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Old 14 October 2006, 03:14   #1
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Best or Worst Lifejackets?

Which ones are good,which ones are great, and which ones are just bl***y rubbish?
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Old 14 October 2006, 07:56   #2
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It's an interesting question: because how many people know until it comes to the crunch (or splash) whether their lifejacket is any good or not? I wouldn't have a clue...

I bought a set of four of these (the red/reflex 150N Hammar ones second down from the top) for my boat recently but I really don't know if they are any good or not, they were Hammar ones which is what I wanted, and at the time there was a special offer on them so they were cheaper than most of a similar spec
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Old 14 October 2006, 08:07   #3
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Like most things in life, you gets what you pays for.

A cheap lifejacket will probably work OK, but will stand up less well to the rigours of time than a better made one. Areas that usually go first are internal folds, the seal around the CO2 device, and stitching.

Crewsaver jackets are about the best you'll get, as you're getting the benefit of years of R&D from a specialist rather than someone cheaper in the far east copying a well known design.

Care of the jacket once you've got it is critical - keep it washed after use, inspect regularly, and look after it!
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Old 14 October 2006, 16:07   #4
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As havener says, it depends on what you want. There are only three release mechanisms - United Moulders (manual & auto) Hakley Roberts (manual & auto) and Hammar. These are used by pretty well all manufacturers. The gas cylinders are universal - it's the release clips that vary (even within UM and HR types)

If you want an auto, the Hammar mechanism is the best (but most expensive) as it works on hydorstatic pressure rather than just getting wet which UM and HR do. This means it won't go off with just heavy spray, whereas there is a chance that the other two might. Obviously this isn't a problem if you want a manual.

There's also different constructions. Some have an all-in-one outer cover and air bladder whereas others have a double layer construction so that the bladder is separate from the cover. The latter is likely to be more expensive and also more bulky.

I don't believe that there is a rubbish lifejacket on the market from a UK supplier simply because they would not be that stupid and their product liability insurance would be non-existent. The relevant standard for 150N lifejackets is EN396 - don't touch it if this is not in evidence.

The biggest cause of failure, again as havener says, is lack of care. CO2 bottles may corrode/leak over time, get-wet auto mechanisms will fail if kept in damp conditions (although you do still have manual override). I have heard of them going off just by being dropped.

A lot of people simply don't pull apart the velcro and take a look inside - they regard it as a 'sealed unit'. But that's exactly where you should be looking to make sure all is well! If you want to check for leaks, you can easily use the oral inflation tube to inflate/deflate. I'd suggest using a low-pressure pump to avoid getting rot-inducing 'gob' insiide!

Take a look at this for some guidance Baltic Lifejackets Advice. May vary for your particular model.

So, there's no reason why a regularly serviced and carefully stored lifejacket shouldn't deploy correctly.

As to the merits of various manufacturers, I couldn't possibly comment . . .
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Old 14 October 2006, 17:37   #5
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I got a couple of Seago 150N auto with Harness last year. They have been great - really comfortable and have not shown any signs of wear. They do have a 3 year warranty but only if you send them away every year to get serviced (which is prob a a good thing to do anyway!).

I seem to recall they came up pretty well in a boating magazine test - may have been YM or PBO, I can't remember.... I believe they are now 175N instead of 150.

Hard to tell what any lifejacket is really like unless it's inflated I guess!

I'm also a crewsaver fan and have had many crewsaver lifejackets / boyancy aids in the past.

It's really a personal choice, and as other folks have said - looking after an auto jacket is important!!
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Old 15 October 2006, 03:08   #6
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I've got a couple of these and you definitely get what you pay for. They are a bit of a pain to put on and the velcro quality isn't great.
They are comfortable once on though and they work.They are small enough also that they don't get in the way. I'll probably replace them next year.

I wasn't going to buy auto gas ones-didn't have enough cash at the time for hammar actuators and anyone who saw how wet we got at Yarmouth will understand why I don't want normal ones.
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Old 15 October 2006, 04:37   #7
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I've got a couple of auto ones from Compass which seem really great value at about £35. They're really easy to put on, comfortable to wear and they look OK too (as you can get them in blue).

