Awareness is a good thing! 

Note:  since this information was published on the flatwater website and then in RICKA's newsletter, it has been republished several times. "Messing about in Boats" and the "Atlantic Sea Kayker's Magazine" have found it of interest and reprinted it in their publications. 

The Public Education Officer for Division 9 of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary located in Western Massachusetts said " I found the article on Inflatable PFDs from the April 2010 issue of /The Paddler/ that was republished in /Messing About in Boats/.  I feel this is a significant issue, and would like to have permission to distribute this article to our Public Education classes, and to other affected members of the Auxiliary."  

Jay Koleszar
SO-PE 01N-09

Some reasons why we do not allow Inflatable PFDs on RICKA Flatwater and Blackstone Valley Paddle Club trips.

Inflatable PFD's require the user to pay careful attention to the condition of the device. Inflatable PFD's need maintenance to function properly.

The automatic inflatable has some cons against it. Under prolonged wet conditions auto-inflaters will go off when they get wet even if the person does not fall in the water. If you would like to change to dry clothes, you will need to remove the vest. Putting the vest back on in the inflated state can be very difficult. 

A ripcord can catch on a boat fitting and inflate.

The vest can have leaks that are unnoticed until the vest is inflated.

Cracking can occur if the unit is left folded for extended periods.

Abrasions may occur when the jacket is folded for long periods of time.

The inflation cylinder can corrode and rust allowing gas to leak out. Remove the bottle and weigh using an accurate scale. Make sure the reading matches the amount on the bottle. Coat the cylinder with Vaseline to prevent corrosion.

Another item that needs checking is the inflator. Generally you are looking for a green, rather than red, pin or tab indicating the unit is ready. You also are looking for an exposed red stripe, which could indicate an empty gas cylinder. As always, green means go. If you see red either your inflator needs repair, or you gas cylinder needs to be renewed. .

Note: Inflatable PFD's are available in adult sizes only, are not for use by children younger than 16 years of age or by persons weighing less than 80 pounds.


Cheryl Thompson Cameron