Check Your Inflatable PFD

Published on January 2nd, 2014

By Tom Lochhaas, About.com
Inflatable PFDs have become the norm for many sailors, particularly those going offshore, for several good reasons. They’re less bulky to wear (I’ve worn one for more than a dozen years now, and I never even notice I have it on), and a big advantage is that they offer more buoyancy than a vest type, and most promise to float an unconscious victim in a breathing position.

Regardless of whether your model inflates manually or automatically after immersion, it must be correctly assembled and maintained if it is to inflate in an emergency. I heard recently from a participant in a Safety at Seminar that many PFDs do not inflate because the CO2 cylinder was loose in the mechanism, including a report of a crew of 10 sail racers who checked their equipment only to find that in 3 cases the cylinders were loose. Seems a good idea to put this on your spring outfitting list and remember it for periodic maintenance checks!

While most models have an air tube that allows you to blow air into the bladder to keep it full, that would be a slow, tedious process once in the water, and perhaps impossible when struggling in cold water. Of course the best plan is to avoid going in the water at all, so if you’re still shopping for an inflatable PFD, I’d strongly urge getting one with a built-in safety harness so that you can tether yourself in the cockpit when appropriate.

Source: About.com Sailing

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