Author Topic: Life jackets  (Read 449 times)

Dale Tanski

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Life jackets
« on: September 13, 2020, 12:56:26 PM »
You should take the time to read my response to Jordan's post regarding VHF equipment as I shared a occurrence of a MOB that three of my kids were involved in a few Wednesdays ago. 

That hopefully once in a lifetime event changed their lives in how they approach leaving the dock. They were brought up well aware of safety protocol as our 365 has the required Coast Guard safety equipment aboard in addition to:
Safety harnesses
Personal strobes
Personal whistles
Personal survival knives
Handheld flares
In addition the boat is equipped with jacklines, fixed VHF, (2) handheld VHF's, masthead tricolor w/strobe, MOB pole, (2) MOB strobes.

When we race we all wear Mustang Hydrostatic inflatables.  Mustang is the only maker that provides this type of technology. Hydrostatic means that the vest must be exposed to water and be under a certain amount of water pressure before it activates.  They are the only automatic vest that does not inflate all by itself.  Typical auto inflate vest have a spring loaded piercing pin that is held back by a water soulable wafer.  The wafer dissolves when wet, and the spring loaded pin is allowed to strike the CO2 canister releasing the gas that inflates the vest.  We have seen several cases where the wafer dissolves over time from high humidity and auto fires. In one case it blew the hinges off of a hanging locker when it self inflated. We have also had customers that have had theirs deploy in rain or boarding wave.  Hydrostatic because of the submerged pressure requirement does not have this design flaw.  In the case of the MOB situation my kids were involved in that vest did not auto fire at all soaking wet.  It was a standard West Marine non-hydro vest. He was lucky to manually deploy and it worked. Please note, I am not picking on West Marine. They didn't make the vest and there was no indication of who actually did which is a pet peeve of mine.  West does sell a West branded hydro vest currently, and it clearly says Mustang Survival right on it.
Mustang I consider they best of the best.  They are the gold standard and are supplied and worn by the Coast Guard and military.  I also consider them one of the most comfortable to wear.  Like seat belts, once they are on you wont even notice you are wearing one. 
We suffered a spreaders in knockdown in our J-22 several years ago, and the spinnaker got wrapped around the masthead wind vane.  With the kite hung on the end of the mast the boat would not self-rite.  All aboard had Mustang Survival vests on. My son slid over the rail and stood on the keel but the boat would not stand up.  I decided that the spinnaker would have to be removed from the top of the mast before we could continue...so I exited the cockpit and made it all the way to the spreaders before my Mustang inflated. I had totally forgot that I was even wearing it!  At that moment the spinnaker unhooked itself, the boat righted, the sails filled and the two remaining occupants scrambled to douse the sails and stop the boat as it accelerated away while my son and I both floated with our inflated vests on.  All ended well but it taught us to expect the unexpected.

Because of the unexpected please take the time to inspect you safety equipment and onboard safety protocol.  Replace what is questionable and add what is missing.  If you have an inflatable take the time to inspect the CO2 cartridge

If you are considering a vest please add Mustang to your list.  I tell my customers that you may only get one chance to save your life by the choice of life vest that you wear.  Wear is a key feature.  The old saying hold true that is you have a $10 dollar head you wear a $10 helmet.  What is your or your loved ones life worth?  If you wear a fanny pack vest currently, throw it out.  When they go off you still have to put it on to survive and putting on an inflated life vest in 4 footers can't be easy if not all but impossible. 

My kids were shook up by the event they went through.  None of them are snowflakes, quite the opposite.  They all realized that the MOB was lucky and had the events that played out been even slightly different, they would have lost a crew member and friend.  The boat collectively adopted a buddy system where each is responsible for the location and condition of somebody else.  They are typically a crew of 12.  The boat reviewed their safety protocol and equipment.  Ironically the boats MOB pole was at home in the garage. It is currently back on the boat.  They upgraded their equipment and others on their crew did the same.  Because the incident occurred as daylight diminishes this time of year, visibility was not that great.  Had it all happened 20 minutes latter, things would have been worse.  A water activated ACR personal strobe is around $25. What's your excuse. 

Because my son wrote a detailed recount of the MOB for our local club, several other boats crew have approached us regarding safety equipment.  It turns out that this season in a fleet of approximately 70 boats, this was the third MOB that we have become aware of. None but this one were advertised, as I suspect there is a certain amount of embarrassment that is associated with such an event.  In 2 of the 3 cases, the boat that lost the person was not the boat that recovered the person.  In one case the boat picking up the MOB sucked a spinnaker sheet into the prop during pick up and the engine stop was so abrupt that it bent the prop shaft and tore the prop strut from the hull.  Expect the unexpected. 

We once picked up an ejected crew member of a J-22 ahead of us. While trimming the chute, it unloaded then reloaded and while sheeting the crew member fell over the side when a huge amount of slack caught her off balance.  We adjusted course, and grabbed her without stopping by the life jacket swooping her up and over the rail.  She was young, strong and light, that was fortuitous. We finished the race while she trimmed our kite.   

If you have questions or would like additional advice please feel free to contact us.  We are always more than willing to help.

Dale Tanski
 
"Maruska"
Pearson 365 Cutter Ketch
1976 Hull #40
Buffalo, N.Y.

Jordan

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Re: Life jackets
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2020, 09:42:49 AM »
Here is the post Dale is referencing, quoted because I'm lazy.

