When is a lifejacket not a lifejacket?

My recent client will not mind me posting these photographs, nor writing about this subject. The client, a novice sailor was keen to learn and so decided to buy his own lifejacket for a course with OneOcean and on arrival presented the jacket to me for inspection prior to fitting.

It looked like a lifejacket and on the front in big bold writing was the word LIFEJACKET. It was red in colour with black straps. No crotch straps.

On closer inspection I saw that there was no CE mark nor ISO on the lifejacket – neither on the outside nor inside.

When I opened the lifejacket I was stunned with what I read – or more importantly what I could not read. All the text was in Chinese.

There was no way I could check to see if this lifejacket complied with any certification.

Without the ISO mark nor the CE mark or the SOLAS wheel there was no way the wearer could guarantee that the lifejacket has passed the rigorous testing that is required to be awarded these certifications.

This was not a lifejacket, but a deathjacket.


In the event of an emergency, a Man Over Board situation or if the wearer entered the water there is a possibility this jacket would not deploy. It may deploy but the fabric may not be strong enough to take the pressure of the CO2 cylinder – IF the cylinder has any CO2 in it, and if the deployment mechanism works.

Entering the water in any condition is a fearful situation, and in an emergency it is imperative that you have the correct equipment to assist you with your survival. Otherwise, the chances of survival are drastically reduced.

These factors are not worth even thinking about when going to sea. So the message is clear : do not buy cheap lifejackets.

The client was horrified and said he would buy a new lifejacket immediately. I advised him that a lifejacket would cost him in the range of £60-£130 depending on what he required, but he needed to ensure that the ISO, CE Mark or SOLAS wheel was marked clearly on the lifejacket.

He bought this lifejacket for less than £20.

My advice is always : spend as much as you can on life saving equipment as one day your life will depend on it.

Read Meuryn Hughes’ 2012 article in Powerboat and RHIB magazine about Lifejackets :

Lifejacketsordeathjackets – Meuryn Hughes Article


Since July 1995, it has been illegal to sell Lifejackets or Buoyancy Aids that have not been tested to European or International specifications.

There are several classifications for ISO Approval.

CE standards deal with various categories of buoyancy performance, the big four are shown below. The rating is for an adult size so smaller sizes have proportionally less buoyancy:

ISO12402-5, covers 50N buoyancy aids, providing a minimum of 5kg of buoyancy.

ISO12402-4, covers 100N lifejackets, providing a minimum of 10kg of buoyancy.

ISO12402-3, covers 150N lifejackets, providing a minimum of 15kg of buoyancy.

ISO12402-2, covers 275N lifejackets, providing a minimum of 27.5kg of buoyancy.


Buoyancy explained

Newtons, are a measure of force. 10 Newtons (or 10N in lifejacket speak) is equivalent to 1 kilogram of buoyancy. So a 150 Newton lifejacket (or 150N) provides 15kg of buoyancy. Remember these are the minimum buoyancy requirements for the European standard, so the actual vest or lifejacket may provide more.

Children’s life jackets are commonly rated as 100N or 150N but they don’t actually have that much buoyancy. For example a kids foam lifejacket size 10-20kg has 30N of buoyancy.

What else does ISO approval cover?

ISO approval also covers other features not just buoyancy ratings. These include the design, performance, specification of materials used in manufacture, and even the information that the user guide provides.


Further reading:

Lifejacket Maintenance Leaflet

Lifejackets for Children



November passage making

So tomorrow I am back at sea delivering the RYA Intermediate Powerboat Course. Tomorrow looks windy and after extreme weather over the weekend there will be a lot of detritus on the water. Combined with cold weather the conditions will be challenging to say the least. So why go to sea? That is a question I often ask myself. I will be delivering the Intermediate Course, where the students attending will have gained experience since taking their Level 2 Course.

They are all aiming to become commercial skippers and will be taking the Advanced Course then the Advanced Exam, so these next few days will be an introduction to passage making in potentially inclement weather and all the challenges posed by doing so.

They will need to be kitted out appropriately, with drysuits and extra clothing. We will be carrying extra equipment on board for a longer passage, and looking closely at the weather conditions to see when we should be returning back to port.

All this is excellent preparation for a skipper who is looking to make a career at sea.

A key element of this course will be to see what their decision-making skills are like? Do they just go for it or do they consider making the passage at a later date in the week? Have the prepared bolt holes in case the weather is so bad we cannot return? Do they have a cut off for wave height and swell? I will be looking closely at their planning to see how the next two days progress.

I look forward to this my favourite of all the RYA powerboat courses.

Spring is finally here…

After a long, wet cold winter spring is finally here. Training in the cold is not easy but we got our heads down and got through the rain and wind to deliver powerboat courses for those who needed it for their work and for others who wanted to be ready for the new season.

RHIB Scorpio and crew moored up in Cardiff Bay for an essential cuppa!

The key factor is making sure we were properly dressed, with multiple layers and the appropriate foul weather gear: drysuits or survival suits. Added to that a cohesive plan to ensure we completed our training tasks safely and in good time.


With the lighter evenings, we will be delivering our summer programme of training including sail tasters, powerboat courses, own boat tuition and charter opportunities.

So give us a call on 07500 899235 and let us know what you are up to and how we can help make your boating a safe and enjoyable experience!



Do you crave a change of direction? If so, read on…

Are you currently out of work and unsure of your next step? Are you at a crossroads in your life and wonder which turn to take? If so, have you considered a career in the maritime industry?


OneOcean Sea School accept candidates who wish to gain training through the Welsh Government ReAct Training Scheme. The Redundancy Action Scheme (ReAct) is a programme of funding for training provided by the Welsh Government for people living in Wales who are facing redundancy.


Have a look at our page http://www.oneocean.co.uk/react-training/ which outlines what ReAct is all about and download the Guidance Notes.


We have trained people who have gone on to become professional skippers, worked on fishing vessels, boatmen, and water taxis to name only a few. This could be the first step in a life change for you. Get in touch now!

5th-6th January 2017 Powerboat Level 2 Course


The first course of 2017 was heralded with exceptional conditions on the 5th with sunny yet freezing conditions.

Freezing pontoons were a major hazard and getting the boat ready for sea was an extra challenge in the icy conditions.

But it was worth it. Sun, smooth seas and negligible wind made for perfect training conditions.

Chris enjoyed his premium 1:1 training and barely noticed the cold.

Close quarter manoeuvres in Cardiff Bay were undertaken with a hint of warmth from the sun. We were joined by an old gaff rigged sailing vessel and one plucky motor cruiser who came over to Mermaid Quay for a winter run.

Our second day was a passage from Cardiff to South Cardiff South Cardinal then a sharp turn to port for Monkstone Island then to North Cardiff for a run home. The conditions on the Friday could not possibly be as good as the Thursday, but a coastal passage with what seemed to be the whole of the Bristol Channel to ourselves was a great thrill. Chris, again in his element demonstrated his ability to pick up a man overboard several times prior to the passage was rewarded with a 15Nm passage then a run for the barrage before dark.

Having covered 20Nm over two days this was a great way to bring in the New Year!