When Gill North America sent out a release promoting a new life jacket design and suggesting that these jackets be reviewed by members of the media, I “heard the call.” If anyone is a model-citizen/PFD wearer, I’m it! Over the years, Jerry and I have laughingly called ourselves “PFD poster children.” We always wear life jackets on our boat. We just do. They’re so much part of us that sometimes we forget to take them off when wandering the docks.
At first glance, the bright red front-zip PFD must be said to be attractive, built of good quality materials, and very well designed.
Most important to me was whether it could easily hold my gear. Since we always wear our life jackets, we have adapted them to carry a little collection of safety equipment about the boat with us. This new jacket, for example, now has in its zippered pockets a flare, a whistle (the world’s loudest by the manufacturer’s claim), a signal mirror, a flashlight, my Boye knife, and a strobe. It even has an inside D-ring, presumably for car keys although parts of my safety collection are now anchored to this ring instead. If I were a dinghy sailor, that ring would be perfect for my keys. But as a cruiser, I figure the last thing I would need (for several reasons) if I were to fall overboard would be my set of electronic car keys!
The only adaptation I had to make was the attachment of a harness that will be used with a tether and could be used for hauling my hyperthermic body out of the lake if I accidentally fall in. I sewed a couple of loops of nylon webbing to the sides and transferred all gear and allegiances to my new life jacket.
Gill says this type III USCG-approved vest is styled to coordinate with the full Gill dinghy and technical clothing range. You would want to match, I suppose. But what really interested me was whether I could wear this jacket all day long onboard and still call it comfortable at day’s end. Would it fit well? I wore it for a whole day aboard on what was possibly the hottest day of the year on Lake Superior during the heat wave of July. It passed the wear-ability test.
Now there’s just one more test a life jacket should pass. Will it float? I wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice in the interests of science. Let’s just say that if it is rated as a type III PFD, surely it will float me in the water. A type III PFD is categorized as a “flotation aid,” just one level up from at throwable device (type IV). If that’s not enough to make you think, the labeling, written by lawyers no doubt, states: “This is a Front Zip Type III PFD designed to support a conscious person in the water in an upright position. It is not a guaranteed Lifesaver.”
That just about covers it: God and PFDs help those who help themselves. Your job is a) to refrain from falling in, b) to stay conscious if at all possible if you do fall in (the shock of hitting Lake Superior will almost certainly assist in rendering an unconscious person conscious), and c) to start making all the noise and light signals within your capabilities so those on the boat can locate and come back for you.
All things said, it is a good thing to wear a life jacket to keep the odds on your side. And the new PFDs by Gill pass all my tests.
Filed under: Other musings Tagged: | personal floatation device, PFD, review of Gill Type III USCG-approved front-zip floatation aid