We love helping you to get on the water and make the most of your sports, but the water is as unpredictable as it is inviting. For sailing, as well as many other watersports, it’s vital to wear a life jacket, as it could very well save your life.
In order for your life jacket to do this, however, there are a few things you need to be sure of. In this guide to life jackets, we’ll be answering the following essential questions:
It’s important that you have enough life jackets for everyone on board your boat, or partaking in a sport that requires a life jacket. This doesn’t mean any old life jacket will do – life jackets come in all shapes and sizes for adults, children and pets – yours should fit your crew correctly, to ensure they’ll do their job should the worst happen.
It’s worth noting that, on a boat, it is the skipper’s responsibility to show the crew where the life jackets are stowed, how to wear them and how to operate them.
Life jacket buoyancy is measured in Newtons (N). Newton ratings are relative to the weight of the intended user – ten Newtons equals 1kg of flotation. Natural human buoyancy means that adults of any size will have a net weight of just 5kg when they’re in the water, so you don’t need more buoyancy than any other adult just because you might weigh more usually.
Life jackets are generally produced in one size, that will suit most adults weighing over 40kg, although the waist and chest measurements vary between brands and can be a limiting factor. However, those sailing offshore in more testing conditions, or wearing heavy clothing, will require additional buoyancy to support them in rough waters.
Here are the different Newton rankings for life jackets:
The other key difference between life jackets is if and how they inflate:
Automatic and hammar life jackets will also have a back up tag for manual inflation, should the main firing system fail to activate.
When worn, a life jacket should be adjusted to fit snugly. It should not be able to move more than 2cm above the shoulders if the life jacket is pulled upwards – if it can, then it cannot be relied on to protect the wearer’s airway.
You should always ensure the crotch straps are worn as well, as these are what will stop the life jacket riding over your head when in the water.
We advise you get your life jacket serviced every 12 months – everything will be fully checked over and capsules and gas canisters will be replaced if necessary.
Additionally, it’s crucial you maintain it properly. Every month check that the gas cylinder in your life jacket is tightly screwed in, as these can occasionally work themselves loose.
It’s very important to carry rearming kits for each type of life jacket you have onboard – that way if one is accidentally inflated, or needs to be used, you will be able to get it ready for use again immediately.
CO2 bottles need to be checked for corrosion every three months. If your cylinder is at all rusty it should be replaced and you should also thoroughly check over any material that’s been in close contact with the rusty cylinder, as it may be damaged.
Again, every three months, you should examine the webbing on your life jacket and the stitching that holds it together, as well as zips, buckles and other fastenings – everything needs to be 100% for you to be able to rely on your life jacket completely.
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