PFD "Personal Floatation Devise", otherwise
known as a
Don't Leave the Dock Without One
Life Jackets, Do I Really Need One ; OK, you say you can swim, but what if shore is a LOOONG way away and the wind/tide is against you, or you are partly incapacitated?
Any Personal Floatation Devise is better than none when you need it. But it needs to be readily accessible (better yet worn) at all times. This can get to be a bit cumbersome for some types and interfere with the fun for the average boater. However if something bad is going to happen more especially in a small boat, it WILL happen so fast that you do not have a chance to do not have a chance to get into one, much less find it.
Therefore it makes sense to the wearing of an inflatable PFD at all times becomes very important. However you need to inspect them every year. If would be foolhardy to wear one every time you went out only to find out that it was inoperative when you do need it. Sure it may cost you a few bucks for a new re-arm kit for testing, but at this point, you are committed if you have to use it, with no way to fix the problem when you are in the water. Listed below is a placard I had made and is placed prominently in view in the cabin of my boat.
One important thing to remember, do not put a coat on over any inflatable PFD. They need to be worn over all you clothing, including a coat, otherwise if it does inflate your arms may well be bound up inside the coat to where you could not navigate.
Wear a P.F.D. --- "DEAD MEN CATCH NO FISH"
|This placard is pretty self explanatory|
Non-Inflatable PFDs ; On any recreational boat you are required to have on board a throwable PFD. These usually boil down to the Type IV or boat cushion. Then there are the old style Type 1, regular flotation life vests, however these are rather bulky so are seldom worn, except at the last minute or in a real stormy seas situation. These can also be broken down to near-shore and offshore versions, with the offshore having more floatation. Needless to say, these seem to be stored most of the time. However if you are boarded by the Coast Guard, they do not tell you, but you have 30 seconds to access AND climb into a PFD to comply with their requirements. Therefore many boaters/fisherpersons would rather wear the inflatable units.
NOTE - The inflatables do not count as a PFD unless they are worn.
You will also find foam type vests and jackets, however they are a bit more bulky.
Three Different Styles of Inflatables ; You will find three different styles of the inflatable vests. (1) Manual operated (2) Bobbin "Pill" style of self inflatable (3) Hydrostatic style of self inflatables Usually the self inflatables can also be activated manually by pulling the "rip cord".
The manual inflating units are the more foolproof and cheaper to re-arm. The self inflating can have either a fast dissolving "PILL" "bobbin type or a "Hydrostatic" activated by water pressure activation method. There are drawbacks to both. (1) the pill type can get set off by being subject to a lot of water (rain), or by carelessness of throwing the unworn unit into the boat, cracking the pill. (2) the hydrostatic are more durable but the re-arm kits are considerably more expensive.
And the word from the Coast Guard is the hydrostatics
have an expiration date and are good for five years. The bottom line
here is that when buying a hydrostatic PFD or a replacement activation component
be sure to look at the expiration date and make sure it has the maximum 5 years
of life remaining - or be sure to get a really good reduction in price.
That in reality also makes it expensive and inadvisable to buy a replacement
that is not needed for immediate refit. However if It still remains being
usable as a manual inflate PFD, where does that come in??
Yearly Testing ; OK, you have your new unit and have worn it for a year, maybe it is time to test it. It would be rather embarrassing AND possibly deadly if it did not function, more especially the inflatable ones.
Usually the manufacturer recommends that you test them annually. OK the regular (non inflatable) units are pretty easy to look over, are there any rips, or tears, partly missing straps or buckles? But what about the inflatable ones, do you simply pull the rip cord handle every spring? Yes, you can do that, however units all that I have been exposed to also have a mouth piece tube that you can inflate by blowing into this tube. This is cheaper for testing and serves the same purpose. Does it inflate and hold air? The regular near-shore inflatables usually have a lesser amount of buoyancy and in testing mine I get about 12 good deep blows to get them to maximum inflation. Let it set overnight and then look to see if it is still inflated. Is So, you are good to go and can deflate it, by pushing down on the check valve in the mouthpiece as you squeeze the bags. Once the bags are completely deflated, fold it back and snap the Velcro strips ready for another year of use.
You should consider purchasing extra recharge kits and have them on hand, as some brands could use hard to find kits which could be a hindrance if you were some distance from a marine dealer or needed it the next day.
Of the three inflatables that I have on my boat, my two loaners performed FINE, while the other one (mine) leaked off in about 15 minutes, NOT GOOD. I blew it up again and immersed it in a cattle watering trough, where I could see air bubbles come steaming out at one seam. Time to buy a new one. But I guess that was not bad, as that made 3 units that I wore out in 20 years. YES, I wear mine EVERY TIME I am on a boat.
It's pretty easy to open up the bobbin and check the condition of the pill. Tap it on the counter, if it's "chalky" then just replace the pill. No big deal. As for the CO2 cartridge, I have not seen an expiration date on them, but have seen a fill date. They should never try go bad if stored properly, however if left in a vest for many years after being exposed to saltwater, I have seen the cylinders rust badly.
Try this: Wear the inflatable
when testing by setting it off, and then think about what might happen if you
were wearing the PFD under raingear or coat (always wear it on top of all
clothing.) If the inflatable gets wet when fishing, just take it into the
house overnight; they dry quickly.
