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Old 06-04-2015, 18:27   #1
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What Life Vest to purchase

I am looking for a USCG approved life vest with harness that automatically inflates, has an integrated spray hood and a groin strap. Have only been able to find one, the Spinlock 5D, however it is not USCG approved. Any suggestions on life vest meeting these requirements that are USCG approved would be appreciated.
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Old 06-04-2015, 21:45   #2
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

Hi,
I don't know anything about 'USCG Approved' -- why is that important?

I hope you find it!

PS: Welcome to Cruisers Forum!
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Old 06-04-2015, 22:28   #3
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

If your concern is to make sure you have enough "approved" PFDs aboard in case of vessel safety inspection, I would simply purchase whatever vest you want for self, and then purchase enough approved (my choice for offshore would be Type 1 PFDs) for the boat crew, with an extra one for you.
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Old 06-04-2015, 22:40   #4
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

Buy the one you want from a European online seller. Most of the ones from the UK come just as you describe. Don't know why the US hasn't adopted the crotch strap as standard... the life vest doesn't work properly without it.


Purchased ours from Fox's Marina Chandlery in Ipswich, UK. They have an online store and most deliveries from the UK to the US take only a day.
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Old 07-04-2015, 10:02   #5
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

Personally, I use a harness with an inflatable PFD (mustang manual inflatable). Using a harness integrated with the PFD is problematic for several reasons. First, one does not always need a harness (coastal sailing) so why carry extra weight (heavier belts and metal connecting rings) during those times it is not needed. More importantly, the tether is connected very low (on the waist belt) on a PFD. Imagine yourself on the end of a tether stretched to maximum length and under load with this arrangement.

Now consider the alternative harness: It is a vest like garment that is snug fitting, light weight and available in a variety of fabrics. The harness vest is worn under the PFD. The tether connects to the attachment point of the harness which is located in the chest area. With this type of gear there is no risk of a harness sliding up your torso or worse, sliding over your head and a harness does not require crotch straps because of its snug fit. Further, when a PFD is only used for buoyancy I don't think crotch straps are necessary either (more comfortable to wear) though that is a personal preference.

There are a variety of inflatable PFD's on the market with spray hoods. Using the combo harness and PFD as two separates pieces will provide more options for PFD's.

Good hunting!
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Old 07-04-2015, 10:35   #6
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

I just received my USCG approved Mustang Survival brand "H.I.T. Inflatable PFD with Harness" yesterday from Defender with a note apologizing for the shipping delay no less. I don't remember coming across the terms "spray hood" or groin strap" while doing my usual shopping drill, sifting through the always too many choices. The two most important features for me are the harness, to keep me attached to the boat, and the H.I.T. technology, which I understand will not inflate until you are actually in the water, and also has a much longer (5 years vs 1 year) maintenance interval than other inflation systems.
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Old 07-04-2015, 10:43   #7
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

I highly recommend the Spinlock 5D. Crossed the Atlantic in one. Very well thought out piece of kit.
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Old 07-04-2015, 12:04   #8
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

There advantages and disadvantages to auto-inflation. Obviously, it's nice when the PFD automatically inflates. In my experience, though, there are at least two disadvantages.

First, in wet conditions, it may inflate when you don't want it to. This can happen from rain, waves, etc. I've had this happen a few times. This can be a problem if you have it on under a jacket (can't breath) or if it hinders movement (can't fit between the stays on the way back to the cockpit). It also means you don't have protection until you rearm the device . . assuming that you have replacements and that previous unwanted inflations haven't depleted your supply. Plus, the rearming kits are expensive.

More dangerous is the possibility that the device may be triggered by moisture or just high humidity when in storage. I've had this happen twice, and one time the stuff on top prevented the bladder from undoing the velcro. There was no indication that it had gone off. I monthly inspect my inflatable PFDs, and that was when I discovered this.

On the subject of inflatable PFDs, one thing that really annoys me is the high cost of the CO2 cartridges. There is no excuse for this. It used to be, way back when before the USCG approved inflatables, cartridges were a buck or two a piece. For new crew, on other than day sails, I always had them put on the PFD, jump into the water and inflate and put on the PFD (these were belt-pack types). People always enjoyed this (maybe not in Maine in the spring!) and I felt that this exercise was a good safety thing.
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Old 07-04-2015, 13:15   #9
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

The reason the Spinlock vest is not USCG approved is simply because it is not made in the USA. It is the preferred vest for many ocean racers, but, since it doesn't count towards the total inventory of PFD's on board, boats in US waters would also need a USCG approved device for each crew member, stored somewhere on board (and we all know how racers hate having to stow extra gear) - i.e., it's not illegal to wear the Spinlock, it's just illegal to not have a USCG approved vest as a backup.

