Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Buoyancy Aid

There are certain events you never forget. One such happening occurred on Friday, 31st August, 2007 when I was sailing ‘Faith’ at a Dinghy Cruising Meeting at Cobnor, Chichester Harbour. Here is an extract from my online log explaining what happened.

‘Just as the tide was on the turn for the ebb I sailed towards Cobnor beach near the slipway and prepared to anchor, but the wind and current drifted ‘Faith’ away from where I wanted to drop the hook. I tried using the yuloh, but the wind caught her bow and set us towards the walled bank, so I tried paddling from the foredeck and immediately fell into the water! I had forgotten to put on my buoyancy aid which meant I was floundering because I was wearing two sweaters and an anorak. Fortunately I was able to hold onto the boat and make my way to her stern where, with an enormous effort, I managed to hoist myself aboard by using the boarding step built into the rudder stock. I was surprised by the weight of the water that had soaked into my sweaters and anorak and I was even more surprised to discover how difficult it was to lever myself out of the water.’

Since that time I have worn a buoyancy aid when working a boat.  My preference has been for a buoyancy aid rather than a lifejacket, because the latter restricts me when trying to swim. Lifejackets are designed to self-right a person wearing them, even if unconscious, so that he can continue breathing. A buoyancy aid will not necessarily do this, but because it fits snugly around the body like a vest, I can more easily swim when wearing it. Mobility in the water could be crucial for my survival. Not being able to swim back to my boat could be fatal. The rule, of course, is always stay attached to the boat, unless she goes down!

Well, the other day (Monday, 23rd July) I was invited to sail aboard ‘Ladybird’, my old Sea Wych 19. Conditions were perfect with beautiful sunshine and enough wind to make the sailing interesting. From the time of leaving the pontoon aboard ‘Ladybird’s’ tender until my return, I wore my faithful Jack Holt personal buoyancy aid. Before embarking on the tender I noticed that a small section of the seam under one of the arm holes had come apart, and I made a mental note to carry out a repair.

I should really consider buying a new buoyancy aid, because the old one may no longer be as efficient as it was when new. The internal floatation material may have deteriorated over time. Meanwhile I have stitched the seam together. Another reason for obtaining a new jacket is that I’m half a stone heavier than the maximum weight recommended for the wearer and besides, the jacket is really grubby. Isn’t it strange how I like to hold onto well-tried and tested things, especially clothing. I loath parting with my old jeans, shoes etc. In fact, it is my wife who disposes of them! I suppose she can’t bear to see me looking like a tramp.


Cobnor  (Day Four)

‘Ladybird’ on the Crouch


Steve Carey said...

I'm glad you posted this one Bill. I'm NOT a good swimmer and in the event of falling or being thrown overboard, the surprise or shock would catch me out. The only time I don't normally wear a buoyancy aid, is when sleeping. It used to worry me when offshore on a Rice & Cole mooring back in the late 70's early 80's when there seemed to be a lot more commercial traffic all through the night. A continual drone of huge diesel engines. Often had problems sleeping in fear of being run down! I'm still here!

William Serjeant said...


You are a survivor; in fact, considering what you have overcome by way of your spinal operation you are living proof that miracles happen. My mother had a saying that God helps those who help themselves, and you have certainly done your part.

I'm looking forward to hearing how you get on with sailing 'Molly', your West Wight Potter.