Regarding PDFs (Personal Flotation Devices), or life preservers, your Instructor, I am confident, will provide you with the information to fully understand their importance. It bears repeating that where you place them is a critical part of their usefulness. You have to be able to access them quickly, since most man overboard instances occur suddenly. In actuality, most of the individuals who fall overboard are not wearing a PFD, so the timeliness in throwing one to them is critical. Therefore, having them nearby is important, as well as ready to wear or throw. Taking them out of their plastic wrapper or protective case is a must, since this might be one time that cleanliness is second.
Whenever we invited guests on our boat, we always had a talk with them about the way we handle weather-related events. We explained that we were very cautious and preferred preventative measures, rather than last minute drama. So if the wind starts to pick up, or the sky begins to look ominous, or the surf is getting choppy, we would put on our preservers. We developed this strategy of notification beforehand because we had previously had a couple joining us on one of our journeys and the weather started to deteriorate. We would have put on our PFDs but I was afraid to suggest same because the woman was frightened and I was concerned that she might panic at that suggestion. My husband managed to defuse that situation by playing our island music loudly and doing a round-tummied hula that made everyone laugh, so we could put on the life preservers and enhance his hysterical gyrations!
More information regarding PFDs continues: about 15 years ago, there was a family enjoying a sailing adventure in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Carolina’s, but when they approached an unfamiliar inlet at night, they ran into the rock wall which formed one side of the inlet. Their vessel was severely damaged and all five, two parents and three sons, were tossed into the water. Four of the five emerged unscathed; however, one of the boys drowned. They found his body the next morning, and his life preserver was still on him. Yet, no one at that time could explain why it did not function. Once per year, have members of your “usual crew” put on their marked life preservers, get into the water and test that this vital lifesaver will do its job if needed.
In most instances, when a vessel overturns it will float but it cannot be righted. Indeed, in 2009, four strong football players, three of whom eventually lost their lives, could not overturn their capsized boat, since you have no leverage while floating in the water. The contents of the overturned vessel may be unreachable and this includes the life preservers. Therefore, we would tie a line around the preservers and our ditch bag and attach same to a cleat. If the boat overturned, we would be able to retrieve same by pulling on the line, without having to dive under the overturned boat. Just be sure that tying the preservers to the cleat does not interfere with their timely accessibility.