In October 2006, Practical Sailor tested infants life jackets and our top pick was MTI Adventurewears Bay Bee 201-I, one of the few jackets we looked at that met our chief criteria for an infant life vest: flotation that turned the infant face up and kept his head well above water, comfortable snug fit, easy donning, and a wide grab strap near the top that allowed someone to easily lift the child from the water or dinghy.
A recent ocean race-aboard a Cape Dory 25 sans lifelines in 30- to 40-knot winds and 5- to 10-foot seas-presented a good opportunity to sea-trial Wichards LyfSafe jackline kit. Wichard Inc., which is based in France and has an office in Vermont, has been making marine hardware and accessories for more than 30 years. Its LyfSafe kit offers a ready-to-go jackline setup and comes with everything needed to install the system.
Practical Sailor tests the Seascoopa man-overboard device and compares it to our top pick in the previous man-overboard device test, the horseshoe buoy Lifesling2. Seascoopa solves many of the problems of other parbuckle-type devices in that it is compact, lightweight and has an interlocking three-piece carbon-fiber whisker pole that holds the trapezoid-shaped net out at right angles to the boat. The ultimate goal of the device is to make it possible for a single person to safely secure and lift a much heavier person aboard with minimal effort. In addition to reducing the risks associated with a vertical lift, the Seascoopa aims to simplify making contact with the victim. Because it can be employed while the vessel is slowly making way, the recovery involves less stationary bobbing, when the boat is at the mercy of wind and waves.
Letters to Practical Sailor's April 2010 issue include: MOB drills, tethers, nav lights, cleats, no-buff shines and tankless water heaters.
Practical Sailor Technical Editor and in-house safety expert Ralph Naranjo tagged along on some recent man-overboard retrieval trials put on by the U.S. Naval Academys Sailing Master Dan Rugg and the Philadelphia Sailing Club. The lessons learned on those at-sea safety drills can benefit all who call oceans and waterways their playground. The trials showed that no single MOB retrieval method will suit all boats, all situations, or all crews. The wide range of variables that can come into play in a crew-overboard incident cannot be overstated. Factors ranging from crew skill and size to the vessels behavior under different sea state affect the challenges involved in a rescue and define the right maneuver to use. Among the COB techniques tested, the Quick Stop, which requires a quick reaction from the crew to keep the victim close at hand, was deemed best suited for fully crewed vessels moving at slow or moderate speeds. Other maneuvers that the sea trials evaluated included the Figure 8 MOB rescue method, the Fast Return, the Deep Beam Reach, and rescue with a Lifesling. Naranjos report offers a new look at some widely accepted techniques. Practicing these tactics aboard your boat will help you to determine which works best for your boat-be it a heavy-displacement cruiser or feather light race boat-and your crew-be they a team of professionals or your family and friends.
Practical Sailor recently tested the first line of foul-weather gear released by Massachusetts-based Bluestorm. The three mens bibs-and-jacket sets are named appropriately for the general areas they are designed for use in: the lightweight Latitude 33, medium-weight Latitude 48, and heavy-duty Latitude 61. The sailing jackets and bibs were tested for wind- and water-resistance, fit and comfort, design, construction quality, warmth, design and fit of hood, design and construction of zippers, and reflectivity. Small, innovative details that Bluestorm incorporated into its foulies include the triple-closure system for jacket storm flaps and recessed Velcro fasteners. All sets have excellent hood design, and testers found the jackets to be supple, highly breathable, and comfortable, if a bit pricey.
Tenders come in all shapes and sizes-from 6-foot inflatable kayaks to RIBs capable of towing skiers-and they serve a variety of transportation needs. Where the live-aboard couple will need a dinghy suitable for grocery and laundry runs, the small-boat daysailor usually needs only a fuss-free, easy ride to a moored or anchored boat. A few accessories that we checked out recently can add to such tender experiences.
Theres a reason why we recommend safety tethers-the umbilical cords that connect the jacklines on our boats to the harnesses on our bodies-be 6 feet long or shorter. Getting dragged behind a boat, even at the sedate speed of 4 knots, can easily drown a person. Unless someone is on hand to haul you on board, survival relies on a superhuman burst of adrenaline. Though rare, there have been some highly publicized deaths involving harnesses. The story of Harvey Shalsky, a sailor in the 1999 Double-handed Farallones Race, is familiar to most racers. Shalsky, racing with longtime partner Mark Van Selst, drowned while tethered to his J/29 White Lightning. Van Selst was unable to slow the boat or haul his partner in, and eventually cut loose Shalsky (who was by then unconscious) so that following boats could recover him. The hazards associated with a tether that cannot be easily released under load prompted the International Sailing Federation (ISAF, the council responsible for regulating offshore sailing races) to recommend this feature in tether designs. It is not a requirement, only a recommendation, and ISAF does not stipulate what method should be used for the release.
Never mind what your experience tells you. Children do not go to sea. At least that is the only logical conclusion we can reach as we deal with the lack of adequate offshore safety equipment for kids. In October 2006, we ran down more than a dozen life jackets for infants and toddlers. There were only a few worth writing about, and none met our full expectations. Of the lot, we pegged the MTI Adventurewear Bay Bee 201-1, the Mustang Survival MV-3150 and MV-3155, and the Sospenders 12ACH as standouts, and all of these products are still available today. In the December 2006 and January 2007 issues, we dug into the topic of safety harnesses and tethers, and the outcome was worse. One product in that test, a safety tether designed for children more than 50 pounds, snapped under the load of a 35-pound weight being dropped from six feet. The tether, from Jim Buoy, underwent an upgrade immediately after our report.
Practical Sailor had a chance to compare how three common snap hooks and three tether types function in actual use on a passage from Boston to Bermuda. Testers evaluated the pros and cons of elastic tethers and non-elastic tethers, double-legged tethers, single-leg tethers, the new Kong snap hooks, carabineer-style safety clips, and the Gibb-style clip. The Wichard elastic single-leg tether (nearly identical to our 2007 tether test favorite from West Marine, the West Marine 6-foot elastic tether with Wichards double-action hook at the deck end) was unanimously preferred over the non-elastic tether. Testers also preferred the Kong snap hooks over the others.