Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Will a floatation suit save your life if you end up in the water? Another video from our RNLI testing day……….

With what I know now and if I had my way then floatation suits would not be allowed to be called floatation suits, indeed I believe that what we know as floatation suits are more commonly called immersion suits outside of our fishing world. I bet loads of you here who come with a bait fishing background have bought floatation suits in the past both to help keep us warm in the winter and also because the very word “floatation” gives us a (false) sense of confidence that if we end up in what will often be a colder winter sea that we will float and survive. I am one of those people, indeed I can distinctly remember my first ever floatation suit which I got on a bit of a deal because it was one size too small and every time I knelt down to bait up it would catch me around the neck and I’d have to hurry up or I started feeling dizzy! Sorry, I digress………….

This is a very short video from that RNLI day we did earlier in the year. When we were up there my RNLI contact asked my mate Mark if he would mind putting a floatation/immersion suit on and jumping in the tank. Note that Mark is an ex-surfer and he is very comfortable around water, but whilst the video here is short and to the point, watching how he ended up struggling so badly to keep his head out of the water and his airways clear wasn’t pleasant. As much as I loved our RNLI training tank day, I don’t mind admitting that I am glad it wasn’t me in that floatation suit.

As with wearing chest waders in choppy water especially, it’s not that you are suddenly going to sink like a stone. No, once again it’s how you float that is so bloody dangerous here, indeed standing next to my RNLI guy as he talked me through every single thing that was happened to Mark right after he jumped into the tank with the floatation suit was on was fascinating albeit in a slightly macabre way as we watched him very quickly start to struggle.

As it says at the end of the video: “Floatation suits should be worn with a lifejacket”, but how many of you know that? I certainly didn’t, and for the life of me I can’t recall a fishing tackle company saying to me that I should we wearing a lifejacket together with the floatation suit when I bought various ones over the years. For sure they can help keep you warm in the winter, but please, please do not for one second trust in a floatation suit to save your life if you aren’t wearing a lifejacket as well. 

I know this video is short, but watch closely at how Mark’s body is lying in the water and how his mid-section is very much below the surface and that extra weight is forcing him to try and keep his head up and his airways clear of water. Now imagine this is you in the middle of a winter’s night in rough cod fishing conditions with a strong run of current. I haven’t worn a floatation suit for many years now, but I am angry at myself for being so trusting in their very name and not having done proper research into them, and I am angry that we are sold these suits under what to me are along the lines of false pretences. Where are the big headlines on the floatation suit adverts that tell us to wear a lifejacket with them?