Brandy & Matt:
I want to share an experience with you that you might want to pass along to other Tradewinds skippers and members.
In 2007, I bought an inflatable PFD because I was going offshore to help a friend move his Morgan 45 from Colon, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. I had been using a Type III vest while day-sailing on the Bay, but I upgraded to a Mustang automatic inflatable PFD. Happily, over the past 5 years that I’ve been wearing my Mustang PFD, I’ve never had to rely on it. But I’ve always wondered — would it really work in an emergency? About a month ago, I happened to check the pull-date on the CO2 cartridge and realized that it was woefully out-of-date. I went to the local West Marine and bought the replacement kit. But still I wondered…
Yesterday evening, along with my sailing buddy Mike D., we tested our automatic PFDs in our backyard pool. I’m happy to report that they worked!
Photo #1 is “the jump” from the side of the pool. We wore t-shirts and swim shorts because that’s probably what we’ll be wearing when we go sailing in the BVI this fall. We wanted the test situation to be sort of realistic.
Photo #2 is the initial inflation. I’m happy to report that it took only 2-3 seconds before I found myself in a rapidly inflating PFD. You’ll notice that the right sides of both my PFD and Mike’s PFD are inflating first. The inflating noise was surprisingly loud, as was the ripping sound of the velcro seams opening. It all happened very fast — and that’s a good thing!
By photo #3 you can see that our PFDs are fully inflated. There was a lot of buoyancy, especially neck support. That’s very reassuring. Our noses and mouths were well above water level.
We quickly found the orange whistles that are permanently attached to the PFDs. Also, I figured out how to turn on the strobe light pretty easily. Mike discovered that he had never put batteries inside his strobe. Oops…
What are the lessons that we learned and want to pass along to other Tradewinds skippers?
* DATES. Check the expiration dates on your PFD cartridges! The pamphlet says to replace the CO2 cartridges every three years. (Note: This can vary by manufacturer & model)
* REPLACEMENTS. Buy a back-up kit. If your PFD inflates while sailing (or in an emergency), you’ll want to rearm your PFD as soon as you’re back on board. Keep the extra kit in your sailing bag.
* EQUIPMENT. Inspect your unfolded PFD — find the manual pull tab, find (and use) the mouthpiece for re-inflating the PFD, test your strobe light. Get comfortable with your equipment!
* STROBE. Put batteries in your PFD’s strobe light! As they say, “batteries not included…” Probably put fresh batteries in your strobe light when you replace the CO2 cartridge.
* TRY IT. It was VERY reassuring to experience the PFD inflating so fast. I hope that I never end up in the cold water of the Bay, but if I do then I know that my neck and head will be above the waterline within seconds.
Best wishes! – Peter D.
Brandy and Matt,
I would like to add one thing to Peter’s note….my pfd was a bit loose (the way I normally wear it for comfort!)…when it inflated, it pulled away from body a bit, so it actually forced my chin up and my head back. It was secure, but I think I had less mobility in my head/neck than Peter….picture 3 shows this if you look closely….
It was a good safety exercise….and a rush! (Safety first, fun second!)