The United States Coast Guard tells us that in a given year 75% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of these drowning victims 86% were not wearing a lifejacket!
When we were racing Snipes on San Francisco Bay many years ago, our fleet collectively decided to require everyone to wear a lifejacket regardless of conditions due to the cold water, currents, and consistently high winds. Ever since then I’ve worn a lifejacket, and it’s the only reason I’m still around after a really unfortunate sailing accident in a very, very cold Utah mountain lake in 2009.
As boats get bigger it’s not as comfortable to wear a lifejacket all the time, so the manufacturers have done a good job creating inflatable lifejackets that automatically inflate when immersed in water. They can also be inflated by the wearer who simply pulls a rip cord. These inflatable lifejackets also incorporate a super strong tether so you can clip in and attach yourself to the boat if the weather gets really nasty and you have to go on deck for some reason.
We inherited four of these inflatable lifejackets when we bought Dragonfly, and remarkably they were all still in their plastic bags from when they were new. Every few years the activation mechanism must be replaced – since these expired in 2014 it seemed like a good idea to do that now. We were curious to find out if the activation mechanism still worked eight years after expiry – here’s the answer.