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Practical Sailor PFD Research Looks at Capsizes

After a series of tragic accidents involving sailors in organized sailing events and training programs in 2011 and 2012, Practical Sailor initiated research into safety equipment in use during the time of these accidents. Our current ongoing tests deal specifically with personal flotation devices (PFDs), safety harnesses, and combination inflatable PFDs and safety harnesses. Ultimately, we hope to come up with recommendations similar to those we made for infant PFDs in June 2007, when we published a prototype of what our ideal infant PFD would look like.

Safety Tether Caution

The hallmark of an overboard fall protection system is a system of jacklines running along the deck, with tethers attached so that the sailor can move throughout the boat with relative freedom. But this is not the real backbone of the system. A review of overboard accidents reveals that very few fall when transiting from cockpit to bow-they get washed overboard when they stop to perform a task. While moving, sailors are focused, holding on with two hands, and mindful of the approach of waves and the motion of the boat. But while taming a headsail or straightening up a tangle of line in the cockpit, the mind wanders, the hands are occupied, and risk increases. A wave strikes, we tangle our feet or step on a sail, and whoosh . . . were overboard.

Youth Safety Gear Top Picks

It’s summertime, which means the kids are out of school and flocking to youth sailing camps, heading out on family cruises, and cooling off in the pool. Over the years, we reviewed dozens of safety products to keep wee crew safe around the water, including PFDs (personal flotation devices) for children, toddlers, and infants. Here are some of our top picks.

When is it Time to Retire a Safety Tether?

Rules of thumb are rather useless when it comes to equipment that is stored in a locker and then used roughly. Weve broken lots of new and old equipment during testing and learned a lot about what to look for, but even so we are often surprised when good looking equipment fails and scratched up stuff works fine. Inspect closely and often, regardless of age.

Horseshoe and Ring Buoy Mounts for PFDs

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. …

Safety Tethers Under Scrutiny

On November 18, 2017, Simon Speirs, an experienced sailor, went overboard while at the bow assisting with a headsail change on a Clipper Round the World Boat CV30. It was blustery, with sustained winds of 20 knots, gusting to 40 knots. Shortly after he went overboard, his safety tether detached and he was separated from his boat. His body was recovered 34 minutes later. The cause of death has not been determined but drowning is the suspected cause. While such accidents are tragic, they offer a chance to re-evaluate equipment standards within a real-world context.

Rethinking the Use of Inflatable PFDs

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.

Stay Warm, Stay Safe

About this time of year, sailors creeping southward are either accelerating their migration or looking for inexpensive ways to warm the cabin. You don't have to install an expensive, built-in heating system just to get you south of the Mason-Dixon line, but when opting for one of the less-expensive options, you do have to use commonsense.