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-   -   Automatic or Manual life vest? (https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f122/automatic-or-manual-life-vest-237865.html)

dr.j.levy 02-08-2020 04:30

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...

Tillsbury 02-08-2020 04:38

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

boatman61 02-08-2020 05:02

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Automatic.. More ergonomic when worn all the time.

Statistical 02-08-2020 05:48

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.

Pete7 02-08-2020 05:49

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.

Pete

LittleWing77 02-08-2020 05:56

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
1 Attachment(s)
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. :wink:

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.

kevinof 02-08-2020 06:12

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).

EmeraldCoastSailor 02-08-2020 08:41

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.

mvmojo 02-08-2020 08:48

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.

Calif.Ted 02-08-2020 08:48

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.

DEAN2140 02-08-2020 09:19

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.

Lake-Effect 02-08-2020 09:23

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Auto.

Ahildeb 02-08-2020 10:06

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Read the latest "Practical Sailor" for a great article on why you should have both available.

capt jgw 02-08-2020 11:24

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".

anacapaisland42 02-08-2020 11:56

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 !!!!!
Bill :smile:


Quote:

Originally Posted by dr.j.levy (Post 3199728)
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...


Mike OReilly 02-08-2020 12:16

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Another vote for auto. I figure one of the main reasons I might fall in is due to a head injury (moving boom, slapping lines, slip and fall). In those cases I may be incapacitated, so auto makes sense.

I've never had it go off in weather or big green seas coming over the side. I did have an accidental inflation once, that that was when I was stepping off a friend's boat, and my manual pull-tab got grabbed by the stanchion. Nice to see how quickly it inflated :redface:.

IslandInfedel 02-08-2020 12:53

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Get one where you can select auto or manual.

If Iím below decks itís manual, if Iím docking itís manual, a inflated life jacket in the wrong situation can kill you just as dead as no life jacket.

copaco 02-08-2020 13:58

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
I don't want to mention the name since the compagny examined and sent me the jacket with an extra inflator.I fell overboard and the vest inflated about 30 minutes later on the dock.The first time you fall in, you don't think of pulling on the manual handel.I will still use but remember this.Some will not wear auto from experience.

IslandInfedel 02-08-2020 14:00

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by copaco (Post 3200079)
I don't want to mention the name since the compagny examined and sent me the jacket with an extra inflator.I fell overboard and the vest inflated about 30 minutes later on the dock.The first time you fall in, you don't think of pulling on the manual handel.I will still use but remember this.Some will not wear auto from experience.

Same with HUET training

jmschmidt 02-08-2020 14:58

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
You can buy models which are convertible between auto and manual inflate. I have two of them. I talked to a guy who had just finished the Transpac race who told me his auto inflated three or four time when tank slapper waves broke over the boat. He was down to his last cartridge.

We got hit by a fast moving cold front squall once crossing the Gulf of Mexico (72knots of wind indicated) with waves breaking over the boat every couple of minutes. I had to go forward to the mast to lower a broken mainsail when boom vang broke. Took me about a half hour. Glad I had my manual inflate vest on.

Nicholson58 02-08-2020 15:03

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Auto but only with hydrostatic trigger. I’ve had three accidental inflations with water activated units. The last one was in severe conditions when the tight horse collar made things difficult. Each accidental inflation costs a lot to re-arm. Cartridges are not available in many countries. I’ve never had any issues with a hydrostatic unit.

Check on the cost and availability of cartridges before you buy. Carry spares.

IslandInfedel 02-08-2020 15:09

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Nicholson58 (Post 3200134)
Auto but only with hydrostatic trigger. Iíve had three accidental inflations with water activated units. The last one was in severe conditions when the tight horse collar made things difficult. Each accidental inflation costs a lot to re-arm. Cartridges are not available in many countries. Iíve never had any issues with a hydrostatic unit.

Check on the cost and availability of cartridges before you buy. Carry spares.


