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I was talking to somebody who had been reading about life jackets and their suitability, I was a bit worried by the impression she had gained so thought it might be worth a quick recap of the type and suitability of each type, anyway here goes nothing.

1) Simple low N buoyancy aid, excellent for dingy sailing kayaking etc where a dunking is an occupational hazard. They are permanently deployed and do not need rearming after submersion but all they do is give you a bit of extra buoyancy, they can not be punctured.

2) “Solid†lifejacket, again permanently deployed and can not be punctured the right type will turn you over and keep you afloat if you bang your head when going over the side. They are uncomfortable to wear and bulky to store.

3) Manual activation gas inflatable, Will keep you afloat and self right you PROVIDED you are able to activate them, best suited to large boats where they can be activated before you need to use them i.e. in a sinking. Probably the least suitable of all in an unexpected dunking especially if shock is involved and no use at all if you bang your head as you go over the side and are out when you enter the water. Comfortable to wear and easy to stow, require servicing.

4) Auto gas inflatable as above with the added advantage that they should deploy regardless of your conscious state on hitting the water. They are available with two types of activator, the better of the two is the hammer type which will not activate accidentally in a damp locker. Comfortable to wear and easy to stow, require servicing.

All of the above are available in differing Newton (buoyancy ratings) and as with many things; you pays your money and takes your choice. For general cruising on the broads aboard the average cruiser the most likely scenario is a fall overboard when on deck, as you would be able to reach the bank or at least shallow water before a sinking in most cases. In my view the buoyancy aid and manual gas type are the least suitable for this scenario as one will not right you and the other relies on your being able to help yourself, something that can not be relied on. I have deliberately not gone into harnesses though they will of course assist in recovery.


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A good time for a safety reminder David.

Having been in a couple of times once in the Thames Estuary in my late teens I would not be on the water without one, the Thames incident was caused by getting too close to the sandbanks we were fishing to and getting pitched out of a small boat by a wave I learnt my lesson. Fortunately it was just a case of getting to the bank and then running the boat up to pick me up. The second was on a Topper Dingy where I was trying to teach a novice while looking back to try to give instructions we had a crash gybe and the boom hit me across the bridge of the nose and knocked me in. Fortunately this was in warm water not too far from shore and the shock of the water brought me round. One reason I have an aversion to two man sailing dingy's.

While the Broads may seem benign the biggest issue is getting back onto your ship but a Life Jacket buys you time and could well save your life if you have had a bang on the head and are wearing the right type.

I would always recommend David's number 4 the 150N version can be bought quite competitively, if you are baulking at the price, ask yourself what price your or a family members life!

You can buy a version suitable for the Broads at sub £40 e.g. http://marinestore.co.uk/Merchant2/merc ... _Code=mrst

For our offshore work we have invested in a 275N version with Sprayhood


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if you are baulking at the price, ask yourself what price your or a family members life!

My thoughts exactly Perry.

The only thing that I could add to this is that it can get pretty dark on the Broads and some of us do like a bit of night time navigation.

Spotlights / floodlights on the boat are essential anyway (if the boat is going to move in the dark) but a person in the water can be extremely hard to spot.

We bought these too:-

http://www.crewsaver.co.uk/Inflatable_L ... index.html



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We carried four Seago 175N autogas lifejackets aboard, complete with full harnesses. I preferred (though I didn't force) that all crew and passengers wore them at all times when underway. I certainly did. As has been said, what price life?

I also kept a flotation ring with a 15m rope (tied to the rails) ready for instant deployment on the coach roof. Silver Dream was not especially difficult to board from the water owing to her stern bathing platform with folding ladder - however I would not have allowed anyone to attempt to use it with the engines running, even in neutral. It would have been handy to be able to keep hold of someone in the water whilst the boat could be manoeuvred to a safe position where the engines could be shut off and a proper recovery attempted.

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I don't know that you do need to service them Dave, though changing the arming cylinder once in a while wouldn't be a bad thing. The other thing you can do is manually inflate them (either by pulling the cord, but then you'll need a new cylinder, or by simply blowing them up with the Mk1 lung) to check that they do inflate properly and don't have any leaks. It tends to be a good idea to know how it all fits back together (and how to change the cylinder) in case you ever need to do it in anger.