As far as MOB capability there are several forms.  Fixed VHF units that are equipped with smart remote mics often have the ability to trigger a MOB right from the cockpit.  In many cases it is the DSC system that provides the alert. Others communicate with your other navigation equipment and alert the system of a MOB situation marking it on your chart plotter.  Others communicate directly with MOB transmitters sounding an alert when the transmitter travels out of range.  That system works like a wireless invisible fence system for dogs. When the dog wearing the collar travels outside of the transmit/receive range the collar zaps the dog.  In this case the boats base station alerts occupants of the boat and also sends the information to your navigation equipment to "mark the spot" and even sends a DSC alert. 

I would recommend that one has a MOB pole onboard that can be deployed by the remaining occupant on the boat during an emergency.  The MOB pole provides a visual place marker to locate the person in the water. It should be equipped with a strobe and a MOB transmitter.  All of this provides time for the boat to be turned around and any hope to relocate the lost crew.  Three of my kids just went through a MOB situation while racing in brisk conditions in a Wednesday night beer can race.  The individual that went swimming stumbled during a tack and took a header over the lifelines. Because everybody was busy and focused on their tasks no one noticed he was gone until someone happened to look up and wondered what that thing floating was.  The boat was traveling at around 14 feet per second so by the time the MOB surfaced they were over a boat length away.  In the seconds it to to recognize he was gone, hundreds and hundreds of feet were beneath the keel.  The time it took to douse sails, start the engine and turn the boat added additional distance.  At no point after the turn could the person in the water be seen.  The chances that their boat could have located the person was slim.  They were far right boat on the uphill beat and if it wasn't for the only boat behind them the event could have ended in certain tragedy. 

From the swimmers point of view, things were not much better.  Their automatic inflatable did not fire or open.  Had they been unconscious they would have been dead.  Fortunately he had the peace of mind to pull the manual release but said it was a forced thought.  Do you know the expiration date on your auto vest? I thought so.  His was 2010. Most don't even wear theirs, he was smart and lucky in that regard. His clothing was not conducive to floating or visibility, Jeans and black foul weather top.  The inflatable he was wearing was not that visible to those that saw him.  The inflatable portion of the vest was yellow.  Today's vest are almost all vivid bright green/yellow.  Two of my kids ordered new vests the next day because they discovered upon inspection their vests were yellow inside and they were both hydrostatic Mustang Survivals but both many years old.

The boat that rescued the MOB said they thought that they were seeing the race mark (which was an inflatable yellow in color). They tacked to make their approach and realized it was a swimmer.  Even though they were on a Melges 24 they had difficulty slowing the boat enough for the individual to be collected.  It was on their third pass that he was able to grab a line and drag the boat to a stop.  Luckily the Melges is an open transom design with only about 6" from the water to the cockpit floor.  They rolled him in like a dead fish as he was too exhausted to even help.  Had the MOB had a personal VHF he could have coordinated his own rescue.  All race boats monitor their VHF during the race for additional instructions.  The Farr 40 that lost him immediately contacted the race committee once they determined they had a MOB situation.  That VHF transmission was broadcast to the coast guard however they never responded or deployed even though they were less than 2 miles away.
 
In short, buy the best equipment that you can.  Also redundancy is desirable as in having both a fixed and handheld unit.  Too many boaters today are forgoing the fixed unit and opting only to carry a handheld.  If the user with the handheld is the one that goes over the side then what?  If the handheld disappears during a collision, grounding or knockdown then what? If the handheld is at the limit of its battery capacity then what?  The same line of reasoning for having a handheld aboard would be... when a lightning hit fries the fixed unit or you suffer a dismasting then what.  Ideally a fixed base unit would supplement each users personal handheld.

The is no single definitive answer, and then we add in SSB.

Safety is no accident.

Dale

Dale, thank you so much for all of this info. I was literally only thinking of a fixed mount VHF, but as always seems to happen when you chime in, more things to think about. So in the interests of safety, I did start looking at life jackets. I did get some lengths of nylon webbing (breaking strength of 4000lbs+), just because it was cheap and could possibly used as jacklines (and definitely as some interior support for when sailing), but we don't have jackets yet. Mustang is what I'm looking at now, and even though it seems pricey, I really don't want to skimp on this stuff. West marine does have one that's a bit  cheaper, but I didn't see the mustang logo. Interestingly enough, I didn't see a lot of bright colors for the jackets. I was thinking of going all 80s style with them based on visibility, but I do see the Mustangs have strobes. Is that enough?

Dale Tanski

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Re: Life jackets
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2020, 09:56:24 AM »
The exterior of the Mustang hydrostatic's are black or red.  When the thing inflates the air chambers are bright fluorescent green/yellow.

Dale
"Maruska"
Pearson 365 Cutter Ketch
1976 Hull #40
Buffalo, N.Y.

S/V AMITY

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Re: Life jackets
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2020, 09:28:57 AM »
   Great write-up!

   We have the tablet-type and have had one activate in wet weather.  Will be switching over to the hydrostatic-type this coming season.

Jordan

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Re: Life jackets
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2020, 05:44:21 PM »
Hey Dale, I want to post that to my sailing club Facebook group. Can I mention your shop or something?

Dale Tanski

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Re: Life jackets
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2020, 07:00:15 AM »
Jordan,
You can mention what ever you would like to mention. 
Be safe.
Dale
"Maruska"
Pearson 365 Cutter Ketch
1976 Hull #40
Buffalo, N.Y.