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Old 12-15-2014, 09:49 PM   #1
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Inflatable PFD Advise needed

My wife and I are looking for some inflatable pfd's to go with the 36ft Grand Banks that we have an accepted offer on contingent on sea trials. The sea trials will not happen till spring, so it's going to be a long winter!

My question is inflatables pfd's. I believe that we want automatic. Should we go with 25 or 35 pounds buoyancy? We will be doing the loop and will be in open water getting the boat to WI from MI as well as doing the Gulf crossing. Also, should the pfd have a harnesses? After doing some research, I found that Landfall has a pfd that I have not heard of. It's the AI-150AH Automatic Harness from Firstwatch Wavebarrier. It's automatic and has a harness and the price is right.
FirstWatch WaveBarrier Inflatable PFD
Is anyone familiar with these? Are they worth buying or is there something else that I should be looking at?

Myron & LInda Feldman
Pewaukee, WI
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Old 12-15-2014, 11:29 PM   #2
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We have Mustang auto/manual inflatable PFDs with the harness and have been very happy with them. We haven't needed the harness (or the PFDs for that matter) but we figure it would be a good feature to have because our MOB recovery plan calls for the use of the mast and boom to lift someone back aboard.

We used to have Sospender auto/manual inflatable vests, and we keep them aboard and in working order for guests. But we much prefer the quality of the Mustangs.
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Old 12-16-2014, 12:30 AM   #3
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I have a Mustang with the harness and have never used it. My guess is it's mainly for sailboats (you know, those funny looking things with the tall sticks that point up, except they're always leaning over) or for rough water crossings.

I also have the belt pack type for use on the Whaler. They're much more comfortable than the horse collar type.
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Old 12-16-2014, 01:23 AM   #4
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I can't think of a reason to have less buoyancy, especially if you will be in fresh water a lot.

My thoughts on automatics (I have 2) are that if you are in cold water, falling in will cause a "gasp" reflex which will probably kill you. An automatic gives you a fighting chance. Likewise if you are injured when you fall overboard. However, if you are going offshore, I would get the manual ones because I think if you are capsized and inside the boat, you probably don't want it to inflate until you are ready.

The harness is a personal choice. I don't have a harness but Marin's thought on recovery might make that task easier. Also, I could use one with a harness as I have nothing to support me when I get to the top of my mast to change light bulbs. If I fell, the harness would probably not save me but leave me dangling like a halibut. If I tied on, I would have arms free to do the work.
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Old 12-16-2014, 07:35 AM   #5
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Welcome to TF from another newer Great Lakes boater also planning to join the loop world!
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Old 12-16-2014, 08:41 AM   #6
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Good luck with your new purchase and smart move thinking of PFD's right off the bat, you have received good information to go by, as long as they are wearing them they should help you survive.
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Old 12-16-2014, 09:22 AM   #7
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One thing to be aware of is that inflatables do not count towards the USCG requirements unless you are wearing them. That is, if you have 5 people on board, and you have 5 inflatable PFD in a locker somewhere--without also having 5 of the non-inflatable types on board--then you are in violation of the Coast Guard regulations. The inflatables can only be counted when you are actually wearing them.
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Old 12-16-2014, 10:47 AM   #8
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One thing to be aware of is that inflatables do not count towards the USCG requirements unless you are wearing them. That is, if you have 5 people on board, and you have 5 inflatable PFD in a locker somewhere--without also having 5 of the non-inflatable types on board--then you are in violation of the Coast Guard regulations. The inflatables can only be counted when you are actually wearing them.

This is no longer always true. There are now fully rated type II inflatables available. I have several Mustangs with this rating. Check the labels and/ or rating info carefully to be sure you are getting what you want.

I have noticed that PFDs with harness rings do NOT seem to ever be fully Type II rated. I suspect they figure it's limited in its ability to perform its job if you are tethered to a sinking ship.
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Old 12-16-2014, 12:24 PM   #9
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Actually, I believe it's because if you are not wearing it, the harness rings do you no good. The only way the harness-type can fulfill its complete function is if you have it on.
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Old 12-16-2014, 03:24 PM   #10
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I can second Marins thoughts on the mustang auto/manual inflatables. Over the last ten years on our sailboat they were very frequently worn. They are comfortable and allow for good movement. We only had them with the harness built in since whoever was on shift at night would be clipped into a safety line in the cockpit, or if you had to leave the cockpit you'd be attached to a jack line as you walked on deck. Life on a trawler is rather different, don't know the harness is needed.

We brought them along into our trawler and if I'm on the pilothouse roof changing a nav light or otherwise exposed they're nice to have on.

Our recovery plan also accounted for using the boom to lift the person out of the water in our sailboat (also necessitating the harness). That was mandated by the high decks, and poor transom access, but with a nice low swim platform on the trawler that is now our recovery location. If your trawler has easy access from the transom I'd definitely make that your primary recovery location. If your swimmer needs to climb steps to get onboard then I suggest a backup plan in case they're too weak to do so.

Regarding the 25 vs. 35 lb. buoyancy I really wouldn't worry about it. Either one will keep a person afloat for the vessel to maneuver and rescue.

