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Old 15-03-2014, 14:07   #1
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Selecting an offshore PFD

Howdy Folks,

I'm planning to start doing some crewing in the Texas gulf and as a result am evaluating my first serious PFD purchase. I think I'd like a good offshore inflatable (possibly hydrostatic) with an integrated harness. It needs to be comfortable enough for all day wear.

I've been contemplating a couple from West Marine below.

WEST MARINE Hydrostatic Inflatable Life Vest with Harness | West Marine

MUSTANG SURVIVAL Deluxe Automatic Inflatable Life Vests with Harness | West Marine

I'm willing to pay for for good quality but was curious if these seem like a good option or if I should be looking for other features?

Hoping for some guidance from those of you with personal experience.

Thanks,
EB
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Old 15-03-2014, 14:16   #2
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

I have both the above plus an sosuspenders... have a Spinlock too...The most comfy of all. Spend the $$ and try the one you choose out in the water to see how it functions.

What say you?
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Old 15-03-2014, 14:56   #3
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

There have been several conversations about these devices. IMHO they are as effective as "utters" on a goldfish without crotch straps. There have been several fatalities from the vest sliding off.
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Old 15-03-2014, 16:03   #4
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

I don't know about the other brands, but all the different Spinlock versions I've seen don't even have an option without the crotch straps.
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Old 15-03-2014, 17:28   #5
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

The spinlock option looks nice but seems very pricey for something that's not USCG approved. Am I missing something there?
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Old 15-03-2014, 18:17   #6
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

Yes, my spin lock has crotch straps. I keep an extra USCG topside to avoid that issue if I was ever stopped and checked.

What say you?
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Old 15-03-2014, 18:46   #7
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

Definitely get a PFD with a crotch strap, otherwise it will come off in an emergency.
Did not say what kind of crewing...
Only buy SOLAS-approved lifejackets - will be higher quality, dual chamber CO2, if you're loaded add beacons etc.
Comfort and harness attachment is VERY important, if it is a pain you won't be wearing it.
If you get the jacket in a shop try on several, they buy the most comfy one.
Ahh, and whilst you're there buy two extra CO2 cartridges, the first thing when you get home should be to try out the lifejacket. You'll need to replace the cartridges, and remember, equipment you're not familiar with / don't know how to use is just paperweight, so try out the jacket, light, whistle etc.
Note that if you go overboard only your head will be visible, so if ending up in the drink is a possibility carry handheld VHF w/ GPS, torch and green laser.

Here is an example: K2 275N - Twin chamber - Ocean Safety Ltd

Or an another supplier

http://www.lifejackets.co.uk/categor...-ce-iso-and-mc
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Old 15-03-2014, 19:04   #8
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

IMHO and experience, do NOT get an automatically inflating jacket. When it gets really wet, it will automatically open. So when you wash off some spaghetti sauce, when you hang it in a wet locker with wet foulies, when you get nailed on the foredeck, when you are in a tropical downpour, you get the surprise of an explosively inflating life jacket.

Sounds good, cost more, works poorly underway, especially in conditions you might actually wear it.

IMHO and experience, the best, by very far, are the jackets that use a thin layer (.1 or .2 inch) closed cell foam for insulation. While not approved by bureaucrats, they work much, much better in practice, especially in conditions you want to wear a PFD, and especially when you actually end up overboard.
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Old 15-03-2014, 19:22   #9
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

Actual experiences with mustang style floatation jackets:

The sleeves prevent the jacket from coming off, even if completely unzipped when the person goes overboard at racing speeds. Its easy to zip up once in the water.

The insulation in the sleeves is buoyant, making swimming and treading water and getting a line thrown at you much, much easier after a minute or so in the drink.

The color on the sleeves is substantially easier to see than the color of suspenders.

The buoyancy all around, instead of only on the chest, makes a huge difference to the ability of the person in the water to observe and act. Rescues are MUCH easier when the person in the water can do some coordinated movement to help their recovery.

The insulation all around is very important. Moving arms causes blood to be pumped from the core to the arm muscles. If the arms are uncovered, heat loss is rapid, leading to very rapid loss of strength, and loss of ability to swim, tread water, grab a line, or even raise ones arms to wave. When the arms stop moving, the person in the water drowns. Ask any lifeguard.

