Personal Flotation Device checks
Whether sail, motor or row, Personal Flotation Devices are a staple part of any boat's equipment. The two types used for leisure activities are the buoyancy aid and the life jacket.
Constructed from foam, these combine buoyancy and freedom of movement - especially around the neck (though they can be bulky around the chest). Buoyancy aids are ideal for activities such as kayaking and dinghy sailing - anything where being in the water at some stage is considered likely and not classed as a problem. They are, however, inferior in performance to life jackets and not suitable in all circumstances or for use on sail and motor boats. They do not require much maintenance but should be washed with fresh water after salt water immersion/spray.
While this term commonly is used to cover all PFDs it is actually a specific term. Life jackets are designed to keep airways clear of water, even if you are unconscious. If you own a boat a life jacket should be regarded as a key piece of equipment. There should be a life jacket for every person aboard, and they should all be in good working condition. Annual checks are recommended and these can be done professionally if you are unsure of what is involved.
It is worth giving your life jacket a freshwater wipe down if it has been exposed to spray and at the end of season (while doing the wipe down take care not to immerse the jacket and set off the auto inflate). You should also stow the life jacket with care when not in use.
If the jacket has auto-inflated, by accident or during an incident, you will need to replace the CO2 bottle. If you aren't sure, you can have the cannister checked to see if a replacement is required.
Please follow the link for pre-season boat checks.
A great guide for life jacket maintenance and care can be found on the RYA website.