April 4, 2010

A killer lifejacket

A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, when I was planning a solo trip down the Pacific coast, I saved all my pennies and splurged on a fancy inflatable Mustang lifejacket with a built-in harness. If the weather looked threatening, I rigged my jackstays along the sidedecks. I connected one end of my tether to a jackstay, and I connected the other end of my tether to my nice new harness on my lifejacket. I used the short part of the tether, so that theoretically I couldn’t fall overboard.

Okay, yes, I admit the illogicality here. If I can’t fall overboard, I don’t need a lifejacket, right? Right. I just need a harness, which is a lot cheaper than a lifejacket plus harness. Yes, yes, very well. Now, if you can stop being pedantic for a moment and ignore this glaring lack of logic I’d like to move forward and explain what I came here to explain.

I finally got around to reading the instructions on my fancy Mustang lifejacket yesterday and they say, in capital letters (shouting, in other words): DO NOT FASTEN DEVICE TO BOAT.

Well, you can imagine my surprise and dismay. What is the point of a lifejacket with a built-in harness if you can’t attach it to the boat at one end and yourself at the other? Is this some kind of magic harness that will stop you falling overboard even if it’s not attached to the boat? Or will it pluck you from the water and deposit you back on board? Should it be attached to anything at all? If not the boat, what?

The questions don’t end there. Right underneath that instruction comes this frightening statement:

“This is a Type V PFD. This is a Type V inflatable because the harness can cause injury (or death) if not properly used.”

Well now I’m really rattled. My lifejacket, which I’m not allowed to attach to the boat, is going to kill me if I do. Is that legal? I ask. Is that right? Is that fair? What did I do to deserve this?

Today’s Thought
To avoid all mistakes in the conduct of great enterprises is beyond man’s powers.
— Fabius Maximus

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #35
Size of cleats. An old formula stipulates that the length of a cleat should be at least 12 times (and preferably 16 times) the diameter of the rope it holds. Unfortunately, most of us have to make do with smaller and less convenient cleats in the cause of economy.

“How did you knock this man down, sir?”
“I didn’t knock him down, officer. I stopped to let him cross the road and he fainted.”

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