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Old 02-08-2020, 04:30   #1
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Automatic or Manual life vest?

I am about to purchase my first life vest and wondering what is the view about automatic vs. manual? I think automatic is my choice, although worried about unwanted inflation (such as in bad weather). On the other hand, will serve well in case of a bad fall into the water. Would value you any thoughts...
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Old 02-08-2020, 04:38   #2
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

Automatic certainly. They don't go off in rain.

The only time we have manual inflation vests is for someone carrying a baby, where the automatic inflation could potentially be an issue. Your choices may vary
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Old 02-08-2020, 05:02   #3
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pirate Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

Automatic.. More ergonomic when worn all the time.
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Old 02-08-2020, 05:48   #4
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

Automatic. I don't want to get laughed at in heaven for wearing a manual vest for years and then the one day I needed it I hit my head when falling overboard and drown anyways.

All kidding aside I seriously question the utility of a manual vest. They seem like a way to cheap out on life vest requirements while avoiding the bulk of a foam vest.

If you are worried about accidental inflation there are automatic models which use a hydrostatic inflator. Splashing won't set them off and neither will getting swamped by a wave. They are a bit more expensive and the replacement inflator are also more expensive but they are an option.
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Old 02-08-2020, 05:49   #5
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

Also add a light, hood and crotch straps. You will be very glad you did if you ever have to use it in an emergency.

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Old 02-08-2020, 05:56   #6
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

As you see from the pic below, auto-inflate absolutely. Specifically Crewsavers out of the UK - their top hydrostatic model.

This is a picture from an Ocean Youth Trust voyage where I was mate aboard a 60' OYT ketch. That week, we had a bunch of 11-13 mentally challenged kids with us in February. Ocean temperature was 2 degrees celsius.

The kids had really begun to come together as a crew by then. They understood when the captain called out a command, they needed to respond quickly and with an action.

We were coming alongside at the Isle of Wight and the stern needed to come in. I had initially taken the stern line to more of a midships cleat to leverage the stern in, but the stern was creeping towards the dock, so Paul called, "Let's move that stern line to a stern cleat, please!"

It happened in a split-second. I took the line off the dockside cleat to walk it towards the stern - and one of the kids grabbed the onboard end and gave a quick, sharp pull in response to Paul's command.

Suddenly, I was in the sea, in my full foulies and sea boots. The auto-inflate immediately exploded and just as suddenly, I was bobbing on the surface. Of course, on surfacing, I had gasped loudly with the coldness of the sea and all of the kids began screaming and crying.

I swam over to the ladder, stood up on the dock (shivering uncontrollably), but I wanted to stop the kids' fright, so I clowned around by taking off my sea boot and dumping out all the water "It's okay, kids! I'm okay!" - which made the kids laugh.

Then, of course, properly secured the stern line one-boot-on-and-one-boot-off, and walked straight for a hot shower.

If I hadn't had the auto-inflate LV on, those sea boots would have taken me straight to the bottom.
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Old 02-08-2020, 06:12   #7
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

When I were a young lad I went over the side after a collision - lots of gear on, big boots and no lifejacket. I can tell you the boots were like lead weights.

On another note - I found an old lifejacket in the shed last week. Last serviced in 2003 so I stuck it on my nephew and had him pull the pin. Worked great and stayed inflated for for the next two days until we decided it had enough and needed a rest.

Automatic every time (except for the usual exceptions).
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Old 02-08-2020, 08:41   #8
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

Auto and don't forget a couple of lights and a whistle to attached to vest if you sail at night. Not a bad idea during day either as you might be floating for a while. If you go long periods not sailing at night or passage making take the batteries out of devices to make sure a prep step before a night sail includes a test of strobes, flashlights, etc. Also eliminates chances of a bad battery ruining device.
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Old 02-08-2020, 08:48   #9
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

The only downside I've ever heard to an auto-inflate vest is in the event of a capsize if the vest inflates you will not be able to swim down and out of the boat. Other than that, they're preferred all round.
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Old 02-08-2020, 08:48   #10
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

I originally bought one of each due to fear that an auto might go off in bad weather, that was a groundless fear. Nothing but auto's now.
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Old 02-08-2020, 09:19   #11
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

You don't have to choose. Most automatic vests also have a manual pull tab. You just need the presence of mind to pull it if your vest doesn't self-inflate.
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Old 02-08-2020, 09:23   #12
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

Auto.
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Old 02-08-2020, 10:06   #13
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

Read the latest "Practical Sailor" for a great article on why you should have both available.
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Old 02-08-2020, 11:24   #14
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

I don't use inflatables at all. They may not be as comfortable to wear but they are fail safe. If you are wearing it, it will work. Period. They also hello protect against hypothermia much better than an inflatable. In the cold water where I sail, you don't just drown, you get incapacitated by the cold, then drown. A full coverage vest helps against that. Also for legal carriage requirements, the inflatables only count if you are actually wearing them. If you get boarded by law enforcement with only inflatable vests on board and even one crew member is not wearing their's, you get could get cited for insufficient PFD's on board. Just because technology says "you can", doesn't mean "you should".
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Old 02-08-2020, 11:56   #15
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Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?

My wife's inflatable WEST life-jacket just exploded in the back of her car as she was driving with the windows open in 34C (93F) temps.......LOL when I Googled for 34C to convert to F for those countries who haven't made the step all I got was BRA SIZES !!!!!
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I am about to purchase my first life vest and wondering what is the view about automatic vs. manual? I think automatic is my choice, although worried about unwanted inflation (such as in bad weather). On the other hand, will serve well in case of a bad fall into the water. Would value you any thoughts...
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