I splashed out at the Boat-show and bought my self a Crewsaver 275 "plus" (thats the one with the hood and light) - same as the ones the RNLI use. This is totally over-kill for what I'm likely to be doing but as someone said before they are extremly well-made. This one also has the crotch straps which seem like a good idea.
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Old 15 October 2006, 04:46   #8
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Very valid point about sprayhoods - a number of deaths at sea have been from people wearing lifejackets, correctly fitted and inflated, where spray has "pooled" in front of the nose/mouth and caused secondary drowning. And for the same reason, ALWAYS wear a crotch strap. A lifejacket will not stop you drowning if the neck piece is around your ears!

Sprayhoods are cheap and effective, as are lights, BUT only if you know how to use them in an emergency. And that doesn't mean reading the instructions alone!

Be familiar with your lifejacket - it's your best friend at sea. Know how it works, and what it's capable of - a 150N jacket is fine if you wear a drysuit, but if you wear normal clothes and yachtie type overgear, go for 275N. It's amazing just how much weight wet clothes will add. A 150N with wet clothes will still keep you afloat, but a 275N will give you a much better posture in the water.

If you can afford it, go for a Crewsaver commercial rib jacket, similar to that used by RNLI inshore crews. You get all round bump protection, a mixture of inflated and inherant bouyancy, and a degree of thermal protection in the winter.
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Old 15 October 2006, 16:40   #9
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Posted this in March 2005, hopw it helps, might a bit out of date


Quote:
Hi
After attending a Sea Survival course in Falmouth I got some very good advice from the local RNLI Sea Safety officer.

This was in the form of a 12 page guide from "Sailing today" compiled by the Tim Bartlett.

Considerations such as additional buoyancy when wearing foul weather gear, spray hood, auto inflation, crouch straps etc were taken into account

In the interest of safety I am repeating the conclusion on testing 30 lifejackets, though I might get told off

"We think there is real cause for concern whether a 150N lifejacket are really adequate for use with foul weather clothing. Amid this gloomy picture, though, there are a few bright spots; the Plastimo's Cruiser 150 is one of them, its light weight very comfortable jacket at a sensible price making it a good basic buy, though narrowly beaten to our budget buy award by the Parmaris lite.

For not much more money Aladdinís Cave Ocean Passage Plus is stunning value, if money is no object Crewsaver Crewfit Plus is a very conventional top of the range jacket, while the SeaSafe Sea Explorer shows what can be achieved if you treat the EN standard as a guideline rather than as gospel. An honourable mention though has to go to Viking, My own personal pick would be the rather industrial looking Viking 1 SOLAS, itís not hugely expensive but itís got enough extra buoyancy to make all the difference between floating face down and face up"

I went for the Crewsaver Crewfit Plus buts itís rather pricy, however I hope that it will last for some time and I donít think you can put a price on safety.

Out of 25 automatic lifejackets two failed to inflate automaticlly, they did say that given most manufactures buy their trigger mechanisms from the same suppliers, it wouldnt be fair to name names.
Shaggy
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Old 15 October 2006, 16:43   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaggy View Post
Posted this in March 2005, hopw it helps, might a bit out of date




Shaggy
Shaggy,

I think he just about recommended every lifejacket. Sounded like a bit of Labour spin their.
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Old 15 October 2006, 17:00   #11
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Get one of these as well, now reduced from £650 or so to £399, better to pull the pin and be found than to float around waiting to die as loads of poor souls have done on the past :-

http://www.jkmax.co.uk/60.html
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Old 15 October 2006, 17:10   #12
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Depends where you're going. Useful offshore, but not much call for it in the Solent.

On the "must have" list it's not exactly in the same league as a lifejacket!