Again, this has been my experience.
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Old 15-03-2014, 20:53   #10
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

So, I really appreciate all the guidance.

I'll definitely go with something with crotch straps. In fact I'm really leaning towards the 170N version of the Spinlock 5D with the hydrostatic inflator. I know some folks are against auto inflator since they used to trigger in spray etc... From my reading it seems like the technology has gotten better and the fact that this unit has to be submerged 10cm to trigger seems like a good option, but I'm open to experience to the contrary. From my perspective, it seems like this life jacket includes just about everything I could need (light, line cutter and pocket for PLB or VHF/GPS). It's definitely a bit pricier than I was originally planning for but I don't see that as a major obstacle. I will definitely purchase a rearming kit, but do most folks actually trigger the inflatable vests to test them, or just fill them via the oral inflator?

Silly question but lets assume your going to crew for some coastal and offshore racing/recreational sailing, would you bring your own tether and handheld VHF/GPS?

Just wanting to ensure I'm being practical about this.
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Old 15-03-2014, 21:47   #11
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

Quote:
Originally Posted by ErBrown View Post
I know some folks are against auto inflator since they used to trigger in spray etc... From my reading it seems like the technology has gotten better
That is NOT the reason people prefer the manual system. I prefer it because when the boat is capsized and you trap inside, I don't want my life vest inflate until I am ready to come up.

As a matter of fact, I don't even wear life vest any more even I have two. I only wear safety harness and tether at all time especially when soloing. But that is just me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ErBrown View Post
Silly question but lets assume your going to crew for some coastal and offshore racing/recreational sailing, would you bring your own tether and handheld VHF/GPS?
Of course, I trust my own gears. I usually bring my own chart plotter and personal SAT tracker, knife, flash light. Not so much for portable VHF.
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Old 15-03-2014, 22:55   #12
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

We have a safety harness that we wear when only one person is on deck and the other is sleeping plus we have west marine integrated lifejacket when we feel we need them. getting the admiral to. wear one was a problem but she will wear it as she said it was not to uncomfortable
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Old 15-03-2014, 23:33   #13
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

The spinlock 5D vest can be changed from auto to manual firing pin if you want, it has dual crotch straps that wrap your legs like a climbing harness. comes with a light, cutter and hood. When it gets really bad I also have a standard pfd that i wear under the spinlock cause if you fall the pfd will absorb alot of impact maybe preventing broken ribs, if you hit the drink out of it you will still float, then you can pull the pin and the spinlock will lift you a little higher. I solo most of the time and this works out for me keeps me safe and secure.
Remember that a lock point in cockpit and jacklines or locking point to bow are mandatory with dual strap to lock with, clip in and out as you move forward never clip off then clip back on. a bounce or wave hit is all it takes to knock you over
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Old 16-03-2014, 08:00   #14
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

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Originally Posted by knottygurl View Post
The spinlock 5D vest can be changed from auto to manual firing pin if you want

I've noticed that and thought about it. Does anyone know if this is something that can be changed on the fly? For instance I really like the idea of an auto triggering inflator in case I'm knocked unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, but I can see where in some conditions you might want to swap it to manual trigger. Is this something that can be done with the flip of the switch once the manual conversion is done, or is it all or nothing?
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Old 16-03-2014, 08:18   #15
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Re: Selecting an offshore PFD

get the one that is most comfortable for YOU. People are built differently and different models will feel good on different people. I have a Mustang with integrated harness and always wear it. It has never inflated because of spray, or even getting thoroughly soaked from a boarding wave. I have never seen that happen to anyone, actually, whichever brand they use. The main reason to have an automatically inflating vest is because one of the reasons you go overboard might be getting bonked on the head by the boom. A manual model doesnt work so well if you arent conscious.

The crotch strap debate is almost as contentious as a gun or anchor thread. Again, different people have different shapes and some will have trouble and some will not. My bottom line is that if it is uncomfortable and you don't use or wear it, then what is the point?

Here is one thing to do whichever you buy: Get a rearm kit right when you buy it. You want a backup with you in case you accidentally inflate the vest for some reason. I did this once when rearming it after a plane flight (Yes, it is important to take out the cartridge when you are sending the vest in checked luggage)

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