A Coast Guard spokesman said “a lot of people don’t wear life jackets because they don’t have intention of being in water”. Still that guy Murphy with his “law” which always seems to be true says differently.
A couple found out the hard way, spending 14 hours treading water before they were rescued. No life jackets, no signaling devices but a whole bunch of luck and the will to live got them rescued. One might argue that they didn’t need life jackets since they survived but I don’t think I could tread water for 14 hours (not sure I could for 1 hour), so wear a life jacket.
I use to sell inflatable life jackets but got out of that line of business when I found we were not making money at it due to competition. Customers still ask what they should purchase and my advise is quite simple:
- Try them on and find one that is comfortable to wear for you. Every brand has a different cut, some fit women better, some are better for skinny guys and some are just damned uncomfortable for everyone. If it is not comfortable, you won’t wear it.
- Get a model that is approved in the country your boat is registered in. If you are a Canadian, that means Canadian approved models which generally are not available in the United States.
- If you boat anywhere but a small lake, get a vest with around 35 pounds of buoyancy. These vests are sometimes called “offshore”. The added flotation will help keep your head out of the water.
- Buy a model that once inflated does not require you to don the vest. I am not a fan of belt pack models and there have been cases where the victim was not able to properly don the vest and ended up dying.
You will note that I have not mentioned if the vest should auto inflate or not, that depends on your situation. The three brands of inflators we see in North America; Halkey Roberts, Hammar and Secumar all produce excellent products so I feel the comfort of the vest is much more important than what inflation system that particular manufacturer decided to use.
If you need help with rearm kits, that is something I carry and would love your business.
You just had your life raft serviced, now it is your responsibility to make sure that the hydrostatic release unit (HRU) is properly installed. It is amazing how many times I see or hear of improper installations. Sometimes it is even the Coast Guard inspector giving improper advise.
If you don’t hook the HRU up properly, your life raft WILL NOT function properly!
Most HRU’s sold in the United States are manufactured by C.M. Hammar. They have a slick tool to teach proper HRU installation. It is a movie and I am not sure that all computers will be able to run it but it is worth checking out.
If you have a Switlik life raft in a flat container I have a page that goes through the proper installation.
Still not sure? Call your service facility. What ever you do make sure that everything is properly hooked up, your life depends on it.
One of our customers, Capt. Michael Baker, gave me a copy of his book, Courage, Faith and Culture covering three fisherman’s 87 ordeal in the Central Pacific. The book showed that two things are really important when faced with a survival situation:
- The will to live.
Customers often ask, “how long can I survive in this life raft”? The answer depends on your desire to survive. In this book you see three men who never gave up their will to survive, helped by their strong faith.
- Good leadership.
Roitam, the owner-skipper of the skiff involved in this tale provided firm, fair leadership. There were times when I am sure it was not popular but without leadership I am sure the outcome would have been much different.
The trio also used common sense, keeping gear properly stowed and rescuing objects they found floating that would prove to be useful in the future. The one thing missing from their gear was and EPIRB (or PLB) which would have shortened their ordeal significantly.
Is the book a page turner? No, but it did keep me reading wanting to find out what the next day would bring. It does bring plenty of useful survival advise and is worth reading if you are heading offshore. Amazon stocks the book but it is only available in print. You can also order directly from the author.