For those of you outside of boating, PFD stands for Personal Flotation Device, or, in plain English, life jacket. Everyone in our family has one, though they are all slightly different. We’ve had several types, and since we spend a good bit of the time underway wearing them, we’ve searched and researched until we’ve found ones that place safety and comfort at the top of the list. Jay has a Mustang Survival Type V Inflatable jacket with a hydrostatic gauge and D-rings for a harness. Mine is similar, a West Marine Brand inflatable vest, which I find only slightly uncomfortable, and which does not have D-rings for a harness. It is a lovely shade of lavender, though. We only wear ours when sailing at night or when on watch by ourselves, or during rough weather.
The kids, on the other hand, wear their life jackets any time they step out of the door and into the cockpit when we’re underway. Their life jackets, with the exception of the infant jacket, are Mustang Survival Type II Children’s life vests. The 30-50 pound jacket zips and fastens through the legs with webbing, and also has a flotation “pillow” behind the head with a webbing strap, designed to help a small person stay face up in the water, and be easy to grab. The other jackets are 50-90 pound vests and have zip closures without the crotch strap or pillow. They are nylon with mesh sides for ventilation and we rarely hear complaints about their being uncomfortable. Of course, it wouldn’t do any good to complain, anyway, but the four older kids are able to go about their business without impediment while wearing them. Jay customized them with reflective tape last year and a kid would light up like Christmas if we had to find one in the dark with a flashlight.
Rachel poses a bit of a problem when it comes to life jackets. She’s too little to understand why she must wear one, and the most vocal when uncomfortable. The nylon one we had for infants to 30 pounds simply swallowed her up and was so bulky it was hard to hold onto her when she was in it. Plus she screamed the whole time she wore it. The neoprene life jacket (HO Sports), on the other hand, was much smaller and seemed a lot more comfortable. The one disadvantage we noticed is that it doesn’t breathe and she got really sweaty wearing it. But until she gets bigger and grows into the yellow Mustang, we’re happy with the softer neoprene one and recommend it for the smallest sailors.