may be times when these should be in a pocket.
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Old 29-03-2018, 13:57   #3
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

You asked for opinions.

Here is how I see it:

I see the dry suit as primarily for warmth and keeping dry on deck, and warmth or insulation when in water (to delay hypothermia). Even if your drysuit or float coat has some bouyancy, I don't think it would be sufficient (or to my satisfaction) for use in a storm MOB scenario.

I would wear the dry suit AND the PFD.
I would wear the higher buoyancy PFD when possible, especially in cold water, especially during heavy weather and high winds or high seas. .
I would wear the spray hood and make sure my PFD has one.

The photos you see of someone wearing a typical drysuit (or even neoprene Gumby suits) in calm water of a harbor or marina or in a swimming pool, give an inaccurate impression, because the photos are taken in calm conditions. They show the suit in use in ideal conditions (flat calm).

In a MOB situation, I would anticipate the worst conditions, such as high winds, high waves, spray, cold water, etc.

Look at the typical promotional photos of drysuits and Gumby immersion suits. Most are taken in calm conditions or pools. Notice their head is at a low level to the water (and they may be holding their head up some for the photos). Most photos show their face just a few inches from the water level (calm water).

If you are in heavy weather, you need to keep your face (airway) high and covered by the spray hood.

I am not impressed by the photos I see of people in drysuits in the water, when the water is flat calm.

I don't think "swimming" is going to be the main concern in a storm or extremely cold water MOB.

In a storm, I think breathing will take precedence and be more critical to survival.

Hope that helps.
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Old 29-03-2018, 14:08   #4
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by thinwater View Post
I think he poses an excellent question. A dry suit changes the underlying assumptions. Obviously, you still need a harness.

The first thing I would do is jump in the water with the Boss. How does it compare with a PFD? I doubt any of us have experience with it.

Another thing to consider is that a dry suit is only a full immersion suit if you are wearing a suitable hood and gloves. When the air is warm, there may be times when these should be in a pocket.
Thanks, and I'm oriented towards your advice on this, which I read very carefully in the other thread.

I will buy a wetsuit hood with face gasket, and I found today a pair of neoprene wetsuit boots right here in Cowes. I have no idea whether the hood will be comfortable for wearing for long periods on passage, but we'll see.

I will receive the Boss week after next and I will surely test it in the water, and report.
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Old 29-03-2018, 14:12   #5
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steadman Uhlich View Post
You asked for opinions.

Here is how I see it:

I see the dry suit as primarily for warmth and keeping dry on deck, and warmth or insulation when in water (to delay hypothermia). Even if your drysuit or float coat has some bouyancy, I don't think it would be sufficient (or to my satisfaction) for use in a storm MOB scenario.

I would wear the dry suit AND the PFD.
I would wear the higher buoyancy PFD when possible, especially in cold water, especially during heavy weather and high winds or high seas. .
I would wear the spray hood and make sure my PFD has one.

The photos you see of someone wearing a typical drysuit (or even neoprene Gumby suits) in calm water of a harbor or marina or in a swimming pool, give an inaccurate impression, because the photos are taken in calm conditions. They show the suit in use in ideal conditions (flat calm).

In a MOB situation, I would anticipate the worst conditions, such as high winds, high waves, spray, cold water, etc.

Look at the typical promotional photos of drysuits and Gumby immersion suits. Most are taken in calm conditions or pools. Notice their head is at a low level to the water (and they may be holding their head up some for the photos). Most photos show their face just a few inches from the water level (calm water).

If you are in heavy weather, you need to keep your face (airway) high and covered by the spray hood.

I am not impressed by the photos I see of people in drysuits in the water, when the water is flat calm.

I don't think "swimming" is going to be the main concern in a storm or extremely cold water MOB.

In a storm, I think breathing will take precedence and be more critical to survival.

Hope that helps.
Thank you; I think that makes a lot of sense.

And you bring up breathing -- which is relevant not only in cold water. I read somewhere how crucial spray hoods are on life jackets, and was sure to find one with a spray hood when I was buying.

I certainly never proposed or thought about going without any PFD; the question was whether some different type of PFD would be better suited to use with a drysuit. Certainly if I buy a different one, it will most definitely have a spray hood.
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Old 29-03-2018, 14:20   #6
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

The drysuit won't turn you face up if you are unconscious in the water. The diving community had the same debate 40 years ago when stabilised jackets (stab jacket) became available and started to replace adjustable bouyancy life jackets (ABLJ), which if inflated would turn you face up and keep your face above water level. Having neither i bought a stab jacket and took some flak from the elder diving members. My reason was that I was unlikely to be unconscious in the water but the ease of dressing and moving in the water was a major advantage.

