The sun is out, the cool sea, the lakes, rivers and estuaries are attracting you like a magnetic force and it's looking ever so tempting to get out and have some fun in the water! However, as much as its great to explore, exercise and enjoy life. As we all know the water can have a mind of its own.
Did you know that inland water, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading locations for accidental drowning with 60% of deaths. Recreational activities accounted for 58% of accidental fatalities. The increase in numbers participating in water sports has culminated in a rise in incidents associated with Stand- UP- Paddle boarding and other water activities. The Coastguard also reported 2,183 rescues in 2022, that doesn't account for those who were sadly unable to be rescued.
The amount of people we see here at Rob Perry Marine who do not wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid, is astounding! The fact is whether you are a seasoned fisherman, or a novice voyager, the water doesn't care and does not pick and choose!
So, when should you be wearing a life jacket/vest?
Every time you enter the water! It only takes one freak accident and you can find yourself in a predicament!
What can go wrong?
Well, lets see..
You are aboard a vessel and you get thrown from it, it may collide with a rock or unknown object, the rivers and oceans harbour many weird and crazy entities! It may even be as simple as too much throttle and mishandling.
You have simply slipped getting into the water
You may have been hit by an over zealous wave or current that has knocked you off guard
You may have a boat or inflatable that develops a fault and leaves you no choice but to survive in the water
You may have a health issue that takes hold of you such as heart attack or stroke
The above list is by no means exhaustive, but hey, we don't want to be all doom and gloom! The fact is many of us go out regularly, enjoy ourselves and never get in to difficulty, the point is, not to take your life for granted, as in a moment it can be whisked away, yet it takes just a moment to put on your LIFE SAVING equipment!
How to choose what to buy...
Buoyancy aids, life vests, life jackets, they are often all referred to as 'life jackets', when searching for what to buy.
But what are the main differences?
Manual and Auto life jackets are typically used when doing high levels of boating or risky water sports where you may encounter rocks, debris and other objects. These life jackets not only keep you afloat, but should you hit your head as you fall and are unconscious they will flip you onto your back, so that you are not face down drowning in the water!
A manual is simply activated when you pull the cord that inflates the jacket by a hidden gas cylinder. An automatic, will inflate the minute you submerge it in water, meaning that should you hit your head, or are instantly unconscious with no way of manually pulling the cord, it will automatically inflate for you and again turn you over so you are on your back!
So why bother with a Buoyancy aid then?
Generally at 50N. these are more suited for activities where help is on hand, if you are staying along the shoreline and are visible or you are in a highly populated area, where if you were in distress someone would see you, they keep you afloat but they do not turn you over!
However if you are likely to be in the water more than not, which can be the case with paddle boarding and some water sports then they are effective as they do not contain gas cannisters that can corrode especially in salt water and are often quite insulated, helping to keep you warm whilst you await help.
The 'N' on a life jacket stands for Newtons, which is a measure of force. For example, 10 Newtons is equivalent to 1 kilogram of buoyancy
Most buoyancy aids offer 50N
Most lifejackets are a minimum of 150N to help turn you over
Does weight matter?
*Because of their buoyancy, all adults, regardless of their size, have a net weight of about 5kg when immersed in water. You do not need a lifejacket or buoyancy aid with more buoyancy just because you’re heavier in weight than others! *
Buoyancy aids and level 100 lifejackets, however, come in a range of sizes from baby to adult XXXL* it is imperative to make sure the jacket fits properly, in that it fits snuggly and is not loose when you lift you arms above shoulder height. *Source RNLI safety
"Research has proven that wearing a lifejacket can increase your chances of survival by up to four times if you’re immersed in cold water." * Source;- Professor Mike Tipton 2012
Do they last forever?
NO! However they will last you a good number of years if you look after them. Buoyancy aids should be washed down after each use to rinse any salt or debris off them. Life jackets should be serviced annually, during the service they will be put under an inflation test to check they stay inflated, the gas will be checked, the inflation mechanism is checked and any auto capsules will be examined for defects and to ensure they are still in date. Storage is also key, try to keep them in a dry area or dry bag to minimize corrosion and rot.
Here at Rob Perry Marine, we do not believe in scrimping on safety, no matter what type of water activity you are engaging in, please be safe! The cost of life jackets may not be cheap, but it's a fair sight less than the loss of life!
One last thought.. there are other items that can prove vital if you are in difficulty. Think about flares (inshore and offshore available) these will alert people of your distress. A whistle (often supplied with lifejackets) to try and signal to those nearby. A waterproof phone case, and fully charged phone so you can call the coast guard available on 999. A VHF radio for your boat (available in store in handheld or mounted format) to alert nearby vessels who may get to you faster than the coast guard.
Most importantly try not to panic, remember "float to live" calmly floating on your back helps reserve energy. Tell someone that you are going out and when you will be back. Wear appropriate clothing for the time of year, wetsuits are a great way of helping to stay warm in cooler waters. If you are a beginner at your sport or need to brush up on a few pointers, then take lessons, book a course and get educated. https://www.robperrymarine.co.uk/rya-courses
For more information feel free to call us on 01297 631 314
The RNLI web page provides further advice and techniques for helping with cold water shock. Don't be a "know it all", learn and really know it all! https://rnli.org/safety/lifejackets
One day it may just save you or your loved ones life.
Rob Perry Marine are proud to work in association with Helly Hansen, Crewsaver and are a authorised training centre for the Level 2 RYA powerboat handling course.