Safety at Sea instructor Paul Cunningham helps us to understand the differences between inflatable PFDs, and the pros and cons of manual and auto inflate models.
As the old adage goes, the best PFD (personal flotation device) is the one you’re wearing. But when it comes to inflatable PFDs, the debate is far from settled as to whether manual or automatic is the way to go.
“When choosing a life jacket, one should always consider how and where it is to be used,” says Paul Cunningham of SouthCoasting Navigators. Among his many nautical credentials, Paul is a frequent US Sailing Safety at Sea seminar leader and a Royal Yachting Association Yachtmaster examiner.
“I would never recommend a type of PFD or activation; what I do always recommend is that everyone should do their own risk assessment—carefully,” he
Paul says a thorough risk assessment should include (but is not limited to) how good a swimmer you are, how likely you are to be on deck alone, whether the type of vessel you sail is prone to capsizing or keel problems, the water temperature you sail in (water colder than 60˚F can instigate cold water shock, rendering a casualty incapable), and how likely you are to suffer a fall or get knocked down, either due to age or lack of balance. (Read more)