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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 4:48 pm 
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PFD, NOR, SI, DSQ, IMO, USCG, CE, Newtons, SFPD and everything you wanted to know about regulations regarding life jackets.

John and Suzie were racing their Hobie 16 in the US SAILING Multi-hull championship in San Francisco wearing a Hobie PFD like this

Image

They had a great day, won a dustable pickle dish for taking 3rd place and then went out on their Hobie SUPs for a victory paddle around Pier 39. They had a great Hobie Day.

Dick and Jane sailed in same regatta wearing a Zhik PFD like this

Image

They were protested and disqualified. Sailing back to the dock, they were stopped by the US Coast Guard for a safety inspection and received a citation. Later, to wind down, they took their SUP out for a quick paddle. They were pulled over by the San Francisco Police Department and given a ticket. What gives?

First, let’s understand the terms and who the players are. If you want to cut to the chase, a short synopsis is at the end of this memo.

PFD- Personal Flotation Device; Life Jacket

NOR & SI; DSQ- Notice of Race; Sailing Instructions; Disqualification. The first two are documents produced by an Organizing Authority and Race Committee for a race you are going to enter. They set the terms and conditions of a race and describe how the race is going to be run. DSQ is a disqualification for breaking one of the rules.

IMO- International Maritime Organization is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. This is the group that set standards for all kinds of marine safety gear.

USCG- US Coast Guard. This is the US agency responsible for enforcement of US law on the water. They are also tasked to inspect vessels for compliance in carrying proper safety gear.

CE- The CE mark is a mandatory conformity marking for certain products sold within the European Economic Area.

Newtons- (not the fig type) Newtons are a measurement unit of derived units of force. In this case the force is flotation. So more newtons=more flotation.

SFPD- San Francisco Police Department has a on the water division that patrols the waterfront.

What Gives: The full explanation

Dick and Jane didn’t fully understand the requirements and got hammered. Let’s start with the race. Notices of Race and Sailing Instructions usually have one of three possible requirements in the ‘Safety’ section. In the Notice of Race, this information is usually in Section 1; Sailing Instructions, this is usually in Section 18. The following phrases are common:

1- Competitors shall wear a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved personal flotation device (PFD) while on the water, other than for brief periods while adding or removing clothing. No modifications of the PFD are permitted. Competitors from outside the US may wear a PFD approved by their nation’s certification authority to the extent permitted by international treaty. The PFD must be worn outside of all clothing except that a thin shirt may be worn over the PFD to prevent snagging. Failure to comply with this rule may result in disqualification as determined by the protest committee. or;

2- All competitors shall wear adequate personal flotation devices whilst racing (neither a wet nor a dry suit constitutes an adequate personal flotation device for these purposes). or;

3- All competitors in this regatta shall wear, while on the water, other than for brief periods while adding or removing clothing, a PFD. (This changes RRS 40 and the preamble to RRS Part 4).

So, Dick and Jane were under SI #1 above and had to wear a USCG approved PFD. No USCG=DSQ. Bummer.

Had they been sailing under SI#2, would they have done better? The protest committee will be forced to determine what is ‘adequate personal flotation’. The USCG standard (Hobie vest) is 70 Newtons of flotation or about 15.5 lbs of flotation; the CE standard (Zhik vest) is 50 newtons or about 11.2 lbs of flotation.

The CE standard for a 50 newton PFD says:

This level is intended for use by those who are competent swimmers and who are near to bank, shore, or who have help and a means of rescue close at hand. These garments have minimal bulk, but they are of limited use in disturbed water, and cannot be expected to keep the user safe for a long period of time. They do not have sufficient buoyancy to protect people who are unable to help themselves. They require active participation by the user. Standards applicable to this level; EN 393 or ISO 12402 – 5.

Hmmm, the middle of San Francisco bay with a 4 knot ebb tide in 25 knots of wind probably would be too much for a 50 newton CE vest, so Dick and Jane might get the DSQ. I have tested a Zhik in 20kts of wind and 4’ chop. It was a struggle I don’t wish to repeat. It was hard to keep on my back and to keep my face out of the water.

For #3, Dick and Jane would be OK as far as the protest committee was concerned, but not the USCG or the SFPD.

In addition, Dick and Jane need to carry a USCG Type 3 PFD on board their Hobie 16 for each person; A CE 50 will not do. They don’t have to wear it, but they must have it. In addition, they need to carry a throwable device like this.

