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Life Jackets Expire

Life Jackets Expire

Personal Floatation Devices, PFD’s for short, or “Life Jackets” for normal people, expire. Not like squid going bad in the cooler, but there are certain types of PFDs that need your attention on a seasonal basis.

The first one is the inflatable life jacket. They’re lightweight, low-profile, and they are designed to inflate and keep you buoyant when they get wet (when you fall overboard from too much captain juice). That’s why I do all my drinking at the dock while wearing my PFD.

But they still require seasonal recharging. Most of these guys have a little release pin that operates when a little pill gets dissolved by water. The problem with this pill is that it erodes over time weather or not you’ve jumped in the drink wearing it. According to the manufacturer of the one I have, I’m supposed to change out this pill once a season. It costs me 50 bucks a season to have an automatic release that works.

If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of money to maintain something every year, I think you must not own a boat yet. We’ll get you there some day.

Some very sexy automatic inflating PFDs have hydrostatic releases that sense water pressure to activate, but if you have one of these, you probably aren’t reading this blog. Seriously, what are you doing here? Go circumnavigate something already.

The second type of life jacket that you want to keep a close eye on are any made with a fiber substance called Kapok. It used to be all the rage, but it’s now not allowed to be used in Europe and Canada. If you’re in the US and get on a boat with older life jackets, check to see what they have in them. If the label says “kapok” or they feel like they are filled with something fibrous, you want to throw them out if they are over 7 years old. I think it’s 7 years, it might be 5. Go read the manufacturer’s fine print if you really care, or better yet, wear your inflatable pfd as a precaution.

The reason Kapok has an expiration is because it slowly absorbs moisture from the air and holds on to it. I’ve been on boats with 30+ year-old life vests that would have dragged a balloon to the bottom of the sea. Crazy heavy.

A quick internet search tells me that they now put them in air-tight layers, but I’m a skeptic at heart…ug… I’m also seeing that they are more environmentally friendly, so weigh your evils accordingly.

In summary, I like life jackets, life preservers, life vests, PFDs, whatever you want to call them. I like them, I use them, and I check them whenever I get aboard a boat that’s not mine to make sure they’re not expired.

You can thank me in the comments below for saving everyone’s life.

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