Float-Tech

Part foulweather jacket, part life vest, this versatile product looks promising, but what about the harness?

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Synergistic efforts carry strong potential, and that’s essentially how Float-Tech—which is both a company and a product—got it’s start. When now-CEO Cecilia Domingos and her partners Michael Lobsinger and Jeffrey Betz were MBA candidates at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, several years ago, they pooled their talents to develop this life-saving device as a class project, and it grew from there.

Float-tech is essentially an auto-inflatable PFD built into a nylon foulweather jacket. The jacket is ruggedly constructed from 70-denier, rip-stop (PS had a seamstress with 25 years of experience examine it). It has a stow-in-the-collar hood, adjustable cuffs, reflecting strips, and the usual foulweather gear features, but it also has zip-out sleeves so that it can be worn as a vest (see photo). It’s available in yellow-navy, and red-navy combinations.

The lifevest is built from heavier 210-denier Solarmax™ and is zipped into the jacket so that either garment can be worn separately. It contains three urethane-coated nylon bladders that inflate via a standard CO2cartridge or back-up oral inflation tube.

The Float-Tech PFD, which is offered in seven sizes, provides 27 lbs. of buoyancy, and its makers say that it’s designed to turn an unconscious person face-up. The vest inflates either by pulling the deployment cord or automatically when immersed in water. It uses a Halkey-Roberts manual and auto-inflation device. Recently approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Float-Tech performs as a Type III device.

PS tested the Float-Tech in a nearby waterway. It’s comfortable to wear, but you have to have the vest cinched tightly or it will ride up uncomfortably when inflated. Though he wasn’t unconscious, the product did roll our tester face up. But we wondered why there’s no safety harness incorporated into this system. Domingos explained that adding a harness would make the product uncomfortably heavy. You can use a harness, but it must be worn underneath the coat.

At $300, the Float-Tech isn’t inexpensive, but a good foul-weather jacket can easily cost $150 or more, and a good auto-inflatable PFD (the Crewfit Crewsaver won our Oct. 1, ’04 test) costs over $160. Add those up and the Float-Tech is in the ballpark. We’re just not sure we can get used to wearing our harness underneath it.

 

Contact – Float-Tech, 518/266-0964, www.floattech.com.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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