Hypothermia and PFDs

This is the time of year when the water temperature drops below sixty degrees. I’m sure you are aware that your conscientious survival time if you are immersed in water below sixty drops to approximately one hour. I mention ‘conscientious survival time’ because you may live up to four hours in these temperatures but only if you are wearing a PFD.

The new technologies in PFDs has advanced greatly since the old yellow jackets we all carry on our boats to make them legal. I think probably the best is the suspender PFDs because they are so comfortable to wear and have great flotation. They come in automatic and manual so depending on your boating style they are very versatile. I sail alone in my 24ft sailboat and wear the automatic, but when I’m on Coast Guard patrol I wear the manual inflatable because of the likelihood of rapid recovery from the water.

The PFD coats have also come a long way. Wearing one a few years ago was very uncomfortable unless you were standing. The new coats are far less bulky and comfortable and even come in inflatable styles. Most of our body heat is lost through the top of the head so in the winter wearing a hat for warmth is as important as wearing it for sun protection.

The issue is that you must wear some sort of a PFD to make it worthwhile. Accidents happen on boats and if they happen when it’s cold they can be deadly. Hypothermia, when the core temperature of your body drops below 95, is the most frequent cause of winter causalities and it is so easy to prevent.

Wear your PFD and cover your head that’s all there is to it. (Of course it’d be a good idea not to fall in the water too)


Categories: Seamanship