Also a great reason to ALWAYS have a knife on you

https://www.boyeknives.com/

CarinaPDX 02-08-2020 15:23

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
I think the consensus is clear: buy an automatic inflating vest. But make sure it is using a hydrostatic trigger, not one that works by dissolving salt (or whatever it is). I have had unwanted inflations with the salt type, mostly just scary when they pop open in the middle of a quiet night's sleep (I pretty much had to scrape one crew off the overhead after one such experience). Maintenance requires replacing the salt bobbins regularly, which few people do, but if the bobbins aren't stored in a dry place (on a cruising boat?) then the replacement may not be much better. Of course inflating at the wrong time can cause difficulties and even be dangerous. Currently I have mine converted to manual inflate until I decide to buy proper hydrostatic vests.

Whatever you buy you need to carry spares of both the disposable inflation mechanism and the gas cartridges. Do not assume that you will be able to buy replacement cartridges everywhere. I bought my vests in the US and the cartridges have Imperial threads - which are simply not available in Europe. So I ended up buying complete metric replacements for the inflators and cartridges while in Europe. And for reasons that are beyond my ken the airlines do not want you carrying these cartridges around, although I think they are being a bit more flexible lately.

You do not have to pay a fortune for these cartridges through the vest manufacturer and marine outlets. They are available at very reasonable prices from online sources at least. It used to be that at least some manufacturers sold the replacement parts separately from the cartridges, and there are limits to the price of a tiny plastic part, but it seems common now to bundle them together at a very high price. So as part of shopping for a new vest take a look at the parts cost, and in fact buy at least one or two recharge kits at the same time.

Greg

clarkey 02-08-2020 16:19

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Good subject, in saying that does anyone suggest a better unit over another?
Clarkey

Sailor279 02-08-2020 17:03

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Iíve never considered anything other than an Auto. If you select a hydrostatic you should not have problems with accidental inflation as they are designed to inflate at a depth 3 feet or more. Look for one thatís streamlined to limit snags with a comfortable collar.

Definitely add a crotch strap as your vest will rise up above your head when inflated. Without a strap, your head is below water while the vest floats safely above...not good.

If you expect to be in weather, always carry a rearming kit and spare CO2 cartridge(s). I frequently (well, before Covid) fly to the East coast to race and each airline has its own rules for CO2 cartridge, so check with your carrier. AA allows only in checked bags, not carryon.

Highly recommend: TEST IT OUT and get familiar with how it operates. Inflate it yourself and better yet, try it in water. At the 2-day Safety at Sea seminars I attended (again, pre-Covid), you jump in with full foulies, boots and vest. I didnít want to waste a cartridge, so I manually inflated the vestó this took just a few puffs to get to maxó but I am healthy and was prepared. I was surprised how buoyant I was with just foulies, floating on back.

My next vest will def include a spray hood, too! Amazon has a good selection including Mustang and Spinlock. Make sure you get the right size!

Mike OReilly 02-08-2020 17:09

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
I too would be interested in any specific recommendations people have for new auto-inflates. We're still using an early generation of the Mustang. They must be over 15 years old now. They've been fine, but the newer ones look even more comfortable.

My requirement would be

- 3-way inflate (hydrostatic, manual pull, manual inflate),
- comfortable fit,
- crotch strap,

nice would be included whistle and strobe, but those can be added.

Statistical 02-08-2020 17:31

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mike OReilly (Post 3200209)
I too would be interested in any specific recommendations people have for new auto-inflates. We're still using an early generation of the Mustang. They must be over 15 years old now. They've been fine, but the newer ones look even more comfortable.

My requirement would be

- 3-way inflate (hydrostatic, manual pull, manual inflate),
- comfortable fit,
- crotch strap,

nice would be included whistle and strobe, but those can be added.

I like my Crewsaver Ergofit. It has 3 way inflation, is comfortable at least for me and has a crotch strap, light, and spray hood. It also was on sale for <$200 (Ergofit 190N OS Hammar). Still I think any modern model with hydrostatic release by any major OEM is probably fine. The HRUs are all made by Hamarr regardless of the vest brand. Hamarr also makes most of the HRUs for lifeboats and EPIRBs too.

