Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The F in PFD

After reading a rather alarming article in the latest Ocean Paddler magazine from the UK about the Personal Flotation Devices we as kayakers are legislated to wear, I thought I'd do a little experiment of my own. The cold Tassie water also got me thinking about survival in the sea, so while sunning myself at Soldiers Point this week at sunny Nelson Bay, I donned my PFD & had a bit of a float session while my little girls played around in the pool at the resort (yes folks I did wait until a quiet part of the day so I didn't look like too much of a dork....) Trying to stay dead still in the HELP survival position - the curled up energy saving pose that is meant to preserve your energy levels while floating around - was a bit of an exercise as my buoyancy aid repeatedly turned me from facing forward to facing up, but significantly without dunking my face in the water. I hopped out & put on some paddling gear which made my overall buoyancy better, but I still struggled to stay in a relaxed position unless I used my hands or legs in the occasional support stroke, over a period of about 30 minutes floating in a dead calm swimming pool. 
Thinking maybe I had a dud PFD I tried on another one in my kit - an older design but still the only one with Australian standards approval, and then another spare one of mine, a big name one from the US, & they were much worse - putting me face first in the water every time I rolled around! With any sort of swimming stroke the PFD's were perfect, buoyant, supportive in the water etc, but I reckon if I was incapacitated - knocked out or severely hypothermic - I would have been biscuits wearing one. I'm a big advocate of wearing PFD's - better to have a little bit of buoyancy support when you need it most than none at all, but it did get me thinking harder about the sort of gear we rely upon on the sea. There is an excellent article on surviving in the water HERE.

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