Sunday, August 10, 2008

Coming to you in 2018...

I am not a huge fan of laws telling me how to be safe on a boat...Not that I am adverse to safety gear and the like but simply that I don't trust bureaucrats and lawmakers to know enough about sailing to understand how to keep me safe.

A good example of this sort of thing is that when the EU were working on a comprehensive safety requirement for the EU countries that the requirement for steel toed work boots were included...Steel toed work boots just might make sense if you were working on an oil rig in the North Sea but not so good when you are sailing a little boat across oceans. Luckily a lot of the silly things on the EU safety requirement rules were sorted out through a very active and vocal yachting press ( PBO,Yachting Monthly, Bateaux, Loisers Nautique and Voile) who knew the difference between what was needful and what was not...Which the Bureaucrats in Brussels did not hence the inclusion of oil rig safety gear for pleasure boats.

While I built two cruising boats in France I also noticed that while the French had extremely stiff safety requirements for boats going offshore that our American friends who had the fairly lax USCG rules to go by ( one life jacket per person, one throw able flotation device and three flares for the boat) were much better outfitted than our French friends as the French had what was required and our USA friends had what made sense ( most of which was not USCG required)

One of the first things you noticed back then was that the life jackets available to Europeans were much better than the kapok or foam filled USCG type threes and even the cheap PFD's had differential flotation ( to better roll you over head up if unconscious). Not only were the cheap PFD's better but years before the USCG got around to approving them the Europeans were using inflatable PFD's with integral harnesses that were much more easily worn and less cumbersome to the point that you could sail a boat while wearing them. I once asked someone at Stearns ( one of the largest US manufactures of PFD's) why inflatables were not available for the USA market and was told simply that the USCG and UL (Underwriters Laboratory) process were so involved and costly that it took at least ten years to get a new product that did not fit the same old same old criteria through the gauntlet.

On the other hand the USCG rules are so lax and the USCG approved gear so cheap it is not too much of a hardship, to buy what is required throw it in a bag in a locker and forget about it while you get the real deal that might actually keep you alive in the event that all hell breaks loose and you really need that safety gear.

While buying widgets yesterday at the local marine store I happened to look at the new Plastimo catalog which had such an excellent new ( well to me anyway) PFD that I nearly ordered a couple on the spot and will be doing so as soon as possible...The neat thing about this PFD is that it has an integral Dan Buoy as part of the unit and it is one of those ideas that is so smart and so right you have to wonder just why it took people so long to come up with it. This is the sort of improvement that will actually save lives!

Of course if you wait for a USCG version that just might be available for the 2018 season!