John
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Old 15 October 2006, 17:30   #13
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Loads of people have died in the Solent, one was a great mate of mine who dies with two others on a yacht off Cowes, the yacht lost it's mast and VHF aerial, only the word Mayday was heard by the costguard so no rescue was commenced, all three died. I understand that the crew of the yacht that sank not so long ago with three on board, thought to have been hit by a larger vessel, were all found dead with their lifejackets on, two were manual and inflated so they must have activated them themselves before drowning, a terrible, terrible tragedy. You never know what a difference a fastfind plus may have made. see http://www.ybw.com/auto/newsdesk/200...bogeneral.html

The sea temperature in the UK gives very little time for survival in the winter and spring months, so a speedy rescue is essential, the EPIRB is a vital tool for that, and at that price a bit more affordable for some than it was.

Life jackets are vital but not a lot of use if not fitted properly, don't fool yourself and think you are invinceable, go on a course and check it out for yourself (not you John as I am sure you have done it, this is to others who have not), but as I said I have spent the whole day discussing survival and had the practical afternoon in the pool, I would hate to think what effect a freezing cold sea and waves would have on the excercises we did today, but it has certainly given me the heads up on what to expect and the way to go about it.
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Old 15 October 2006, 18:25   #14
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A few thoughts regarding the 275N lifejacket.
  • The 275N is heavy. Itís definitely noticeable when wearing it. Its also more bulky.
  • Moving around in the water and recovery into the boat/life raft is harder, when compared to a 150N, due to the extra volume of the buoyancy chamber.
  • Rearming kits cost more.

I use a 275N because I go out in rough weather, all throughout the year, day or night and itís more capable of keeping my head out of the water than a 150N. For normal boating I think the 275N is less desirable than the 150N.

Regardless - crotch straps are essential, as in my opinion are spray hoods and strobes.
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Old 15 October 2006, 18:30   #15
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Agreed; you certainly know your wearing the 275 especially when you take it and the heavy duty Musto coat off. Nice to have the peace of mind though.
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Old 15 October 2006, 18:39   #16
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That's got me thinking now.

I'm going to make up some crotch straps for my lifejackets.
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Old 15 October 2006, 18:41   #17
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I'm no skinny person at all, and had no problems whatsoever with the 150 today, funny thing was a few weeks ago someone told me I should get a 275, I went to the Chandlery and they told me the 150 would be fine, today proved it, even fully kitted up with wet weather gear.

How they can charge £19 or so for the crappy spray hood is beyond me, but it's not so crappy when it's saving you from drowning

Check the cheap and nasty plastic buckles and belts on some of the lifejackets, in a real life situation these will be tugged and pulled, the cheapo ones will snap, I saw some today, so get the best you can afford, when the time comes and you have to use it you will be ever so grateful you got what you did.

I guess if you are on a budget you could make up your own crutch straps but DO have one, as I said it's as good as a chocolate teapot without it on, I have not been wearing mine until today, I learnt the biggest lesson when I leapt in to test it without one on, scary indeed trust me. I fitted mine this evening.

I also learnt so much about liferafts today, but I guess that is for another thread, you WILL NEVER know what you need out of one until you do the training course, and have to right the liferaft with people inside, even getting in in the first place with crap rope ladders, it's a killer in a pool, never mind a freezing sea with waves and wind. If you have a life raft DO the course, without doing the course you will be in for a massive surprise and possibly die if you have to use it.
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Old 15 October 2006, 19:00   #18
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I just looked at the price of crotch straps. I'll buy some.


On another note, I've got a couple of big orange polythene marker buoys I got off ebay. They are folded up to the size of a fag packet and you blow them up yourself in an emergency. They stand nearly 5' out of the water when inflated and can be lit with a glowstick or torch inside if it's getting dark.

I can imagine they wouldn't be the easiest things to use in an emergency but better to be seen...
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Old 16 October 2006, 06:42   #19
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....They stand nearly 5' out of the water when inflated ....
Nos, you might go skooting off at half the speed of the breeze.
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Old 16 October 2006, 07:08   #20
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What about the floatation suits you can buy for fishing? It seems to me cold is a far bigger killer than drowning. Some of the Norwegian and Finish RIB outfits issue them to their passengers instead of lifejackets.

I know they don't have the same amount of buoyency as a proper lifejacket but liefejackets can put you into strange positions when worn with drysuits or survival suits etc.
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