Image

Dick and Jane had a horrible day.

CUT TO THE CHASE

- All boats must carry a USCG approved PFD on board for each person on board.

- All boats over 16’ must carry a throwable USCG Type IV device on board.

- Children must wear a PFD (state requirements apply here and are different for each state. Rule of thumb is under 13 must wear a PFD in most states.)

- A SUP is a boat and must carry a PFD on board.

- A kayak/canoe is a boat and must carry a PFD on board for each person in the boat.

- Most inflatable PFDs must be worn in order to count as a PFD.

- If in a sailboat race, the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions may specify what must be worn, but the USCG requirements still apply.

The answer to meet all the racing, USCG and local requirements: Wear a Hobie PFD.

About the author

Kirk Brown is a US SAILING and International Sailing Federation certified umpire and judge. He is a member of the US SAILING Safety at Sea Committee and is a member of the US Marine Safety Association. Associates in his group are certified by the AMSEA as trainers, are moderators for the US SAILING Safety at Sea Conferences and USCG 100 ton license programs. Kirk was an umpire for the 32nd America’s Cup in Valencia Spain and was chairman of the US SAILING Umpire Committee, served on the US SAILING Appeals Committee and was a member of the ISAF International Umpire Sub Committee. Kirk is the factory representative for Stohlquist Life Jackets.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 6:58 am 
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Great information!

I would also like to mention that just because it is approved by the Coast Guard, it may not be approved by the state. This summer while boating in Michigan, my nephew received a $100 ticket because the life jacket his niece was wearing, even though approved by the US Coast Guard, was not approved by the state of Michigan. He was pulled over by the Sheriff. Had he been pulled over by the Coast Guard, he would have been just fine. I guess the state of Michigan knows better than the US Coast Guard!!


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:22 pm 
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PPIJAY wrote:
This summer while boating in Michigan, my nephew received a $100 ticket because the life jacket his niece was wearing, even though approved by the US Coast Guard, was not approved by the state of Michigan.


That's pretty absurd. I know every state has its own requirements for types of PFD's, but if the PFD is USCG approved and meets the state requirements, I don't believe that should be a ticket or fine. (The example that comes to mind: NYS has changed their laws regarding the "bibs" on the back of infant PFD's over the years). If the PFD wasn't in violation of state requirements, I would bet that your nephew could've fought that ticket in court.

Also, to be clear, is the issue with the original example that the Zhik PFD's are not USCG approved? Hobie is not the only manufacturer of USCG approved life vests, so that can't be the reason behind the tickets. I understand the Zhik PFD's had less floatation, but if they were USCG approved and Dick and Jane were not over the weight limit of the vest, I don't see the problem. If they aren't USCG approved, they seem awfully worthless, seeing as USCG approval is a minimum requirement for PFD's worn on US waterways.

Does anyone actually carry a Type IV PFD on their Hobie? I've never seen it done, but I believe in NYS that it's not required on a sailing vessel without a motor.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2014 2:13 pm 
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They did fight the ticket in the Magistrates office. I bet you can guess how far they got with them. Let's see, out of state visitors, so sorry.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:57 am 
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How do you know what is "state approved"? I just looked at Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan DNR sites and they all say "USCG approved".

Yeah, they all say a >16' boat has to carry a throwable also. Since everyone on my boat always is in their pfd, I don't see the sense of that, but I guess I'm going to have to get one and figure out where to keep it "readily accessible" to avoid a ticket.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 9:07 am 
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dorienc wrote:
I guess I'm going to have to get one and figure out where to keep it "readily accessible" to avoid a ticket.


On a 16, 17, 18... placed under the trampoline just aft of the forward beam, straps up through the lacings and tied. This holds it up tightly against the trampoline at the highest point.

The throwable is to assist other people in need... may not be your own crew.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 9:20 am 
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The Zhik example is noted as:

Quote:
This Personal Floation Device is approved to European CE standard EN 393 50N.

Not USCG approved at this time and should not be used in place of a USCG approved PFD when one is required.


These lower volume PFDs are worn by some racers due to lower profile, less bulky. The description in CE of when they can be worn:

Quote:
intended for use by those who are competent swimmers and who are near to bank, shore, or who have help and a means of rescue close at hand


Seems to fit the racing scenario due to chase boats and other sailors being around to assist, but I have personally experienced situations where that all goes away pretty quickly (sudden storm for example) and you are really on your own...

