I was always aware of the various life jackets out there but never really considered them a huge priority. In fact I looked at them almost as bureaucratic requirement more than anything. As I got into sailing and began to run into more than my fare share of foul weather I quickly adjusted my thinking. I had a "flack vest" traditional PFD, a manky old harness and a rope tether I made myself. I was now ready; however I was going to be honest this mess of McGyver-ed items spent more time in the hanging locker when we were out on the water. It was bulky, hot and cumbersome.
What changed really crystallized things for me was the 2010 Southern Straits race. While I was not in it by chance reading the rescue reports made me think that I should revisit this safety equipment thing. The statistics say that 60% of people who die on the water weren't wearing life jackets.
I decided the most important thing for the life jacket was that I will actually wear the stupid thing. It had to be comfortable, light, include a harness and make me look bad-ass. I pretty much settled on inflatables. Of those I wanted automatic, there are a ton of reasons you can wind up unconscious in the ocean; beer, boom, and blunders amongst other things.
The problem with inflatables on the Canadian market is that only a very few are actually Transport Canada certified; that being said I did not care if they were not certified here so long as they were somewhere reputable. You can easily get around this by caring a T.C. approved life jacket even if you are not wearing it. I considered Mustang, Gul, WM, Revel, and Spinlock. Of the first three Mustang was easily the best. Their deluxe HT vest with harness is a good product with a good reputation. It is missing a crotch strap which can be purchased as a extra. Despite Mustang's good reputation I kept seeing one name and one name only coming up as the Cadillac of life jackets, Spinlock.
Spinlock's Deck vest series were used by all the crews in the last Volvo Ocean Race with rave reviews. In the end it was the life vest for me. In the following paragraphs I will go over the features in detail. I was so impressed I even got one for Cheryl.
Cheryl began to question my suggestion that she go with a more economical PFD when I had my Spinlock.
Cheryl is ready to be pitched overboard in her new Spinlock Deck vest.
The PFD's casing is made of soft neoprene as are wide pads on the belt. Hands down this PFD is the most comfortable one to were on the market. People report it being comfortable even when not wearing a shirt.
A view from the rear; note the wide padded waist band.
The centre buckle is easier to use then the traditional metal buckles while being light weight. The harness ring is a climbing type as opposed to metal rings again cutting down on weight and jingly things. The thigh straps again have more in common with a climbing harness than a traditional PFD's single ball busting crotch strap. Not only are they sexy they are really secure. You could be hauled back on board by the PFD easily and without undue discomfort.
At the waist it is easy to adjust the straps for a snug fit. Again every thing is padded and soft.
Unlike all the competition Spinlock uses a special YKK splitting zipper that is held in place with a velcro strap. It is really easy to unpack or repack this vest.
The automatic inflator is robust and well protected. Accidental inflations are very uncommon with this vest.
Despite being good protection from Seagull droppings this spray shield can save your life in rough seas. This item is unique to the Spinlock vest.
In conclusion this vest is worth every penny. It is light-weight and comfy; I will seriously where this vest all the time as it does not get in the way. It is "feature rich" and proven reliable; when I consider the price I have to say it is a small price when compared with my, and my wife's life. Finally the thing looks bad-ass; if Batman needed a life jacket this would be it.
The only downside to the vest was that it lacked any attachment points for a rigging knife and it is only certified in the UK. Despite these minor drawbacks this is a best buy.
For more details visit: Spinlock
Locally they can be purchased at:
- West Marine
- Glenmore Sailboats