'Automatic' lifejackets

share hints, tips and experiences
Post Reply
Michael4
Posts: 501
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 5:25 pm
Location: West Sussex

'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Michael4 » Fri Apr 25, 2014 9:41 am

Maybe this is a silly question...apologies if you think so...but...

How can you tell if your ten year old automatic life jackets are still in working order?

They hold air.
The gas bottles are clean and not rusty. They are well screwed in.
The indicators tabs are all green.
Everything looks fine.
I normally keep them at home when not in use.

The temptation to dunk them in the bath to see if they work is almost overwhelming...but that is the same as peeling back the repair patch on a bicycle inner tube to see whether it has stuck!

Any thoughts?

Michael
Tideway 206
11+
Sold the 'Something bigger and plastic', it never got used.

Bill-Conner
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 3:08 pm

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Bill-Conner » Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:13 am

Lifejackets are like a few other things like lavatory paper, anchors, air bags in cars you don't need them until you need them badly!
Send them to the manufacturer or another specialist for a full service. The clue is "life"!

Rupert
Posts: 6254
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2004 8:40 pm
Location: Cotswold Water Park

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Rupert » Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:39 pm

Agreed - get them serviced.
Rupert

JimC
Posts: 1716
Joined: Sun Oct 03, 2004 10:24 pm
Location: Surrey
Contact:

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by JimC » Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:08 pm

There's a slight it depends. I have an old one I sometimes use if I'm going to be on the committee boat all day because the lack ot bulk is nice and if the cb sinks in the middle of our reservoir then I'll blow it up by lungpower if it doesn't go off. But I don't use it when on safety boat or sailing.

Bill-Conner
Posts: 126
Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 3:08 pm

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Bill-Conner » Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:39 pm

Of course it's your life but think what the coroner will say!

Ian Malcolm
Posts: 51
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:42 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Ian Malcolm » Tue May 13, 2014 7:30 am

What's wrong with:
* unpack and inspect inch by inch paying particular attention to bladder seams and fold lines, strap stitching and condition, reflective tape, accessories and fittings.
* remove cylinder, visually inspect for excess corrosion or any corrosion on thread or seal, weigh on an accurate balance and compare with total weight marked on cylinder. If not practical to check weight, check expiry date and inspect seal with magnifying glass for any indentation.
* check the auto firing capsule is in date and shows no signs of (partial) activation.
* check manual operation of firing mechanism without cylinder (carefully removing and preserving indicator clip if possible).
* replace cylinder and manually inflate with dry air (e.g. gently with a small manual LiLo pump) till the bladder is just firm to the touch, note the ambient temperature and wait 24H. If the temperature is the same (or slightly higher) it should still be firm. If the temperature has changed too much it is NOT a fair test and you need to get the room to the same temperature and wait another hour before inspecting.

If the bladder has failed or there other unrepairable damage, cut the jacket in half and gash it, otherwise deflate, replace the capsule if out of date, cylinder if needed, indicator clip if damaged or missing, restitch any worn/frayed stitching on the straps and repack.

However I would *NEVER* offer to service someone else's jacket or one used commercially - its just too much liability. If I'm lending one out, it will be a newish one and I'll use the old one. Remember its *YOUR* life on the line - do the job right or replace it - the pros wont be interested in servicing a 10 year old jacket that hasn't got a service history.

N.B. The above only applies to Automatic and Manual firing mechanisms. Hydrostatic mechanisms *REQUIRE* professional servicing, but you can and should inspect the rest or the jacket as above so you don't waste your money sending junk to be serviced.
Ian Malcolm. London, ENGLAND. (FORUM REPLY PREFERRED)
ianm[at]the[dash]malcolms[dot]freeserve[dot]co[dot]uk
[at]=@, [dash]=- & [dot]=. *Warning* HTML & >32K emails --> NUL:
'Stingo' Albacore #1554 - 15' Early 60's, Uffa Fox designed,
All varnished hot moulded wooden racing dinghy.