My own life jacket is manual, my wifes an auto. I will decide if I want to inflate the jacket when in the water or be able to swim without the life jacket inflated. It is not a perfect solution.

Its a question that probably doesn't have a right or wrong answer but as suggested time to take a swim whilst wearing the Rodeo.

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Old 29-03-2018, 14:23   #7
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steadman Uhlich View Post
You asked for opinions.


I see the dry suit as primarily for warmth and keeping dry on deck, and warmth or insulation when in water (to delay hypothermia). Even if your drysuit or float coat has some bouyancy, I don't think it would be sufficient (or to my satisfaction) for use in a storm MOB scenario.

Steady, have you ever had a dry suit on in the water?
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Old 29-03-2018, 15:03   #8
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

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Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
Steady, have you ever had a dry suit on in the water?
Yes.
Why do you ask?
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Old 29-03-2018, 15:20   #9
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steadman Uhlich View Post
Yes.
Why do you ask?

Your comment regarding floatation seemed somewhat off the mark to me.

Based on my 35 years of diving in a dry suit it requires 25 to 35 lbs of lead to get neutrally buoyant with a tank and back plate that is 8 lbs negative. The neutral buoyancy is attained with all the air exhausted from the suit. Under the suit is modest insulation similar to what one would wear for cold weather sailing. Putting air in the suit and dropping the weight belt and tank would make me conservatively 40 to 50 lbs positive.

The above is for a dry suit that is a thin shell not one made from crushed neoprene.
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Old 29-03-2018, 15:22   #10
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Thank you; I think that makes a lot of sense.

And you bring up breathing -- which is relevant not only in cold water. I read somewhere how crucial spray hoods are on life jackets, and was sure to find one with a spray hood when I was buying.

I certainly never proposed or thought about going without any PFD; the question was whether some different type of PFD would be better suited to use with a drysuit. Certainly if I buy a different one, it will most definitely have a spray hood.
I recently read this Yachting World review of offshore lifejackets - How well does your lifejacket work? We put 3 offshore models to the test - Yachting World

Somewhat alarming was the inability to deploy the sprayhood on one of them and then even more so the manufacturer's response "Crewsaver has said the user needs to know to pull out the hood in a particular direction for it to deploy properly".

So something else worth testing when you jump in the water.
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Old 29-03-2018, 15:22   #11
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
Your comment regarding floatation seemed somewhat off the mark to me.

Based on my 35 years of diving in a dry suit it requires 25 to 35 lbs of lead to get neutrally buoyant with a tank and back plate that is 8 lbs negative. The neutral buoyancy is attained with all the air exhausted from the suit. Under the suit is modest insulation similar to what one would wear for cold weather sailing. Putting air in the suit and dropping the weight belt and tank would make me conservatively 40 to 50 lbs positive.

The above is for a dry suit that is a thin shell not one made from crushed neoprene.
OK, getting back to the original topic, does this mean that 275 newtons of buoyancy from the life jacket will be excessive? Should I be looking at 190 newton jackets?
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Old 29-03-2018, 15:26   #12
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

While DOCKHEAD and some others are convinced of the need to have a PFD with a spray hood, and crotch straps, some other sailors may not yet know why those are important. So, I think any time we discuss (or start a thread) the importance of PFDs, it should also be mentioned that the best practice is to include a crotch strap and spray hood too.
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This is a video I like to share with other sailors.
It shows demonstration of two sailors wearing the identical PFD, in a wave pool, to simulate the open water scenario (ocean with some waves).

It makes the following points:

1. Proper fit of the PFD harness (not too loose) is important.

2. Using a crotch strap is important for effectiveness of the PFD and for comfort and to prevent struggle and exhaustion.

3. A spray hood is important for shielding the face (airways) from spray and splash of water, making it easier to breath.


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Here is a second video, no narration, that shows water of small waves breaking over the face of the MOB.

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Old 29-03-2018, 15:31   #13
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by terah View Post
I recently read this Yachting World review of offshore lifejackets - How well does your lifejacket work? We put 3 offshore models to the test - Yachting World

Somewhat alarming was the inability to deploy the sprayhood on one of them and then even more so the manufacturer's response "Crewsaver has said the user needs to know to pull out the hood in a particular direction for it to deploy properly".

So something else worth testing when you jump in the water.
Thanks very much indeed for this highly relevant link!!!

So this goes to the heart of the question:

"What is my Newton rating?