Mustang (USA) does make a leg/ crotch strap retrofit for their approved vests, but there seems to be some confusion as to whether or not this invalidates the vest as CG approved - something about modifying approved designs?

And you thought the government always made sense, and only has your safety in mind...
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Old 07-04-2015, 13:55   #10
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

Quote:
Originally Posted by GalleyHo View Post
There advantages and disadvantages to auto-inflation. Obviously, it's nice when the PFD automatically inflates. In my experience, though, there are at least two disadvantages.

First, in wet conditions, it may inflate when you don't want it to. This can happen from rain, waves, etc. I've had this happen a few times. This can be a problem if you have it on under a jacket (can't breath) or if it hinders movement (can't fit between the stays on the way back to the cockpit). It also means you don't have protection until you rearm the device . . assuming that you have replacements and that previous unwanted inflations haven't depleted your supply. Plus, the rearming kits are expensive.

More dangerous is the possibility that the device may be triggered by moisture or just high humidity when in storage. I've had this happen twice, and one time the stuff on top prevented the bladder from undoing the velcro. There was no indication that it had gone off. I monthly inspect my inflatable PFDs, and that was when I discovered this.

On the subject of inflatable PFDs, one thing that really annoys me is the high cost of the CO2 cartridges. There is no excuse for this. It used to be, way back when before the USCG approved inflatables, cartridges were a buck or two a piece. For new crew, on other than day sails, I always had them put on the PFD, jump into the water and inflate and put on the PFD (these were belt-pack types). People always enjoyed this (maybe not in Maine in the spring!) and I felt that this exercise was a good safety thing.
The HIT hydrostatic release vests from Mustang (and probably others) negate the problem of vests going off when they get wet. They need to be about a foot underwater before they will go off.

And having your vest inflate while under your jacket isn't a disadvantage since your inflatable vest should never, ever be under a jacket!
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Old 07-04-2015, 14:00   #11
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray Ghost View Post
I am looking for a USCG approved life vest with harness that automatically inflates, has an integrated spray hood and a groin strap. Have only been able to find one, the Spinlock 5D, however it is not USCG approved. Any suggestions on life vest meeting these requirements that are USCG approved would be appreciated.
We really like the comfort of our Spinlock 5D vests, but as you mention, they are not USCG certified [only their DeckVest (inland waters) vests are USCG certified at the moment.]

The Spinlock crotch straps can be use as the name implies, or as thigh straps [my preferred method...] The AIS transmitters attach easily and go off when the vest inflates, and the spray hood is easily donned in the water.

We favor the 5D design and don't care too much about them not being certified for 2 main reasons:
  • We keep numerous other vests onboard that do have appropriate certifications
  • You must be properly wearing an armed Type 5 PFD [inflatable PFD] in order for the certification to count when inspected, so they won't count when in a locker...

That said, while at the Seattle Boat Show this January, we did try-on another good looking off-shore harness style inflatable PFD that had just garnered its USCG approval. I apologize that neither of us can remember the manufacturer off the top of our heads, and those materials are on the boat [and we aren't at the moment...] If we remember I will update this post. I mention it so you know to keep looking...

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful at the moment.

Cheers!
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Old 07-04-2015, 14:10   #12
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

Try looking at First Watch Wave Barrier inflatable PFDs at LandfallNavigation.com. They are a new brand (I was told) by some former Mustang employees. They look really nice (when they arrived) and they are much less expensive than the Mustangs or Sospenders. Available in three styles:
AI-150M Manual Type V (Type III Performance) $95.00
AI-150A Automatic Type V (Type II Performance) $108.00
AI-150AH Automatic Harness Type V (Type II Performance) $125.00
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Old 07-04-2015, 15:42   #13
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

Good comments from a knowledgeable group of people. Thats why I like this forum.

I agree with both sides of the auto inflate / manual inflate argument. I have 4 of each on board and let each crew member decide. Always seems like an even split. I wear a manual one.
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Old 14-04-2015, 22:26   #14
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Re: What Life Vest to purchase

I think it is impossible to find the combination you are looking for. At some point, even though additional features bring you some incremental % of survival, you may have to compromise. My choice of features would be:

150N or greater of buoyancy (33.7#)
Harness.
1F inflator (cylinder seal indicator)
Preferably zipper closure, not velcro.
Leg straps.

All of these features are found in many brands of Coast Guard approved life jackets except for the leg straps. Those can be added from Mustang or West Marine, as long as you don't permanently change the original life jacket.

I would strongly suggest that you buy one with a water-activated inflation system. The issue is not one of unconciousness; unconscious victims are likely to die. The real reason is cold shock, and the difficulty of finding the inflation lanyard when entering cold water.

Cheers

Chuck
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