The Mae West is a common nickname for the inflatable life preserver because the great American Actress was famous for being well endowed in the chest department. Therefore someone wearing an inflated life preserver often appears to be as large chested as the actress.
Believe me when I say I don’t need any help in that department!! They are not the most flattering nor comfortable of items to wear.
There are various types of lifejackets on the market with specific features aimed at different sports. As a result, Lifejackets come with or without harness attachments or with different types of firing mechanisms and buckle fastenings. The most important aspect of a jacket is its buoyancy rating which are measured in Newtons
Boring scientific fact alert!
Ten Newtons equals 1kg of flotation. Newton ratings are relative to the weight of the intended user. A level 150 N lifejacket designed for a child or young adult will not sufficiently float an adult. When you buy for an adult you must get a level 150N lifejacket designed for an adult’s weight.
The other vital part of a life jacket is the crotch strap. Again not the most flattering or comfortable things to wear. They are designed to stop the life jacket from torpedoing off and over your head on inflation.
On a recent trip to the Channel Islands I needed to go to the heads. Unfortunately I picked the precise moment the boat hit the Alderney Race and took on the attitude of a washing machine. I slithered down below and took on a brace position to stop me head butting the walls. I tried to disrobe forgetting about my jacket straps and consequently was left with shorts at half mast around my knees whilst I clung on for dear life.
Note to self: – Undo them first!
To wear or not to wear – that is the question.
Ask any racing yacht crew and all of them will say that they never wear a jacket. Its just too dangerous for them. They catch on equipment and impede movement. If they fall off they just hope the next carbon fibre catamaran doesn’t mow them down as they pass doing 40knts.
Since most recreational ribs owners seem to think they are exempt, every weekend they pile a zillion kids on a rib, fire up two 150hp outboards and head off into a packed Solent. The only life jacket worn is by the family labrador who with all due respect is the strongest swimmer there!!!
Anyone sailing with us is instructed in the wearing and the use of a lifejacket. I try and curb the urge to recite in my best British Airways trolley dolly voice ” Place jacket over head, pass the tapes around the body and tie in a double knot in the front and do not inflate until well outside the craft.”
Please remember the mantra of the RNLI – Lifejackets, useless unless worn.