The Gill Guide to Buoyancy Aids
Gill buoyancy aids are specifically designed to aid floatation across a range of watersports. From the Compressor Vest to Team Buoyancy Aids, each has a snug fit and uses neoprene and foam for maximum freedom of movement. This guide will help you choose the right buoyancy aid for your needs.
What is a buoyancy aid?
A buoyancy aid is a safety device, not necessarily a life saving device.
Typically buoyancy aids that are used for sailing are designed for close to shore or close to a rescue craft. It’s an aid to help you on the water and it will help keep you afloat. There are different classes of the buoyancy aid which in some circumstances will help keep you afloat, tilt your head back and keep your head out of the water.
What is the difference between a life jacket and a buoyancy aid?
Life jackets are self-inflating devices. They are normally used for yacht sailing, coastal and more offshore conditions. These are activated automatically once they have touched water but you can self-activate them as a backup. Typically they have a much higher buoyancy rating then a PFD or buoyancy aid and are definitely to be used in more extreme conditions. They are designed to keep you head tipped back and keep you head out the water so if you are unconscious, it would definitely class itself as a life saving device.
A buoyancy aid has inherent buoyancy in the form of its foam panels. This will assist and aid you to help keep you afloat but does require you to do some work as well like threading water.
Who should wear a buoyancy aid?
In really simple terms, anyone on or even near the water should be wearing a buoyancy aid. It’s the number one thing people should consider when they are afloat is if they have their buoyancy on. It’s no good having it nearby or knowing where it is, you never know when you might need it. Wearing it and having it correctly fitted is really important.
What type of buoyancy aid should I go for?
Once you have found a buoyancy aid that fits you correctly, Gill offer a Front Zip and Side Zip styles. Choosing the style of a buoyancy aid is purely down to personal preference. The benefit of the Side Zip Buoyancy Aid is that you have a larger front pocket, which is useful if you want to store a Marine Tool, chocolate bar or anything else. The Front Zip Buoyancy Aid is really easy to fit and wear, you would wear one of these like you would a jacket.
How do I know what size Buoyancy Aid to go for?
Getting the right fitting buoyancy aid is really, really important. An incorrectly fitted buoyancy aid is almost as bad as not having one on at all! The first measurement you should go for is your chest size. If you know what size chest you are, this will determine the size buoyancy aid you go for. Also consider what clothing you’ll be wearing under your buoyancy aid. Are you going to be wearing this in colder conditions where you’ll be wearing a thicker wetsuit? You may have extra waterproof layers on. What you’re looking for is a comfortably snug fit. To ensure you choooe the right sized buoyancy aid, take a look are our size guides here.
How do I correctly fit/wear a buoyancy aid?
When trying a new buoyancy aid on for the first time, you need to loosen all the straps and adjusters and then put it on. If it’s a side zip version, lift it over your head and fasten the side zip. On a front zip version, put this on as you would like a jacket and fasten up.
First things first, adjust the waist webbing and tighten this as much as comfortable. Then you need to tighten the side webbing. Finally, if the buoyancy aid has shoulder straps, tighten these too. It’s worthwhile getting somebody to try and pull up on the buoyancy aid from the shoulder strap. Typically this is where you would be pulled out from out of the water if you were in a rescue scenario by either your crew or somebody on the recuse rib. You do not want the shoulder strap to go any higher than the level of your ear. If it goes up higher than that, it’s not correctly fitted and not a snug enough fit. It should feel as if somebody is giving you a nice tight hug but not uncomfortably so it takes your breath away.
How do I measure my child for the correct buoyancy aid?
In Gill buoyancy aids, we offer a child and youth fits as well as adult sizing. Again, look for the chest measurements. Children can grow at different rates and sizes. The chest measurements are really important to go for and it’s really vital you know how to correctly fit them and securely fit them as well. Identify the correct size with the chest measurements but then untighten all the available adjusters. Fit the buoyancy aid on your child and tighten them up as tightly as you can but comfortably. Start with the waist adjustment first and then tighten the side adjustments and then finally the shoulder adjustments. What you’re looking for is a comfortably snug fit.
What does “Newtons/Buoyancy” mean?
Newtons is the scientific measurement of the amount of floatation that a PFD or buoyancy aid will offer. In terms of adult safety standards, our buoyancy aid will offer you 50 newtons.
What’s the difference between junior and adult buoyancy aids?
There are a couple of differences between the Junior and Adult Buoyancy Aids. Starting with the child buoyancy aid, they come equip with crotch straps which really help stop the buoyancy aid from riding up when you’re in the water going up above the shoulders. There’s also a slightly lower level of buoyancy, this is typical around 40 – 45 newtons compared to 50 newtons in the adult styles. This is purely down to the lower body mass of the user.
If I or my child fell in the water whilst wearing a buoyancy aid, what should I do?
The important thing to remember is that if the buoyancy aid is correctly fitted, it will aid you and help you.
It can be a shock at first when you end up in the water, it’s unexpected because it’s a capsized situation. The water can be cold and there would be a degree of you losing your breath.
The important thing in these circumstances to do is to remain as calm as possible.
- Try and orientate yourself and work out where you are in relationship to the boat, ensure you’re not trapped underneath the sail or caught in any rigging.
- Calmness is the key word, remain calm.
- Slow deliberate movements. If you need to swim, use legs only.
- Usually if you’re in a sailing scenario there will be help close at hand in the form of a recue craft or RIB which will notice that you’re in distress.
- Remember the buoyancy aid is there to help you, stay close to the boat and remember your capsize drill.