Sunday, 18 March 2012

Lifejackets - this name is for a reason

Marine leisure activities, particularly the boat-based types, like sail boating, yachting or sailing and all the variants of power boating, are one of the few ways we can experience wide-open spaces without being crowded or unduly regulated as to what we can do.

For those of us who live in the colder side of temperate climates, like in Europe, we spend winter thinking and planning our next outing or trip. Naturally, at the first glimpse of spring-like weather, if not doing maintenance tasks, we look to go out in our boat as early as the season allows. Great! But pause for a moment to reflect on how we can be sure that such a simple pleasure as boating, remains just that; pleasurable.

The key issue here is the mix of water activities and human physiology. The spring water temperatures (and further north, summer too) are relatively low with respect to what the body can readily accommodate and if you have the misfortune to fall into the water then only the prepared are likely to fare well. Preparation is productive if you are firstly well-informed as to the risks of immersion and how to mitigate them. We are fortunate here because over the last half a century, much has been learnt from tragedies to deliver awareness, information, clothing and equipment, to ensure a boating trip with a pleasurable outcome.

The most technically researched and informative, yet easy to read book we have seen is "Essentials of Sea Survival" by Frank Golden and Micheal Tipton. In fact we would go as far to say, if you read any book about sea-going, then make it this one, as it will definitely serve to shape your approach to the adventure.

Amongst all the detail, it becomes clear, that if falling overboard in cold waters, the events of the first few minutes are vital to your successful recovery from such an excursion. Two key physiological processes are triggered:
1 Heart blood volume increase; firstly the body withdraws blood from near the skin to conserve vital heat and in so doing rapidly increases the volume of blood that the heart must pump; this response alone can cause harm to the extreme and it is this that is often behind fatal events.
2 Hypothermia; the residual heat of the body is lost to the colder water very rapidly - up to 25 times faster than air of the same temperature - resulting in the rapid onset of hypothermia.
These and related processes are well-described by writer Captain Kevin H Monahan of Canada where they know about cold.

While these processes are in train, instances of panic and injury, on top of the initial mental and physical shock, can and do occur, especially if the person is not confident in the water at the best of times, leading to drowning. At this immediate point, the full value of a lifejacket or portable flotation (PFD) device comes into play, "instantly" reducing the significant possibility of drowning. Now, this assumes that the person is actually wearing a lifejacket. Sadly, this often not the case and it is at the core of the familiar to many, but not known by all, campaign by the United Kingdom Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) initially titled "Useless Unless Worn" and now contained in very clear and informative lifejacket section of the RNLI website.

When you have read the three key elements of lifejacket ownership, namely: selection, fitting and maintenance, you are invited to use the unique Find and Filter tools installed in to deal with each item. 
All the manufacturers information, including the key physical properties, of over 150 lifejackets from leading brands such as Baltic®, Crewsaver®, Plastimo, SECUMAR®, Spinlock® and XM Yachting® can be used with the Filters, firstly by selecting your size - and all that fit will be quickly display - then get the right type of lifejacket for your needs (here is the link to all the lifejackets). A truncated and reduced size image of a typical lifejacket detail page - in this case a SECUMAR Bolero 275, is shown as an example of the depth of information we present.
Related products are listed with each lifejacket and other important items of protective clothing are also accessible hereMay you have a safe and enjoyable next trip, and all those in the future.

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