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It's policy to have them serviced every couple of years, return to manufacturer for service and test integrity a couple of times a year by leaving inflated for 24 hours after pumping up manually, NOT by mouth, use a pump as blowing up by mouth will introduce moisture which can lead to rotting over time.

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It's policy to have them serviced every couple of years, return to manufacturer for service and test integrity a couple of times a year by leaving inflated for 24 hours after pumping up manually, NOT by mouth, use a pump as blowing up by mouth will introduce moisture which can lead to rotting over time.

Having spoken to Seago they did not seem to mind blowing it up by mouth - in fact they suggested. Still, I suppose if it rots then they get more business when I have to buy a new one. :roll:

Someone I know chucks his in the bath at the end of every season and leaves them up for a few days. They do, of course, require re-arming but it does at least mean each new season starts off with a new autogas unit. Waste of money perhaps, but as has been said.... what price life?

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Getting wet on the outside is not a problem as it can be aired and dry nicely. The point about blowing up by mouth I think is valid though. Inflatable liferafts (when done properly) are even packed after service in a controlled dry athmosphere to prevent it. On the better quality jackets and over a fairly short period, sy 5 years or so it's probably not a major issue but there are some really cheap thin offerings about and I doubt if they would stand up so well. I am of the school of trying to avoid problems in advance hence the cautionary note. :grin::grin:

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This takes me back a few years when I was showing our grand-daughter how to start the outboard (attached to the unsinkable/uncapsizeable tender we had...)...

Well, it didn't sink but actually pitchpoled backwards-on with me in it! YES, I had my inflatable LSJ on.. which inflated whilst I was under the inverted tender but to such an extent that I was like the original Michelin-Man... arms forced outstretched and unable to get at the deflation tube (which I really didn't know where to look, anyway). I don't know if this was typical of auto-inflatable LSJ's but it was a very well known brand.

It was very difficult to get out from under the tender and impossible to get out of the water (in the marina) because I could neither get at the deflation valve to let some air out, nor could I pull myself up because my arms were so stretched sideways out.. fortunately this was in the middle of a Sunday afternoon and grand-daughter's cries eventually attracted two fit young men.

Had this happened at night, with no-one to help, then I hate to imagine the consequences...

Moral of the story.. find out, and be able to locate, your deflation valve!

Good Luck to all Failies! (and apologies to Sailies!)

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Can you buy the trigger part for these without having to get a new cylinder??

They usually come as a rearming kit Jim, which includes both cylnder and cartrige but I imagine any part will be available seperatly from the manufacturer though probably not on the chandlers shelf.

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  • 10 months later...
Hi John !

I really think it might be a good idea to start a completely new thread with these ideas on, that way the 'group' can say what would be most useful !!

Thanks ever so much for doing tis by the way !


Thanks Luke - I have done!

When we doing yours?


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  • 1 month later...

Having an rather ill her indoors on board over the weekend we decided just to chill out in the marina rather than go anywhere.

Without knowing it we started to people watch, as you do, and we were absolutley amazed how many people were on the water without life jackets on, both adults and kids.

We always wear ours on deck, and even the dog has one.

O.K - so we probably look like a right bunch of spanners but then if we wanted fashion we would be boating in marbella.


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You are absolutley right Wayne. However, I must say that I am just as guilty. I really must try to remember to put it on, especiall yas the decks on Serenity are almost non-existent. I will certainly wear one at sea, but I guess spending 80% of the time on the river, it is more likely that is where I will eventually take a dunking.

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O.K - so we probably look like a right bunch of spanners but then if we wanted fashion we would be boating in marbella.


In my experience spanners sink so you best keep wearing your buoyancy aid.

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  • 1 year later...
I realise this an old thread now and there was mention of another one somewhere (which I haven't found), but can someone offer some advice on what N rating to choose? We have always used cheap lifejackets of the permanently deployed type. I have recently been thinking of buying some auto jackets, but really have no idea about what all the N business is about.



Here is an extract that I found on line (The Newtons bit is in red for you!)

MED Directive: Is the equivalent of the CE Standard for lifejackets, which must be applied to all SOLAS equipment for use on commercial vessels.