Rupert
Posts: 6254
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2004 8:40 pm
Location: Cotswold Water Park

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Rupert » Tue May 13, 2014 8:38 am

You know, that is what I like about the cvrda forum. Whatever the subject, there is someone out there with the expertize to answer the question in a full and expert manner. Excellent!
Rupert

Michael4
Posts: 501
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 5:25 pm
Location: West Sussex

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Michael4 » Tue May 13, 2014 8:53 am

Thanks very much for this. It has been followed step by step.

All OK, I have replaced the auto firing capsules since they were out of date. Cylinder condition and weight fine etc etc.

I think there is a lot to be said for taking good care of these things and not leaving them lying about in the bottom of a boat for weeks on end.

Yes...it is a bit like packing your own parachute.
Tideway 206
11+
Sold the 'Something bigger and plastic', it never got used.

Obscured by clouds
Posts: 715
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: north Wales

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Obscured by clouds » Tue May 13, 2014 9:26 am

I'm going to throw a spanner in here, and wait for the grinding and gnashing from the works :)

Lifejackets are designed [as we all know] to keep one afloat in the event of your finding oneself in the 'oggin without the means to self rescue.

Modern lifejackets are a superb end result of evolutionary design. If you are incapacitated when you enter the water an auto-jacket will self inflate nad turn you onto your back so you dont inhale water.

However- and this is where I may bet shouted down - from this point on you are effectively a victim. You really need the assistance of others to get back aboard. It's almost impossible to swim [and make any appreciable headway] whilst wearing an inflatable l/jacket. As for hauling yourself back aboard - the only relistic way is by taking the damn thing off.

My old dad [seaman, skipper and l/boat cox] reckoned that staying with the boat was the only realistic option, unless one found yourself on your own - then a buoyancy aid [those old yellow ones!] would at leat allow you to orientate oneself and make an effort to get back to the boat.

Do I wear a l/jacket - yes if I'm with others - although offshore a harness would be my first choice. I will wear a l/jacket doing RIB duty - again plenty of others around. On my own - a good buoyancy aid that allows freedom of movement will always be my first choice.

Now let the bricks fly! ;)
Last edited by Obscured by clouds on Tue May 13, 2014 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Tony



MR 2404 Julia Dream
N18 276 Sibrwd [ongoing project]
Hirondelle catamaran Kalipse
[down to 3!]

Michael4
Posts: 501
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 5:25 pm
Location: West Sussex

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Michael4 » Tue May 13, 2014 10:11 am

Yes, this is a current family debate and I think we tend to agree with you.

I wear an automatic lifejacket when I do not expect to fall in the water. Out on a stable fishing boat or sailing something very steady like our Tideway.

When out on something livelier I wear a buoyancy aid.

I have seen an inflated jacket, you are right, most likely you'll be alive but you'll need help. At least one can move around in a buoyancy aid.

I should add that I am a poor swimmer, if I were better at it (and I have tried over the last 60 years) I would wear a buoyancy aid on any dinghy
Tideway 206
11+
Sold the 'Something bigger and plastic', it never got used.

Ian Malcolm
Posts: 51
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:42 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Ian Malcolm » Tue May 13, 2014 2:07 pm

Nowdays I do more yachting than dinghy sailing, but for a long time I did both and an Auto lifejacket is a PITA when dinghy sailing and likely to be dangerous in an inverted capsize. However a manual lifejacket is quite practical for dinghy sailing for anyone who is an adequate swimmer, isn't sailing anything excessively tippy and preferably isn't sailing a singlehander. For anyone else I STRONGLY second the advice to use a buoyancy aid not a lifejacket.

Especially if you are wearing a wetsuit or drysuit over adequate clothing but even if you are hot weather sailing in shorts and teeshirt, you wont really need any additional buoyancy for the first five minutes after a capsize (assuming you are reasonably fit and conditioned against immersion shock), and should have capsize recovery well in progress by then anyway. If not, its time to pull the firing cord before you get too tired to stay with the boat.

