The Boat Owners Association of the United States have released a reminder and useful instructions on how to
check a lifejacket.
The instructions concentrate on the popular yoke-style inflatable life jackets that keep you cool on a hot day and allow free movement around the boat. While inflatables have a reputation for comfort, they still require a little preparation for the season that is best done at least a day before the first outing. Its quick five-step preparation for an inflatable life jacket is from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water:
Open it up and look
Gently open the life jacket, usually by pulling apart any Velcro covers or flaps and then unfold. This thin walled bladder could be the only thing keeping your head above water, so take your time looking for any tears or abrasions. Are the waist strap and fastening buckles OK?
Remove the cartridge
Unscrew the CO² cartridge and ensure it has not been discharged, sometimes indicated by a small puncture in the centre of the threaded end. Check the cartridge and inflation mechanism for corrosion. Some inflator mechanisms have a little ‘pill’ or bobbin that dissolves in water allowing for automatic inflation. It should be in good shape. If not, purchasing a rearming kit can solve the problem. Some inflators will have a green ready-to-go indicator.
Make like a birthday balloon
Using your mouth, blow up the life jacket using the manual inflation tube which is found on the fron. This tube may also be used as a back up to fill the jacket with air, so familiarise yourself on how it works.
Go wax the boat, organise a tackle box, or do some other busy work while you leave the fully inflated life jacket alone, preferably for 24 hours.
After the time is up and the life jacket still holds air, deflate and repack according to the instructions which can usually be found on an inside flap.
Congratulations you have got another comfortable and reassuringly safe season of boating, fishing or sailing ahead of you. Frequent inspection of all lifejackets on board may save a life. For specific information, refer to your life jacket owner’s manual.
BoatUS will be producing more safety videos.