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Inflate lifejacket before abandoning ship into the water?

Athomson

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20 Sep 2020
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That boat on fire at Conwy got me thinking what I'd do in the same circumstances. So I notice an engine room fire, of course send the family to foredeck with life jackets on. If we have to jump off would I pull the life jackets and top them up before jumping in or keep them safely tucked in their bag and let them inflate in the water?

Pros for inflating first can make sure they work, can top them up and adjust the straps.

Against might catch on something going over the guard rail, might be a problem landing in the water... Maybe inflate kids before lowering them in? But chance of separating if I go in without mine inflated after lowering them in... All hold hands and jump at once?

For me its 2 adults and 3 kids between 7 and 12. What order would you do things?
 

glynd

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28 Dec 2016
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90
Liferaft if deployable quickly - keep people dry, and together especially if cold water.
Probably adult, kids then last adult into the raft and then row upwind / sideways?

Otherwise, I'd probably be inclined to inflate the jackets before letting them in - but they need to know to hold arms over the LJs when entering the water

Certainly worth making use of an old cylinder / arming kit when it is time to refresh so they have an idea of how it works!
 

johnalison

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Essex
The only times I think that I would delay inflating would be if either if the bulk of the jacket might make exit from wherever I was difficult, or if I thought that fire would be more lkely to damage the jacket. If nothing else, I would get less wet if the jacket were inflated.
 

Athomson

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Another thing with that fire is if they were mustering on the bow should they have dropped the anchor before abandoning ship, so the boat at least doesn't hit anything as it did, a potentially deadly Dutch style weapon. But thinking about it they absolutely should NOT have anchored it. If they are jumping off the bow the fire would have been downstream of them and they would have all been swept towards the fire and fuel tank and gas bottles.
 

Rappey

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Can swim away from the danger easier with a non inflated?
 

lustyd

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So I notice an engine room fire, of course send the family to foredeck with life jackets on.
Step one, check that the engine is not in gear before sending family to the foredeck. Step two check wind direction since most yachts would lie stern to the wind, choking anyone on the foredeck.

To answer the question though, it makes no difference. If your LJ fails you're still going to have to jump off of the inferno, and you're best doing that before passing out in the smoke.
 

dunedin

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3 Feb 2004
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Boat (now back in) the Clyde
I think (without any qualification in this field) that I would inflate while aboard. I've just tested all mine, including the never used 'visitor' ones, the ones we no longer use because we bought nice shiny new ones with hoods and everyfin, and one old one didn't work. Not didn't inflate but couldn't inflate due to a hole in it. Rather chilled me when I considered which of my relatives could be wearing it. So I think I'd rather find out it didnt work before leaping into the wet stuff. Of course if the fires licking at my trousers then throw those kids over and just go anywhere as fast as possible
Surely you would find that out when you inflate them each year as part of the annual life jacket service?
 

Tzu

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Brum or aboard darn sarf now
er, yes. exactly. And thats how i knew it had failed. But if i'd been sailing two weeks ago with a guest the guest might have been wearing that lifejacket
 

lustyd

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So once you find out your guests LJ failed what then? Swap LJs before jumping in or ask them to keep warm on deck next to the open fire while you swim for help?
 

Sandy

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31 Aug 2011
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17,320
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On the Celtic Fringe
That boat on fire at Conwy got me thinking what I'd do in the same circumstances. So I notice an engine room fire, of course send the family to foredeck with life jackets on. If we have to jump off would I pull the life jackets and top them up before jumping in or keep them safely tucked in their bag and let them inflate in the water?

Pros for inflating first can make sure they work, can top them up and adjust the straps.

Against might catch on something going over the guard rail, might be a problem landing in the water... Maybe inflate kids before lowering them in? But chance of separating if I go in without mine inflated after lowering them in... All hold hands and jump at once?

For me its 2 adults and 3 kids between 7 and 12. What order would you do things?
Children should always be in solid lifejackets, They like to swim in them, that will cost you a fortune in refills and arming sets, and they are warmer.
 

greeny

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15 Jun 2004
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Portugal
Conventional offshore industry safety training when entering the water from any height was to inflate after entering the water because the jacket could come off your head or cause you injury as you enter the water at speed. Stepping in from a small boat and the fact we now we have crotch straps, I would certainly inflate first to ensure it worked correctly before going in.
 

lustyd

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Again though, on a burning boat what is your plan if it doesn't?
 

greeny

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Again though, on a burning boat what is your plan if it doesn't?
If I had time, change it for one that does work. Or if no time to do that, take a fender or the lifebouy with me to give me some bouyancy. Not ideal but better than nothing. If you're in the water when you find it doesn't work you wouldn't have those options.
 

Resolution

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16 Feb 2006
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3,341
I would jump off before inflating the lifejacket, much more flexible and less danger of being crutch crunched by one’s crutch straps.
Also very important in chill waters to hold your mouth shut and avoid involuntary inhalation from the shock of hitting the cold water.
 

LadyInBed

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2 Sep 2001
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Me - Zumerzet Boat - Wareham
This is about the only situation that I can think of where routinely wearing an LJ is a distinct advantage. I would inflate when in the water, the same as if it were a self inflating (mine is manual) LJ.
Under normal circumstances I don't wear an LJ, they are kept in the saloon wet locker, if it was feasible to get to them, then I would grab one (I sail solo) and jump, if not possible, then I would grab a life ring and jump, as this is in a harbour in close proximity to pontoons / boats, so prolonged immersion is unlikely.
 

Stemar

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A situation like that is one reason I like to tow my dinghy, with outboard fitted. Big "Oh bugger" moment, we just step into the flubber and head for the shore. No, actually, wait around, because someone's going to turn up to a bonfire in the middle of the Solent pretty quickly, and they'll be a lot happier to know everybody's out.

If I've got to go in the water, as a good swimmer, I'd favour getting well away from the flames before inflating, but my jacket is automatic, so it's going to go off a second or two after I go in the water, but at least that's a bit away from them. I don't see the bladder of an inflated jacket surviving any contact with a flame or a brush with something hot.

I'm not too worried about whether the LJ will work, because it's been serviced regularly and is in good condition - that's why I take my own LJ when I go on someone else's boat. I tested a tatty, manky one once before disposing of it, and it inflated and stayed up fine. I won't pretend being an expert, but ISTM that there are really only two reasons an apparently good LJ won't inflate, a damaged bladder and a loose cylinder, and I pay particular attention to both when servicing. I exclude a cartridge that's already been fired because I know the history of my jackets, and I've tested cartridges up to seven years out of date and they've never failed, so the likelihood of a bad one is remote.
 
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