The four CE categories

275 Newton Lifejacket (62 lbs / 28kg buoyancy) EN 399

Suitable for swimmers and non-swimmers. A high performance device for offshore and severe conditions, when maximum protection is required or where heavy waterproof clothing is worn. They give improved assurance of safety from drowning to people who are not able to help themselves. While they cannot be guaranteed to self?right an unconscious user, wearing heavy waterproofs, the buoyancy they provide should ensure they will in the great majority of cases.

100 Newton Lifejacket (23lbs / 11kg buoyancy) EN 395

Suitable for swimmers. They give a reasonable assurance of safety from drowning in relatively calm waters. Not guaranteed to self?right an unconscious user wearing waterproof clothing and should not be expected to protect the airway of an unconscious person in rough water.

150 Newton Lifejacket (33lbs / 16kg buoyancy) EN 396 Suitable for swimmers and non-swimmers For use in all but the most severe conditions. They will give reasonable assurance of the safety from drowning to a person not fully capable of helping themselves May not immediately self right an unconscious user wearing heavy waterproof clothing Equivalent performance to previous BSI Approved lifejackets.

50 Newton Buoyancy Aid (11 lbs / 5.5kg buoyancy) EN 393

Only suitable for competent swimmers. Sheltered water use where help is close at hand. Only provides support to a conscious person who can help themselves.

Technical Terms:

Air Foam Lifejackets;

part foam, part air buoyancy provided by oral inflation.

Air Only Lifejackets;

the buoyancy is provided by air or gas.

Buoyancy Aid;

a means of providing additional buoyancy to a conscious person who is able to swim and help themselves,

in situations where help is close at hand. It has less buoyancy than a lifejacket.

Buoyancy by Size;

the amount of buoyancy in a device will change with its size. For example a baby size 10ON lifejacket has only 30N of buoyancy.

This will operate on a baby in the same way as 10ON would on an adult.

CE Mark;

a sign that the lifejacket, buoyancy aid, harness and safety line has been tested and complies

with the relevant European Standard.

All these products must be tested and carry the CE Mark.

Crutch Straps;

a method of keeping the lifejacket held down and in place, when the wearer is in the water.

I recommend their use at all times.

(A life jacket that comes off when you fall in is no use to you!)

Foam/inherent Buoyancy;

buoyancy provided by closed cell foam or other similar material.

Gas Inflation;

the buoyancy of the lifejacket is provided by a CO., disposable gas cylinder.

Once activated the COI, cylinder must be replaced.

(That reminds me one of mine needa a new cylinder!)


a system of webbing straps with metal buckles and a â€â€â€â€Dâ€â€â€â€ ring, used with a safety line,

to prevent a person falling overboard

(more commonly used when sailing or in rough weather)

Needs to be CE approved and must have the stitching in a contrasting colour.

Hydromatic Device;

this mechanism is fitted with a hydrostatic valve that automatically inflates the lifejacket when the

lifejacket is below the water. It is not affected by rain or spray.


a means of providing buoyancy in an emergency. A lifejacket should, when fully inflated,

turn the wearer, even when unconscious, face up and keep the airway clear of the water.

Manual Inflation;

a method of inflating the lifejacket by pulling on a lanyard to pierce the gas cylinder.

Mouth Inflation Tube;

fitted to all Gas, Air Foam and Oral lifejackets. It is a tube which can be used to inflate any lifejacket by mouth.

This tube is aiso used to deflate the lifejacket by depressing the non?return valve fitted in the tube.


the level of buoyancy a device provides in the water. 10 Newtons = 1kg = 2.21bs.

Oral Inflation;

the buoyancy is provided by mouth inflation.

Retro-Reflective Tape;

reflects light back to its source in a similar way to a â€cats-eye,†assisting rescuers to locate a person in the water.

Standard Automatic Activation;

a device is fitted to inflate the lifejacket automatically once the wearer is in the water.

Should this fail, manual activation can be used.


For most situations I have 150N jackets with built in Harness (but then I do go sailing offshore sometimes).

150N is probably enough unless the wearer is very heavy (either in size or in the amount of equipment they are wearing)

In fact I think my Seago ones are 175N but are rated as 150N because that is the minimum for the CE standard.

I do have a couple of Sea-Go junior Air jackets for the older kids,

but I tend to use foam jackets for children, mainly because I don't trust them not to pull the toggle on an air jacket!

I hope this helps!


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  • 1 year later...

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