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Old 01-12-2011, 08:10   #1
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Which Auto Life Jacket

Can anybody recommend an auto life jacket that is considered the top banana, quality wise with money less important than life; and what is the min N rating for it to be called a Life jacket as in fully supporting and face up.
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Old 01-12-2011, 08:33   #2
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Re: Which auto life jacket

I have a set of Sospenders rebranded by West Marine with an integral harness. Either Sospenders or WMs version are top quality. I think it is rated for 30 lbs of bouyancy, whereas coastal jackets are usually rated for 20. Don't know what N rating means.

David
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Old 01-12-2011, 08:51   #3
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Re: Which auto life jacket

What is available in the UK is somewhat different from what you can buy in the US.

We have Seago automatic lifejackets. They are economical and good. They have somewhat more flotation than the usual ones -- 175nm and 350nm respectively. The big ones have built in spray hoods. They work with salt tablet triggers.

Some people really like the Spinlocks. I have used them on other people's boats and don't find them to be all that much more comfortable than others. They are expensive.

Crewsaver and Baltic make good lifejackets. Some of them use a Hammar mechanism trigger, which some people think is better than salt tablets.

I think all the major brands are quite good. The main thing with life jackets is to be sure you don't buy any without a crotch strap -- life jackets simply don't work without them (some of the Fastnet deaths resulted from lack of crotch straps). Also be sure and have spray hoods and lights.
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Old 01-12-2011, 10:03   #4
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Re: Which auto life jacket

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Tonks View Post
Can anybody recommend an auto life jacket that is considered the top banana, quality wise with money less important than life; and what is the min N rating for it to be called a Life jacket as in fully supporting and face up.
Have a look at the Spinlock "Deckvest" range.
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Old 01-12-2011, 10:29   #5
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Re: Which auto life jacket

Whichever brand you get, as far as I know, the hydrostatic release is the newest and possibly best mechanism. 5 years maintenance free (supposedly, i'd still test it every few years) and won't ever inflate from moisture or drenching.
I got one of these mustangs. Happy so far after a year of using it.

Spinlock are apparently considered the best. They certainly look nice, but 2 times the price...
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Old 01-12-2011, 13:27   #6
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Re: Which auto life jacket

Actually, there are no hydrostatic releases on automatic PFDs. What there are, are conventional releases with a pressure valve covering them, so that under pressure water pushes past the cover and activates the conventional automatic inflator. If that's an "aspirin tablet" conventional type, it still can fracture even if the cover protects it from stray moisture.

A good idea--but it is hyrodstatic protection, not a real hydrostatic release.

In the UK Crewfit would be a good vest to look at. They're not in the US market but they have been rated outstanding in actual tests. Available with extra buoyancy and leg/crotch straps are standard, as they should be.

If you look online there are some comparative reviews that can be turned up, performance in the water versus comfort on the neck is one issue, and the reliability of the actuator is another.

Every extra pound of buoyancy gets your face a little higher out of the water, so yes, extra buoyancy can save your life. And if you happen to go overboard with someone else--having enough buoyancy to keep both of you afloat is a very nice concept.
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Old 01-12-2011, 14:30   #7
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Re: Which auto life jacket

Self Maintenance

Whichever life jackets you get check the self maintenance instructions. We have Burkes (Australia) and the self maintenance is doable, but not simple or intuitive.

And needs to be done fairly often.

You may need to carry spares.
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Old 01-12-2011, 15:51   #8
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Re: Which auto life jacket

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Actually, there are no hydrostatic releases on automatic PFDs. What there are, are conventional releases with a pressure valve covering them, so that under pressure water pushes past the cover and activates the conventional automatic inflator. If that's an "aspirin tablet" conventional type, it still can fracture even if the cover protects it from stray moisture.

A good idea--but it is hyrodstatic protection, not a real hydrostatic release.
Can you provide some links to support this?
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Old 01-12-2011, 16:13   #9
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Re: Which auto life jacket

Can we widen this discusion to auto lifejackets with integral harness?
Regards,
Richard.
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Old 01-12-2011, 19:40   #10
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Re: Which Auto Life Jacket

crazy-
No, I cannot provide the links but you can find them online. Look for the details on any "hydrostatic" inflator, last time I looked there was only one real maker and all they were doing was basically putting a spring-loaded flap valve over the "aspirin" type inflator. (Not the paper-mache-bobbin inflator that Crewfit uses, but the standard autoinflator that almost everyone else uses.)

Richard-
You'll find Crewfit (in the UK) have integral harnesses, as do Mustang and Sospenders in the US market. Some make the crotch strap optional, as most buyers don't realize how important it is, they figure it is just more uncomfortable rigging to bother with. Which it is. But without it, any vest will ride up on your torso and of course, any portion of the vest that can rise up above the surface is providing zero buoyancy.
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Old 01-12-2011, 20:08   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead
What is available in the UK is somewhat different from what you can buy in the US.

We have Seago automatic lifejackets. They are economical and good. They have somewhat more flotation than the usual ones -- 175nm and 350nm respectively. The big ones have built in spray hoods. They work with salt tablet triggers.

Some people really like the Spinlocks. I have used them on other people's boats and don't find them to be all that much more comfortable than others. They are expensive.

Crewsaver and Baltic make good lifejackets. Some of them use a Hammar mechanism trigger, which some people think is better than salt tablets.