Any sailor venturing offshore should have at least a 150N jacket. This amount of buoyancy will give a good level of protection against drowning, working with the design of the bladder to roll an unconscious casualty on to his or her back. However, bear in mind that clothes and foul weather gear can trap lots of air underwater and this can counteract the lifejacketís intended righting moment. This may mean a delay to larger casualties being brought face-up in the water. The much greater level of buoyancy of a 275N jacket reduces this delay."




Which seems to indicate that with a drysuit you need ON THE CONTRARY MORE, rather than less buoyancy from the life jacket.
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Old 29-03-2018, 15:38   #14
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Even a breathable drysuit is significantly warmer and significantly less comfortable than no drysuit, especially when the sun is out, so the PFD that you find quite comfortable with no drysuit may be the straw that broke the camel's back with it.

That said, I don't own am ocean rodeo boss and don't know much about it. I see in the marketing materials that it has a tube for managing bouyancy but is that for a bladder or just to manage the captive air in the suit?
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Old 29-03-2018, 15:58   #15
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Re: Life Jacket with Drysuit?

Quote:
Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
Your comment regarding floatation seemed somewhat off the mark to me.

Based on my 35 years of diving in a dry suit it requires 25 to 35 lbs of lead to get neutrally buoyant with a tank and back plate that is 8 lbs negative. The neutral buoyancy is attained with all the air exhausted from the suit. Under the suit is modest insulation similar to what one would wear for cold weather sailing. Putting air in the suit and dropping the weight belt and tank would make me conservatively 40 to 50 lbs positive.

The above is for a dry suit that is a thin shell not one made from crushed neoprene.
What follows is written in a friendly tone of voice, and added to continue the discussion.
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You are using a particular type of drysuit, and from your description, it sounds like it was designed for SCUBA diving.

There are different types of drysuits.

My first question is what exactly is the one model you are using or suggesting?
Please post a photo of it and name of it.
Secondly, what is the cost?

Some are not intended for SCUBA diving. Some do not have mechanisms (e.g. tubes, connections or valves) for adding air when worn (e.g. from a SCUBA tank).

For those that do NOT have an air tube (or valve for adding air) to add air to the suit, what do you propose to do to add that needed air while you are in the water as a MOB?

The kind of drysuit I would be wearing on a sailboat is not necessarily the same as what you may have been wearing while SCUBA diving.

So, while your point is that your suit has buoyancy when you add air to it, that may only apply to your particular type of suit that is designed with a valve for connecting a low pressure air tube from a SCUBA tank.

My Point: Other suits may have the same ability to trap air inside (increasing buoyancy), but they may have no easy way to add the air to the suit if the MOB is in the water.

And, even if you do add air to your dry suit, there still may be a problem with depending upon that type of suit alone.

A key issue with drysuits is that any air that is trapped in the suit may travel to the legs, raising the legs to the surface (higher than core of body). This may not seem critical if one is just waiting a few minutes for a dive boat to pick one up.

But consider the position of the head as the MOB lies there on their back, with their head back (no PFD). And that assumes the MOB is conscious. What happens if wearing just a dry suit and the MOB is unconscious? Would they float face up or down? Using a good PFD solves that by rotating the body to a face up position.

The critical need for a MOB is to have the HEAD (airways) as high as possible, for possibly extended time (we hope we can survive for several hours at least).

So I maintain that having a PFD of high buoyancy, in addition to the dry suit, would be preferable to depending upon only a drysuit, wetsuit, flotation coat, or similar for buoyancy.

That is my choice, with my life. You can choose different.
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Here is a friendly, sincere suggestion:

Since you have a drysuit you are convinced is the answer for you, take some photos of you in it without any other SCUBA gear, and post those in this thread.

My first question is: Would that suit would be comfortable to wear for prolonged periods (days) for a typical sailor? It may be properly designed for SCUBA, but "overkill" for sailing.

Enter the water without adding air to the suit prior to jumping in the water (as if you were a sailor who was wearing it and became an accidental MOB).

Before adding any extra air to the suit, pretend you are unconscious. Have a friend roll you over so you are face down in the water. Remain unmoving (no use of hands or feet). Will the air that is in your dry suit roll you face up, or rise to the back of the suit, keeping you face down?

Show how you would add air to the suit without a SCUBA tank, while in the water, cold water.

Then make sure you show how high your face is when you are on your back (without lead weights etc.).

Then explain how you would add air to a drysuit that does not have the tubes or mechanism for adding air from a tank.

That should show how YOUR drysuit may work for you and could help others see your point.
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