Randy's Soap Box

Book Recommendation



I would recommend anyone who flies over water frequently or who owns a boat to read "Not Without Hope". I do not sell it on my site, but it can be purchased at Amazon.com. 

This book describes the horrific ordeal encountered by Marquis Cooper, Corey Smith, Will Bleakley, and Nick Schuyler as they suddenly found themselves in the water with only the clothes they were wearing and no survival equipment. Nick Schuyler, the sole survivor, describes the events, including the detailed passing of his friends who succumbed to hypothermia.

This book is an excellent learning tool. It shows how even the best physically conditioned athlete in the warmest waters in the U.S. is vulnerable to hypothermia. Its shows how fast a good event can turn to bad and just how vulnerable we are to the open sea. It also shows the determination of each of these men to stay alive and how Nick Schuyler (the sole survivor) refused to give up even against all odds.

Ego before Life vests?

After reading yet another story about a tragedy in the gulf, I feel compelled to add a few thoughts. A small boat off the coast of Louisiana capsized. Four persons are dead and one survivor. Water temperature 52 degrees. Life vests were in the clasped hands of the deceased.

Many boaters and aviators are locked onto their excuses as to why they do not need to carry and wear floatation. "I always stay within gliding range of land", or "we stay within twenty miles from shore". Yet, the facts show that most water ditchings happen during the take-off or landing phase of the flight and that ninety-percent of U.S. Coast Guard rescues take place within twenty miles from shore.

I believe "perception" to be a big factor to why some people do not wear life vests. Some are afraid of how others may view (judge) them. They fear that they may be perceived as weak swimmers, or boating novices. Other excuses may include; too intrusive, too bulky, dirty, bad musty / fishy smell to them, etc.

Welcome to the world of inflatables! I'm glad to see the fishing programs on T.V. showing the competitors wearing inflatable life vests. Actually, I think they look kind'a cool!

The inflatable life vest requires a little extra T.L.C., but I'll take that inflated 35-37 lbs. of buoyancy over the 15-17 lb. buoyancy of a bulky foam vest anyday! What do I mean by T.L.C.?

A life vest can be the very item that saves your life. If you take care of it, it will take care of you.

The bladder material cannot get any type of petroleum (fuels, oils, etc.) on them. They cannot be placed in the aircraft, or boat, where they will be sat on, stepped on, or used as cushions to place your suitcases or fishing gear on. If possible, keep them in a controlled environment when not in use, vs. leaving them in a hot aircraft or deck box. They need to be hanging, either from a hanger (as shown below), or from a hook. Tip: When you receive your new life vests, keep them stored in the plastic bags they come in. The Revere Comfortmax life vest has a very thick and heavy-duty bag (shown below) that hangs nicely.  

So, as I said, they require a little extra care, but what's wrong with giving a little extra care to the items that will save your life!

water survival training

The buoyancy provided by a 35 lb. inflatable vest will help raise your head, neck, and the core (heart) areas up and out of the heat robbing water. (See Hypothermia in the Gulf) For aviators, foam vests are not recommended due to restricting movement required for a speedy and successful egress.

As a pilot, you are the one who sets the standard of safety for your aircraft. Wearing a life vest does not portray weakness any more than wearing a chemical suit into a potentiality hazardous room. It shows that you are a responsible pilot and that you are able to recognize that there is a possiblly dangerous/fatal scenario ahead. It shows that you are taking steps to advert that first domino drop and hopefully, head off imminent danger. You have to set the example! Make it a rule! No one comes in this aircraft (for over-water flight) or this boat unless they are wearing life vests. I guarantee you this, your passengers will have a much higher regard for your safety concern towards them, and since they are required by you to wear the life vests, it takes any possible perception issues away.



life rafts for sale

Is Your Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) a Passive or Active Signal?

There are two types of signals, Active and Passive. An active signal is one that you have to operate, such as aiming a signal mirror or firing a aerial flare. In either case you have to actively use your hands and attention to operate it. 

A passive signal is one that you deploy, then leave it alone, allowing you to use your hands and attention elsewhere. An EPIRB once activated is a passive signal. You turn it on and let it float while attached to you or your life raft.

So here's the question. Is a PLB an active or passive signal? I say on land it is a passive signal, but in the water, it becomes an active signal. Well wait you say, my PLB floats!

Here is what you need to know about floating PLBs.

Although a PLB may be designed to float, it does not mean that it will stay upright, or that the antenna will stay above the waterline. Why is this important? Because the PLB will not send a full signal as long as the antenna is submersed in water! By submersing the antenna (no matter how deep), it cuts the signal transmission enough that it probably will not reach the satellite. If you think that a floating PLB is going to stay upright, and the antenna is going to stay dry with waves crashing over it, you are sadly mistaken. 

So let's get the PLB up and out of the water. You have a choice, either you can hold it up in the air, making it an active signal, or you can attach it to a high point (up and out of the water) on your person.

The U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crews have attached a piece of Velcro to the top side of their helmets where they stick the PLB.

Since you probably don't use a helmet, you can attach a piece of pile (soft side) Velcro w/adhesive to an area on your life vest bladder. To do this, you must open the life vest casing, exposing the bladder. Place a 2x2 piece of pile Velcro (soft side) in the area close to where your head comes out (see picture). Then add the "hook side" (coarse side) of the Velcro to the back of the PLB.

boat safety equipment

Most PLBs come with a attachment line w/ a small halyard type clip on the end. This attachment line (See Picture) should be used as a "back-up" in case the PLB comes loose from the Velcro in a heavy sea state.  Note: I have jumped from a diving board several times with the smaller McMurdo FastFind 210 PLB on Velcro and it did not come off.

By placing the PLB in this location, it becomes a passive signal, allowing you to use both hands for other functions, and because of the PLB placement, you can keep an eye on it as well.

survival items

There is only one way to ensure that you have a PLB to attach to a life vest. By wearing a life vest with a PLB attached. I see many boaters that keep the PLB in a separate place. This only causes you to grab one more item prior to going overboard. If the PLB is already attached to your life vest, and you are wearing the life vest, you will have both hands free for the egress and the life vest and PLB will be there for your survival. Once you find yourself in the water, inflate the life vest, pull the PLB out, activate it, and place it on the Velcro on the bladder, then attach the back-up line to the vest. You now have a passive PLB signal, allowing you to use both hands to perform other signaling functions such as using a signal mirror to vector searchers to you.

Marine Survival Technologies sells a 5"x5"x 1.5"  Deluxe Life vest Signal Kit with the McMurdo FastFind 210 (406MHz) PLB with all components for attachment it to a inflatable life vest bladder.

Click here for more info.





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