During a training session, a friend's wife had to jump in a pool and then activate the inflatable PDF; she described the sensation like she was going to be shot clear out of the water (that did not happen, but just felt that way).
|Unexpected accidental testing trying to get a large ling cod in the boat|
Recharging an Inflatable ; Well let's say that you either accidently jerked the rip-cord, threw it to hard into the boat and cracked the pill, OR did have to use it and now need to recharge the unit, OR did your yearly testing. First you need to deflate the bladder. You will have to release the mouthpiece blow up valve by holding it in with a pencil or similar object. I then take one side at a time and roll/squeeze as much air as possible out, then do it again. Get each side of the bladder as compressed as possible, fold them over in the original position and close the outer enclosure, secured by the Velcro snaps.
There are numerous sizes and versions of recharge kits, which range from economical (under $20) to some near $75 depending on the model in question. You need to use the one designed for your inflatable vest. The manual vests only require a new CO2 cylinder, while the self inflatable units also need a "pill" that holds the charging arm until the pill dissolves in water. The newer units also need the CO2 cylinder AND use a Hydrostatic water pressure sensor for the self inflate (why the higher cost).
When I buy any inflatable vest, I try to be sure to get the them to where they all use the same re-charge kit, and purchase a spare at that same purchase time. There are screw in CO2 cylinders and also bayonet style, so be sure that the spare kit you purchase fits your unit. There should also be a label on the inside flap giving the proper recharge kit number.
My OLD self inflatable was an expensive commercial unit that over time, I had a hard time finding re-charge kits after Boaters World went out of business. I could find the right CO2 cylinder, but the replacement cage for and pill was not compatible. Finally I found by a lot of looking and comparing, that IF I bought just the proper CO2 cylinder off another brand vest, used the old pill cage (bobbin), and if I used a 800mg Folic Acid vitamin pill, that it served as an alternate dissolvable pill. It took a few more seconds to dissolve, but it worked.
Observations/Questions ; If you have a full cabin boat and you have a self inflatable PFD, AND the boat goes down with you inside, it could become difficult to exit a cabin of an overturned boat. Something to think about?
The law requires that children under 12 years of age to wear a PFD at all times they are on the water. If you put them in a inflatable, it may well be to your benefit to inflate it and give them the experience of what to expect. You would not have to pull the cord on a manual unit, but you could blow it up with the mouthpiece, not exactly the same sensation as if it went POOF, but they could get the idea. This however would not be an option with the self-inflatable units.
USCG Safety Alert 13-16
September 12, 2016
WE'RE NOT INFLATING THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS MESSAGE, CHECK FOR PROBLEMS BEFORE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!
This safety alert reminds all inflatable life jacket users of the importance of performing periodic maintenance on their equipment. Instances of fatal accidents where inflatable life jackets failed to properly inflate have been documented. When a life jacket fails to inflate properly, the results can be life threatening. Unknown bladder leaks may exist, fabric degradation or an improperly installed CO2 cylinder is all it takes to render an inflatable life jacket ineffective by preventing its inflation or ability to stay inflated.
Various manufacturers of inflatable equipment will likely have different maintenance instructions for their products and directions for the user to service and inspect the devices. Knowing and following the manufacturer's maintenance instructions are critical. Proper maintenance service and inspection will ensure all parts of the life jacket including the bladder, inflation mechanism and CO2 cylinder are checked and in good working order.
The Coast Guard highly recommends routine maintenance, service, and inspection in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. The following inflatable life jacket inspection guidance is for informational purposes only and does not supersede any manufacturer recommendations or instruction:
(1) Each voyage, prior to getting underway:
a. If there is a service indicator check it to ensure it is GREEN. If the service indicator is RED the mechanism has been fired or is incorrectly fitted.
b. Check for visible signs of wear or damage by ensuring that there are no rips, tears or holes; that the seams are securely sewn; and that the fabric, straps and hardware are still strong.
c. For auto-inflating life jackets, ensure all auto components are armed and not expired. Following the manufacturer's instructions, reveal the inflation system and oral inflation tube. Check that the CO2 cylinder is firmly secured. Examine it for rust or corrosion. If you remove the CO2 cylinder for inspection, be sure to carefully replace it without over-tightening.
d. Repack the lifejacket as per manufacturer's instructions. Ensure the pull-tab lanyard is accessible and unlikely to be caught when being worn.
(2) Periodic checks as recommended by the manufacturer or when in doubt:
a. Inflate the bladder using the oral tube and leave it overnight in a room with a constant temperature. If the bladder loses pressure, take the lifejacket to an authorized service center for further tests. Do not attempt to repair a life jacket yourself. If there is no obvious loss of pressure, deflate the life jacket by turning the cap of the inflation tube upside down and pressing it into the inflation tube. Gently squeeze the inflatable life jacket until all air has been expelled. To avoid damage do not wring or twist the life jacket.
b. Repack the lifejacket as per manufacturer's instructions. Ensure the pull-tab lanyard is accessible and unlikely to be inadvertently snagged when being worn.
Store your life jacket in a dry, well ventilated location away from dampness and out of direct sunlight. It's important to rinse your life jacket with fresh water after salt water exposure and dry it thoroughly prior to storage. If your life jacket is set for auto-inflation, remove the auto-inflation cartridge prior to rinsing. The life jacket manufacturer may have specific requirements, so read the instructions on the lifejacket.
This safety alert is provided for informational purpose only and does not relieve any domestic or international safety, operational, or material requirements.
Developed by the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety and the Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis.
Questions or comments may be sent to HQS-PF-fldr-CG-INV@uscg.mil.
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Originated 12-14-2010 Revised 09-17-2016 ***
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