Most Auto lifejackets can convert to manual operation simply by unscrewing the Auto firing capsule.

N.B. Auto lifejackets have a tendency to go off in the locker if put away damp. If you really cant hang them to dry properly after use, remove the firing capsule, and put that in a warm dry place.
Ian Malcolm. London, ENGLAND. (FORUM REPLY PREFERRED)
ianm[at]the[dash]malcolms[dot]freeserve[dot]co[dot]uk
[at]=@, [dash]=- & [dot]=. *Warning* HTML & >32K emails --> NUL:
'Stingo' Albacore #1554 - 15' Early 60's, Uffa Fox designed,
All varnished hot moulded wooden racing dinghy.

Rupert
Posts: 6254
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2004 8:40 pm
Location: Cotswold Water Park

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Rupert » Tue May 13, 2014 3:22 pm

BA's for dinghies every time. Even RYA policy is clear on this! I'd extend that to dinghy style sports boats, where water is everywhere when it is windy.

In a yacht, not falling overboard at all is the way to go, so a harness is best. But if something happens and you do go in? A life jacket will keep you afloat even if knocked out, but you'll drown in a BA.
Rupert

Ian Malcolm
Posts: 51
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:42 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by Ian Malcolm » Tue May 13, 2014 4:42 pm

It really does depend on your sailing. If you do independent coastal dingy cruising without a proper lifejacket, a buoyancy aid wont do you a whole lot of good if you get separated from the boat and run out of strength to keep your airways clear. If you have a lifejacket, spray hood and PLB, that scenario has a high probability of being survivable.

RYA policy is no substitute for intelligent and informed assessment of the actual hazards, it is merely a good starting point and a warning flag to seek a qualified second opinion if your conclusions differ radically.
Ian Malcolm. London, ENGLAND. (FORUM REPLY PREFERRED)
ianm[at]the[dash]malcolms[dot]freeserve[dot]co[dot]uk
[at]=@, [dash]=- & [dot]=. *Warning* HTML & >32K emails --> NUL:
'Stingo' Albacore #1554 - 15' Early 60's, Uffa Fox designed,
All varnished hot moulded wooden racing dinghy.

mph1977
Posts: 17
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:55 pm

Re: 'Automatic' lifejackets

Post by mph1977 » Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:28 am

Obscured by clouds wrote:I'm going to throw a spanner in here, and wait for the grinding and gnashing from the works :)

Lifejackets are designed [as we all know] to keep one afloat in the event of your finding oneself in the 'oggin without the means to self rescue.

Modern lifejackets are a superb end result of evolutionary design. If you are incapacitated when you enter the water an auto-jacket will self inflate nad turn you onto your back so you dont inhale water.

However- and this is where I may bet shouted down - from this point on you are effectively a victim. You really need the assistance of others to get back aboard. It's almost impossible to swim [and make any appreciable headway] whilst wearing an inflatable l/jacket. As for hauling yourself back aboard - the only relistic way is by taking the damn thing off.

My old dad [seaman, skipper and l/boat cox] reckoned that staying with the boat was the only realistic option, unless one found yourself on your own - then a buoyancy aid [those old yellow ones!] would at leat allow you to orientate oneself and make an effort to get back to the boat.

Do I wear a l/jacket - yes if I'm with others - although offshore a harness would be my first choice. I will wear a l/jacket doing RIB duty - again plenty of others around. On my own - a good buoyancy aid that allows freedom of movement will always be my first choice.

Now let the bricks fly! ;)
there's nothing to be ground or gnashed

as you suggest offshore a harness will keep you with the vessel.

certain other uses / roles a auto gas only Life jacket is the best option

dinghy sailing or rescue boat a BA is far far better unless you get knocked out cold ...

Post Reply