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 12:29 pm 
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Unfortunately, the Coast Guard requirements for PFDs do not take into account the weight of the person wearing the thing, so in most cases, their approved PFDs are far more than the average person needs to stay afloat. It appears they took a one size must fit all/worst case scenario approach.

The Zhik "swim aid" shown above will easily float a 200 pound person with no assist from that person. Therefore it will do what a PFD is supposed to do, depending on your weight. But it won't float a 350 pound person (or whatever their requirement is), so it's not USCG approved.

On another note, I wear a spray top over my PDF in cooler weather. Wearing it in that order means that in the event things warm up and I want to remove the spray top I don't have to remove my PFD - making me safer during the change. Is a spray top considered a "thin" shirt to prevent snagging?

As far as the other items, I have been ticketed twice for not having the required items as stated by our state's wildlife resources commission, but in court I used the Federal Law stating that states may not regulate non-motorized vessels to have the citations thrown out. I'm not saying that having an abundance of safety gear on the boat isn't a good idea, but there are some things I'm not going to carry on my sailboats.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 12:43 pm 
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Quote:
The Zhik "swim aid" shown above will easily float a 200 pound person with no assist from that person.


But maybe not enough flotation in rougher conditions, currents or while wearing other gear as experienced by the author.

There is some leeway on volume verses PFD sizing in the USCG code, so Stohlquist is using "Graded" sizing with their new vests coming to us this winter. Smaller vests will have less flotation foam for better comfort.

Image

Look for the Hobie Thin-Back and Edge models to be available after the first of the year (2015).

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 1:14 pm 
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That's my point - the USCG has gone for worst case scenario which means most PFDs are far larger than they need to be for the average person.

Although, I won't argue that having too much flotation is better than having too little.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:07 pm 
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There are multiple types of PFD's and the USCG requires at a minimum a Type III. In theory the average person needs less than 15.5 lbs. of floatation but the USCG cannot do a chart based on BMI as a practical manner. This type is for "near-shore" use, and it is pushing the boundary to use this type in SF Bay.

Inflatable PFD's can be Class I, II, or III depending upon their performance, which is not limited to level of flotation alone. They also must be worn at all times when out on the water. The Mustang and other inflatables also are required to have a means to inflate them orally should the CO2 cartridge fail.

There are hybrid PFD's like the Kokatat SeaO2 that provides 7.5 lbs. of floatation but can be inflated orally or with a CO2 cartridge (hence its name) to provide 22.5 lbs. of floatation, or a non inflating PFD that provides. At 22 lbs. it qualifies as a Type I PFD for offshore use.

The requirements may seem silly, but I witnessed a race in SF Bay where on a downwind run with a spinnaker running a boat broached and went down in seconds right in front of the St. Francis Yacht Club and the skipper was not wearing a PFD. He disappeared from sight and his body was never recovered. It took less than a minute for the boat to sink completely into the bay.

The USCG is currently reviewing the entire labeling system as it is confusing. There is also no differentiation at this time for active versus passive use of the PFD. This is going to change.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 6:13 pm 
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Tom Kirkman wrote:
I have been ticketed twice for not having the required items as stated by our state's wildlife resources commission, but in court I used the Federal Law stating that states may not regulate non-motorized vessels to have the citations thrown out.

Can you identify which section of federal law blocks the state regulation of sail or paddlecraft, please?

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:11 pm 
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I'll have to pull out the paperwork, which I'm sure I still have here. It tends to come in handy every so often. I seem to recall that it falls under the Federal Water Access Laws.

In the meantime, States may regulate three things regarding watercraft and their usage.

1. Motorized vessels.
2. Discharges into the water and riparian buffer.
3. Fish and game harvest.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 9:34 am 
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It appears that a type iv is not required, see below from the USCG website. But I think it's a good idea to have one handy anyway.

1.Q: What life jackets are required to be carried on my recreational boat?

A: In general, Federal law requires that you must have a Coast Guard-approved wearable, life jacket (Type I, II, or III) for each person onboard your vessel. In addition, boats greater than 16 feet in length must carry a Coast Guard-approved throwable device (Type IV). A throwable device is not required on canoes or kayaks regardless of length. For more information on exemptions and the proper use of life jackets, see A Boater’s Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2014 9:33 am 
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Interesting timing on this topic. This announcement came out yesterday.
http://www.boatingindustry.com/news/201 ... de-labels/

Wonder how it will affect things for us. I suspect not much although someone is going to have to re-write their NORs and SIs.

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