Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gimmick or Good Idea? The Stay Alive Life Jacket.

For high-speed powerboat racing or poker running, it's hard to beat the proven protection of a Lifeline jacket. Every offshore powerboater knows that Lifelines are unsurpassed for their ability to keep you alive--especially since they are built to stay on your body in a high-speed impact with the water. While they are expensive, a typical response when presented with this fact is simply, "what's your life worth?"

Nevertheless, other options are available for those on a more limited budget. Examples like the Mustang MV5600 high impact vest are available for about half the cost of a LifeLine and are claimed to be strength-tested to 100mph.

Another interesting option we recently came across may be the Stay Alive Life Jacket featured here. First of all, I would point out that for most high-speed powerboating environments, the jacket would not be my first choice; though it does appear to be well-constructed, and offers crotch straps to keep it securely on the wearer--there is no stated testing for high-impact performance, and I doubt it offers anything like the performance of a Lifeline.

That said--aside from being USCG-approved--the Stay Alive jacket does offer an interesting concept in that it is more than a jacket--it is a comprehensive safety system that includes a wide range of safety gear built into the jacket itself. Invented by former Florida Marine Patrol officer Dan Williams, the design of the jacket started with the realization that while many PFDs offered stay-afloat protection, they didn't help anyone find boaters who may have gone into the water under distress.


As a result, the StayAlive life jacket contains a dozen water survival tools inside the panels. Including 3 water proof flares, reflecting mirror, buddy lanyard, inflatable signaling device, collapsible bailer, waterproof flashlight, two phosphorescent light sticks, 45 feet of line, and a distress flag. All of these items are attached in such a way that when you're wearing it, it's hard to tell the StayAlive jacket apart from any other PFD. In fact, the jacket includes all of the mandated safety gear except a type 4 throwable flotation device and a fire extinguisher!

Now, unless you are out on wide-open water, there may be little need for a PDF like this. Indeed, the consensus is that you would probably only need one of these jackets on a boat; the lanyard system is designed to clip to your other PFDs in order to keep a floating group together.

But you could also see that on the ocean or the Great Lakes--in slow, heavy seas or in a breakdown situation where loss of power led to foundering, one of these could come in handy, and maybe help you get rescued a little sooner. Some old-timers will insist (and they have a point) that the only real offshore racing takes place out on the ocean, far out of sight from land. In those situations, having one of these on board may not be a bad idea. For more information about the Stay Alive Jacket - head over to the Gulf Coast Boating Center.

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