What I wouldn't do is have these replace my Type 1 jackets. Type 1 and Type 5 are meant for different circumstances and a true offshore type 1 (with the neck collar) will remain afloat long after the type 5 has settled to the bottom.
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Old 12-16-2014, 03:44 PM   #11
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A couple of the real advantages with the inflatable type is that they are actually comfortable to wear. I often have people forget they have them on when they get to shore and discover they have it on still halfway up the mountain. If you use your arms for anything (like kayaking) your arms still move in their natural arc without interference. The more costly inflatables have a 5 year cartridge life, as compared to the average 2 year certification. You actually save money getting the more expensive unit since the recharge kits cost so much. Add 1 1/2 recharge kits to the purchase price when you shop 2 year rated vests. IF you have people who fall in a lot or novice boaters who may get wet, put them in cheaper vests :-) They will understand. I like Mustang, and have a pair of West Marine by Mustang vests. I have replaced the cartridges one time and have never had one get wet and inflate as of yet, knock wood. They size for you individually, unlike a lot of vests, and it pays to mark them as to ownership so you don't have to readjust the straps every time you put one on.
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Old 12-16-2014, 04:16 PM   #12
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We have one auto with harness. Have never used the harness (yet), but I keep this one for me and use it when I'm single-handing especially if weather and sea states go south. And I'd harness up in about a heartbeat. It's heavier, though.

It will also auto-inflate if a bit of wet weather gets into it, as in sideways rain into the flying bridge. That'll get your attention, although the time it happened to ours, I wasn't wearing it.... it was simply stowed in the open for immediate access. I don't wear that one in the dinghy, either (potentially wet environment).

The others are more pedestrian: manual inflate, no harness, lighter weight. One is a real harness, and two are the belt-packs... which take some understanding should you ever need to deploy one. I find the belt-packs most comfortable for continuous wear and also for use in the dinghy.


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Old 12-16-2014, 05:32 PM   #13
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What I wouldn't do is have these replace my Type 1 jackets.
Good advice, I think. We, too, have more than enough Type I PFDs on board for ourselves and any guests. They are stowed, of course. We wouldn't ask anyone to wear one while we're underway. But they're within easy reach if they're needed.
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Old 12-16-2014, 05:33 PM   #14
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A couple of the real advantages with the inflatable type is that they are actually comfortable to wear. I often have people forget they have them on when they get to shore and discover they have it on still halfway up the mountain. If you use your arms for anything (like kayaking) your arms still move in their natural arc without interference. The more costly inflatables have a 5 year cartridge life, as compared to the average 2 year certification. You actually save money getting the more expensive unit since the recharge kits cost so much. Add 1 1/2 recharge kits to the purchase price when you shop 2 year rated vests. IF you have people who fall in a lot or novice boaters who may get wet, put them in cheaper vests :-) They will understand. I like Mustang, and have a pair of West Marine by Mustang vests. I have replaced the cartridges one time and have never had one get wet and inflate as of yet, knock wood. They size for you individually, unlike a lot of vests, and it pays to mark them as to ownership so you don't have to readjust the straps every time you put one on.
All good points. I like the manual, just because, but certainly see the advantages of the auto.

Harness is a definite YES. Because when you need it, you'll need it.

But with all that said, don't get something so bulky that in 6 months it just sits in the pilot house watching the sky go by.
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Old 12-16-2014, 05:47 PM   #15
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Here there are times PFDs must be worn, but our Maritime authority recently said it`s not a PFD unless it is inflated. That defeats a very sensible drive to encourage using convenient comfortable versions more often.
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Old 12-16-2014, 05:51 PM   #16
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Here there are times PFDs must be worn, but our Maritime authority recently said it`s not a PFD unless it is inflated..
Your Maritime folks need to go talk to your aviation authority folks about whether or not an uninflated PFD should be considered a legal PFD.
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Old 12-16-2014, 09:07 PM   #17
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We have a mix of type 1's and 3's. We also have 4 Mustang type V inflatables which we wear religiously while fishing. Very comfortable and wear well. If you go over the side on my boat, you're unlikely to get back aboard unless you can get the MOB to the swim step.
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Old 12-17-2014, 01:23 AM   #18
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Here there are times PFDs must be worn, but our Maritime authority recently said it`s not a PFD unless it is inflated. That defeats a very sensible drive to encourage using convenient comfortable versions more often.
Bruce, the maritime regs seem to be formulated by people wanting to 'cover their ar$e' without regard to real life up here as well, but that NSW edict is crazy.

In Queensland Inflatable PFD's are approved equipment. But they must be gas inflated (not oral only), have an expiry date and be serviced annually. I regret buying so many of them now, I should have only bought 10 and had 10 of the bulky type 1's stowed away.
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Old 12-17-2014, 08:28 AM   #19
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This is no longer always true. There are now fully rated type II inflatables available.
Good to know. Thank you.
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Old 12-17-2014, 11:48 AM   #20
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Myronf, re-reading your original post, to specifically address wether you want automatic inflation. My advice would be to get the dual automatic/manual vests. If someone (especially a guest) goes overboard you don't want to count on them remembering to pull the lanyard. On the flip side I think its comforting to know I'm not relying on it to work and can inflate it if I need to.

The harness is utilized more in the sailboat world than the powerboat world. If you can recover a person through your transom or swim platform you probably don't need it. If they need to climb steps, you need to have a plan for them not being able to (exhaustion or unconscious) if that involves lifting, maybe you want the harness. Make sure you attach a line to both rings, not just one!

And to repeat myself: I recommend having enough type 1 vests for all onboard and these as additional ones.

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