Jump to content

Setting up a PFD for small boat Sailing

Alan Stewart

Recommended Posts

The  PFD setup that I use in expedition events like the Watertribe Everglades Challenge meets the Watertribe required equipment but has also evolved to work best for me as a small boat sailor. I feel strongly that everyone should wear a PFD at all times on small boats and if you have the means the next most important piece of gear you should invest in is a small modern EPIRB like the one shown. They are so cheap these days and small and unobtrusive it's very cheap insurance for us small boat sailors especially if you sail by yourself!


Here is some more info about this now on our website. https://bandbyachtdesigns.com/blog/setting-up-a-pfd-for-small-boat-sailing/




  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great little video Alan and some additional items I'll add to my similar PFD, especially the little backpack. I also stuff an energy bar or two someplace in case I have to wait overnight.  One challenge I've had is having too fat/full front pockets hanging up on the rail when trying to remount my canoe/yak or similar small craft over the side.  The backpack will help a lot to smooth our the front of my PFD. Thank you and be safe, RickZ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I do not have all of the gear that Alan carries. In fact I am using one of Alan's hand me down jackets with pockets. It does meet the Watertribe rules with the PLB, VHF, knife and whistle. It is really cheap insurance.


Last year at the OBX120 I talked to someone who is alive because he did the EC and had to buy a PLB. He was doing the OBX120 a couple of years go when he capsized west of Portsmouth Island and started having chest pains, he could not re-right the boat in this condition. He set off his PLB and a few hours later he was in a hospital in Elizabeth City being treated for a heart attack. He did a have a stress test before participating in the last OBX120.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Alan, It’s very insightful video regarding equipment suggestions. There are several important life saving points you bring up regarding signaling which I have experienced both ways as the rescuer and rescuee. The point I would like to add is the redundant and overlapping nature of your equipment starting with knives. I think the multi tool in all its variants is a must have item, however despite it being stainless requires diligent preventive maintenance (PM). Once again I unfortunately have experienced overlooking the need to properly maintain after an outing. 

I’d like to succinctly share an experience and lesson learned. April 2018 I was skippering a 19’ performance catamaran on a particularly windy day in early spring. My athletic nephew and I were double trapezed as we headed out into Chesapeake Bay. On a close reach we were really giving it the beans when my trapeze line malfunctioned instantly dunking and separating me from the boat which soon capsized 25 yards away.  Although being a moderate to strong swimmer the catamaran began drifting away while crew was attempting to get bows into the wind and re-right. I was encumbered by PPE and PFD and quickly realized boat was drifting faster than my efforts. Within 40 minutes boat was out of sight and being early spring there were zero boats around. I swam to a crab pot float so I wouldn’t drift too far and began using a signal mirror. The only other tools I had were a whistle, knife and chemlight. After floating for 2 hours I was becoming noticeably hyperthermic - loss of fine motor skills and cloudy thinking. About this time my nephew was spotted drifting downwind just offshore Gwynn’s Island and was reported to local Coast Guard Station. Sortied to the reported capsized catamaran, the USCG vessel sighted/recovered me and eventually got my nephew onboard. Boat washed on sandbar and some good Sam’s righted it and brought it ashore. We were very lucky that day and learned some valuable lessons. Now my PFD has most of what you’ve show in the video except PLB and flares. I plan to purchase a PLB once boat is launched. This is a very important aspect of responsible boating which sometimes gets taken for granted or becomes complacent. It certainly changed my perspective on preparedness. 

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”

             - Mike Tyson 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing Todd.  As a relatively new sailor I really pay attention to these stories. 


My neighbor told me a story about a husband and wife sailing in the Sound.  The wife fell overboard and was struggling in the water.  The husband jumped overboard to assist her.  The boat drifted away from them (I don't know if they PFDs on or not) .  They stayed together for a while, but sometime in the night they got separated. The wife survived by swimming from crab pot float to crab pot float and worked her way closer to shore.  She was rescued the next day.  They never found the husband.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


Supporting Members

Supporting Members can create Clubs, photo Galleries, don't see ads and make messing-about.com possible! Become a Supporting Member - only $12 for the next year. Pay by PayPal or credit card.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.