Life jacket design has come a long way from the bulky, ugly,
orange life jacket of the past, extra-large armholes, shaped fit,
flexible panels, pockets, inflatables and more comfortable materials -
make today’s life jackets so much easier to wear and many come with a
built in harness.
If you are the skipper, establish rules on board your boat
defining when life jackets are to be worn and lead by example.
And as skipper think seriously about how your crew would cope
if you were to go overboard, it can happen to any of us.
Children should always wear them, your child is far too
precious to take chances with.
It is worth giving some thought to what
kind of life
jacket is best for
you, your family/crew and the kind of boating you do.
There are laws, regulations and recommends and there are PFDs to suit
every occasion, unfortunately many of us encounter several of these
occasions in the course of our normal boating activities.
Few of us will have several PFDs, one for every occasion and even if we
did, remember to wear the appropriate one for each situation.
Unfortunately there isn’t one type of lifejacket that will fit every
situation for everyone.
So, there are some hard choices to make.
A PFD that inflates automatically when submerged is perfect for a small
child or someone who is unconscious but most people find it difficult
to swim in an inflated lifejacket and very difficult to clamber aboard
a boat while it is inflated.
Most lifejackets are designed to keep you face upward with your head
clear of waves and keep you afloat until rescue comes.
However, if you are conscious, and a reasonably good swimmer, you can
partially deflate the lifejacket so that you can turn onto your stomach
and use your arms to swim, after a fashion.
But don’t forget that if the water is cold hypothermia will very
quickly start affecting your control of your fingers, arms and legs.
Manually inflated lifejackets are operated
by pulling a string, which
pushes a firing pin into the CO2 canister, inflating the
Automatic and hydrostatic lifejackets both have a manual pull string as
Automatically inflated lifejackets rely on a small pellet or bobbin,
which holds back a powerful spring.
When the pellet makes contact with water it dissolves very rapidly,
releasing the spring, which pushes a firing pin into the gas canister.
Hydrostatic or ‘Hammar’ action lifejackets work the same way, but the
pellet is protected by a case that only lets water in once it is a few
centimetres below the surface, it won’t fire until fully submerged.
I am perfectly aware that the majority of Wooden Boat aficionados are sensible folk. However, I need to point out that I am an amateur wooden boat enthusiast simply writing in order to try to help other amateur wooden boat enthusiasts. And while I take every care to ensure that the information in DIY Wood Boat.com is correct, anyone acting on the information on this website does so at their own risk.