Tillsbury 02-08-2020 17:53

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
I'm happy with the ones I have at the moment (small and comfortable Lalizas 190N with harness), but when they get replaced I'll be getting one of the modern ones with a quick-release that means you get dragged through the sea backwards rather than forwards. Look for those.

Jammer 02-08-2020 18:04

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
I'm going against the consensus here. I have a manual-inflate vest. I like it. I would not have an auto. Which one is right depends on the waters you are in and your swimming ability.


I have ended up in the water on two occasions with the vest on, both while canoeing. The vest didn't inflate and I swam to shore. No need to purchase a rearming kit and no balloons to interfere with what I was doing. Yet the vest was there if I needed it.

contrail 02-08-2020 18:36

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Can't imagine anything but an auto inflating model. However, check them out on a regular basis. I had a top of the line one (brand mentioned in this thread) that was so comfortable that I could sleep in it. Handy, because I was almost always singlehanding. The one time I might really have needed it (winds over 60 for three hours, with waves to match), but didn't, I rinsed it off afterward and inflated it and, one whole seam had rotted away. If I had needed it, I would have been a goner. I took very good care of this top of the line vest (would definitely buy another), but it eventually gave way. Check them frequently.

colinalleck 02-08-2020 21:54

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
In 20 years of ocean racing on experienced an unwanted inflation when we poked the nose of the boat and the foredeckie throw a 5m wave

Would suggest auto

fxykty 03-08-2020 03:29

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
For anyone on a monohull with relatively high risk of boom strike then auto inflation (hydrostatic as mentioned before) probably should be the go-to system.

For those on multihulls where boom strike is generally a non-existent problem, but escaping from an overturned cockpit, salon or hull could happen, then manual inflation only. If you really want an auto inflate then be prepared to deflate it if needed and then manually reinflate it.

If sailing in cold water where cold shock is an issue then auto, regardless of boat type.

Spray hoods are very useful and if itís windy pretty much the only way to breathe normally.

Crotch straps are generally only for keeping the life jacket from floating over your head in the water and probably NOT for lifting - make sure you know what kind youíve got.

Tether must have quick release at your end so you can release if youíre being dragged.

Integrated harness is easier to use than a separate one. But it wonít be a chest harness and most likely canít be used to lift you.

Knife, light, whistle are required items and take up very little space. AIS beacon, radio, drogue, flares, etc are add-ons and while useful can add uncomfortable bulk. Figure out how your MOB procedures will work and what youíd want to help.

Consider the volume. 150kN is minimum, 170 and 190 more common for offshore, and 220 and 290 for cold regions where youíre going to be wearing a lot of gear and need more flotation. But the larger the flotation the bulkier and heavier the folded life jacket and the bigger the bladder in front of your body. You may need to partially deflate the bladder to climb into a life raft or back on board.

Practice!! Take an open water survival course, or at very least jump into a pool or lake or ocean with and without foul weather gear and learn what it feels like and how it works. The first time to inflate your life jacket should not be the first time you fall overboard for real.

Test your inflatable regularly - manually inflate it at least once a year to ensure the bladder is in good condition. Learn to repack it and how to rearm it. Carry spares.

A life jacket solves only half the problem - keeping you able to breathe and afloat in the water. Think and plan for the second part of bringing the person in the water back on board.

chrisr 03-08-2020 04:56

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
i prefer manual.

have you ever tried to swim with a lifejacket on ?

but ALWAYS fit crotch strap to your life jacket. if you don't think this is necessary, inflate one in the water and see what happens without

strobe as well of course

btw, we replace our co2 cartridges regularly however i routinely see l/jackets that are 7 years or more out of date inflate normally, and stay inflated for days and days - assuming the l/jacket has been reasonably cared for. look after it and it will look after you !

cheers,

Mike OReilly 03-08-2020 07:06

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by fxykty (Post 3200426)
...If sailing in cold water where cold shock is an issue then auto, regardless of boat type.

