Has anyone else actually tested their lifejackets? Last year, whilst at anchor
and while wearing a lifeline, I jumped into sea for the sole purpose of seeing how effective our state of the art 1998 life jackets actually were. It was blowing 25-30 knots and there were constant white horses. Well, it was an eye opener. The auto inflator did not do its thing! The manual activator did function though. What was really frightening was trying to breath when only inches above the water
. The two wings of the waistcoat life jacket seemed to try and funnel the entire ocean into my face and within moments I felt that I was being swamped. I was coughing heavily which allowed further seawater into my mouth. I was rapidly pulled into our dinghy
. From the deck
or from the dinghy
the conditions looked pretty tame but at actual sea level it was scary.
Result? We started looking at alternatives and finally settled, after a lot of research
and trying various products on the Crewsaver ErgoFit 290n ocean hammer lifejackets.
For us the decider was the integral above the head
and a special infill piece that reduces/prevents the funnel effect, as well as that extra bouyancy. We really like that the sea hood
is permanently attached and just needs to be pulled down over your head
. Some jackets have spray hoods but they need attaching after the jacket is inflated! Another nice touch is that the design prevents chafe on the back of your neck when wearing over just a tee-shirt or without any shirt. We also liked that a mini-strobe is built into the jacket and that there is a pocket for your own use. We have only recently purchased these but can confirm that they are very comfortable to wear. Our own policy is for the night watch to attach a waterproof handheld VHF
to themselves (we have two that are dedicated for this), that they also each place a packet of pencil flares into the life jacket pocket and that each jacket has an upgraded whistle and a hand held torch (still looking at those options). The night watch always wear their jackets and harness and the males are expressly forbidden to pee over the side.
We also insist our kids
, when they take off in their own dinghy and out of sight, that they wear their life jackets, despite being good swimmers.
We are also keeping our old life jackets as spares or for visitors - we intend keeping them inside our dinghy when we are at sea. Naturally, we have zero affiliation with Crewsaver.