I think all the major brands are quite good. The main thing with life jackets is to be sure you don't buy any without a crotch strap -- life jackets simply don't work without them (some of the Fastnet deaths resulted from lack of crotch straps). Also be sure and have spray hoods and lights.
Just be aware, Seago are playing fast and loose with the specs. The do not use a bigger cylinder and hence cannot get more buoyancy. All 150Newton jackets actually inflate to about 175-180 as the law requires a minimum of 150N and hence manufacturers build in leeway , ie positive only error. The same is true of 275N jackets. All Seago did was state the actual working buoyancy of the jacket. But they are the same as all other jackets.

In my direct experience. Any large-ish male wearing full wet weather gear will not be turned face up by a standard 150 Newton jacket. This is why my standard offshore jacket is a 275N unit. Crotch straps are an absolute necessity as the jacket will otherwise rise up the neck of the wearing and cause loss of turning torque and panic from constriction and lack of sight lines.

It has though been pointed out to me that the drawback of 275N units is that they are very difficult to swim in and almost impossible to board a life raft from the water in. This requires removal of the jacket which tends to defeat its purpose.

Dave
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Old 01-12-2011, 20:10   #12
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Re: Which Auto Life Jacket

[QUOTE=hellosailor;829617]crazy-
No, I cannot provide the links but you can find them online. Look for the details on any "hydrostatic" inflator, last time I looked there was only one real maker and all they were doing was basically putting a spring-loaded flap valve over the "aspirin" type inflator. (Not the paper-mache-bobbin inflator that Crewfit uses, but the standard autoinflator that almost everyone else uses.)

i looked for a while, and couldn't find any indication of what you're saying. Which is why I asked...

Not saying you're wrong, but I don't see this information as available which, of course, makes me curious...
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Old 02-12-2011, 05:12   #13
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Re: Which Auto Life Jacket

To everyone thanks a lot for the imput
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Old 02-12-2011, 05:59   #14
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Re: Which Auto Life Jacket

Quote:
Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
Just be aware, Seago are playing fast and loose with the specs. The do not use a bigger cylinder and hence cannot get more buoyancy. All 150Newton jackets actually inflate to about 175-180 as the law requires a minimum of 150N and hence manufacturers build in leeway , ie positive only error. The same is true of 275N jackets. All Seago did was state the actual working buoyancy of the jacket. But they are the same as all other jackets.

In my direct experience. Any large-ish male wearing full wet weather gear will not be turned face up by a standard 150 Newton jacket. This is why my standard offshore jacket is a 275N unit. Crotch straps are an absolute necessity as the jacket will otherwise rise up the neck of the wearing and cause loss of turning torque and panic from constriction and lack of sight lines.

It has though been pointed out to me that the drawback of 275N units is that they are very difficult to swim in and almost impossible to board a life raft from the water in. This requires removal of the jacket which tends to defeat its purpose.

Dave
Well, could be. I'm not so "largish", but I wear a 275N (not 350 - typo) Seago. I like it. It's comfortable and very well made. It has pockets in it (the svelter lifejackets like the Spinlock Deskvest are too small) where I am able to keep a strobe, PLB, and other stuff (I wish I had a handheld VFH small enough to fit).

I agree with you about crotch straps -- a lifejacket is useless without them. I think I wrote that.

I should have written (in response to another post) that a lifejacket without integral harness is something silly. Are they even made anymore? Of course, every lifejacket should have an integral harness.

I've never tried to board a liferaft in a lifejacket (thank God), but I wouldn't trade the extra bouancy of my 275N jacket for ease of boarding. I think it is much more likely that the lifejacket will be used in a MOB situation, than boarding a liferaft. My liferaft (I think all others, too) has a boarding net. I wouldn't think it would be a big deal to shed the jacket once you've got a good grip on the net.
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Old 02-12-2011, 06:09   #15
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Re: Which Auto Life Jacket

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
crazy-
No, I cannot provide the links but you can find them online. Look for the details on any "hydrostatic" inflator, last time I looked there was only one real maker and all they were doing was basically putting a spring-loaded flap valve over the "aspirin" type inflator. (Not the paper-mache-bobbin inflator that Crewfit uses, but the standard autoinflator that almost everyone else uses.)

Richard-
You'll find Crewfit (in the UK) have integral harnesses, as do Mustang and Sospenders in the US market. Some make the crotch strap optional, as most buyers don't realize how important it is, they figure it is just more uncomfortable rigging to bother with. Which it is. But without it, any vest will ride up on your torso and of course, any portion of the vest that can rise up above the surface is providing zero buoyancy.
Three types of auto inflators:

1. The salt tablet type, which is most common. In my opinion this is a perfectly reasonable system. I don't think accidental inflations are very common, and if one does happen, then it is a fairly minor nuisance in case you have spare triggers and cylinders aboard.

2. A variant of this which uses a paper collar, which dissolves with enough immersion in water. Crewsaver only, as far as I know. Also heard nothing bad about this system.

3. The Hammar system which is indeed hydrostatic -- that is, it works on water pressure. The hydrostatic valve lets water in to dissolve the salt tablet. A bit Rube Goldberg, but it's the best. Also very expensive. I don't bother with them because IMHO the ordinary salt tablet type is perfectly acceptable.


See:

http://www.cmhammar.se/inflator/

Lifejacket Inflators

Lifejacket Inflation Options for Crewsaver Lifejackets


" 1. How does it work?
The Hammar automatic inflator has a unique hydrostatic valve that works by the pressure difference between the inside of the bladder and the outside. When the inflator is immersed in water by 10 cm, the hydrostatic valve opens and water will have access to a water sensitive element. This in turn releases a stainless steel spring mechanism, which pierces the CO2 cylinder."

FAQ Product
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