Spray hoods are very useful and if itís windy pretty much the only way to breathe normally.
...

Integrated harness is easier to use than a separate one. But it wonít be a chest harness and most likely canít be used to lift you.

Good points. Most of my cruising has been in cold water. Immersion brings instant jolt that can debilitate at times. An auto-inflate is pretty important here.

My current old Mustang has a built in harness. I like it a lot and likely use it more than if I had to don a separate harness. My replacement jacket will have one.

Quote:

Originally Posted by chrisr (Post 3200462)
have you ever tried to swim with a lifejacket on ?

Any good lifejacket is going to be hard to swim in. Its primary role is to keep you floating and breathing. But I suppose some are better than others.

Kelkara 03-08-2020 10:28

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
I also prefer a manual lifejacket ... because then I can also use it in my dinghy. For my dinghy use (rowing to/from shore), I'm most at risk when climbing in/out of the dinghy from the boat, or tripping while landing/launching from a rocky beach ... and in neither of those circumstances do I want my lifejacket exploding automatically into a big clumsy ruff when I'm within arms reach of the ladder or in knee deep water.

I suppose a better solution would be to keep a separate foam pfd for the dinghy. But I'm always tethered while underway, so hopefully a low risk of falling in then.

Tillsbury 03-08-2020 14:53

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Here in NZ, like in many countries, inflatable lifejackets have a disadvantage of whether they're counted or not. My boat came with a ludicrous number of foam lifejackets stuffed behind various settees, I think the surveyor stopped counting at 15...

Obviously these are the best things to use when kayaking, on a sailing dinghy, or anywhere else there's a distinct likelihood (and little threat to life) of going in the water. The inflatable ones are for use when you really really don't want to go in the water at all.

Mike OReilly 03-08-2020 15:04

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
In Canada inflatables are not considered lifejackets unless worn. You don't have to wear a lifejacket all the time on board, but you do have to have an appropriate lifejacket available for all crew.

An inflatable that is sitting in the cockpit doesn't count, but an old keyhole foamy jacket that is buried in the sail locker does -- to use a not-so-random-example :wink:.

chrisr 03-08-2020 15:24

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mike OReilly (Post 3200506)

...


Any good lifejacket is going to be hard to swim in. Its primary role is to keep you floating and breathing. But I suppose some are better than others.

my comment (which was a bit cryptic i admit) was meaning that with a manual l/j you have the option of swimming clear before choosing when to inflate. with an auto you can get trapped

but perhaps this is more relevant to our situation of a catamaran in relatively warm water

cheers,

Kelkara 03-08-2020 15:28

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mike OReilly (Post 3200933)
In Canada inflatables are not considered lifejackets unless worn. You don't have to wear a lifejacket all the time on board, but you do have to have an appropriate lifejacket available for all crew.

An inflatable that is sitting in the cockpit doesn't count, but an old keyhole foamy jacket that is buried in the sail locker does -- to use a not-so-random-example :wink:.

I believe it has to be "readily accessible", so buried in a locker might not count.

chrisr 03-08-2020 15:29

Re: Automatic or Manual life vest?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Tillsbury (Post 3200928)
Here in NZ, like in many countries, inflatable lifejackets have a disadvantage of whether they're counted or not. My boat came with a ludicrous number of foam lifejackets stuffed behind various settees, I think the surveyor stopped counting at 15...

Obviously these are the best things to use when kayaking, on a sailing dinghy, or anywhere else there's a distinct likelihood (and little threat to life) of going in the water. The inflatable ones are for use when you really really don't want to go in the water at all.

fortunately they are counted here in Oz

but we also keep a whole bunch of solid foam (board of trade style) l/jackets for when we have extra visitors onboard for a lunch harbour cruise. would never seriously use such though !

cheers,


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