I recently interviewed Mark Bologna of Landfall Navigation. Hes a safety expert, major supporter of safety training and has decades worth of experience selecting and servicing inflatable PFDs. The first thing I asked Mark was whether or not I was overly concerned about the inflatable lifejacket issues mentioned above. His unequivocal No, and follow up advocacy for training and regular gear inspections paralleled most of the opinions above.
In the early 1800s Norwegian sailors started wearing cork filled vests dubbed the Seamans Friend. And over the next two centuries, life jacket design and the materials used have continued to evolve. One of the most promising offshoots has been the inflatable personal flotation device (PFD)-invented and patented by Peter Markus and one thats drawn our interest for over three decades.
When we read about a sailor lost overboard in the storm, we think about PFDs and personal locator beacons, and accept the sea is unforgiving. When we read of novice boaters drowning in a local lake, were sad, but say that will not happen us because we wear PFDs. But when we read of a PFD-equipped sailor falling overboard and dying within minutes its a real eye-opener.
Most sailors are familiar with Thor Heyedrahls adventures aboard his balsa raft Kon Tiki. Some may remember the self-rescue line that they dragged behind the boat. Since the raft travelled so slowly, this last chance line gave a fit sailor a sporting chance to haul himself aboard.
Is an auto-inflate PFD the right answer for solo offshore cruisers?
Considering the short comings of existing leg loops for harnesses, we designed an add-on set of leg loops that can transform any ISO 12401 chest harness into a harness capable of safely distributing the force of a epic fall, without adding significant weight and without inhibiting wearer moment.
Man overboard gear standards are behind the times because the sample size is tiny and the facts surrounding an accident are often clouded and disguised by difficult circumstances. But fixing this is pretty simple; piggyback on standards that have been developed for climbing and industry. The following are just some of the steps that a sailor can take to improve his chances of staying on board.
The December, 1993, issue contained an in-the-water test and evaluation of 16 different Type IV life preservers (cushions, horseshoes and ring buoys). Besides their throwability, flotation and the ease with which a person in the water can get to and utilize them, an important consideration was said to be how quickly these Coast Guard-required "throwables" can be detached from the boat and made available to the man overboard. …
Jacklines (also called jackstays) are rigged along the deck on either side or down the centerline. This is where you are supposed to clip your safety tether.
World sailing offers fairly explicit expectations regarding jackstays. And PS offer its own additional advice, including one that recommends jacklines ideally be installed so that a sailor who is clipped in can't go over the side (see Jackline Installation Advice, November 2015). This is not always possible, especially on monohulls. In most cases, he chest-high lifeline on Mahina Tiare will keep above water the head of the person who is overboard.