I always enjoy attending the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, a commercial marine show, because it often serves as a glimpse into the future of recreational boating. This year I discovered that “the future is now” when I walked by the small unassuming display of the Cobham Survivor+ PFD/Personal Liferaft. The liferaft was first designed and used for the military, engineered to fit in the bottom pan of the ejection seat in fighter jets. Cobham combined the small raft with an auto-inflating PFD, producing an all-in-one solution. While the PFD/Liferaft combo has been previously designed and marketed to offshore energy workers and commercial maritime operations, I feel this combo will interest serious, safety-conscious boaters.
The Survivor+ vest and life raft have hydrodstatic triggers that self-inflate upon immersion in water. The vest itself inflates fast (as can be seen in the video below), floating the survivor high in the water. The raft remains tethered to the swimmer and the base self inflates in a matter of seconds. The swimmer then needs only to climb aboard the raft and into the enclosure that sits flat on the deck. Once they are zipped into the enclosure an interior pull cord inflates the canopy. With a strobe light and ballast bags, the raft allows a swimmer to get out of the water fast and protects against exposure and sea spray giving users a survival window that is measured in days instead of hours.
And while this vest is marketed towards commercial mariners, it is small, compact, and comfortable enough to make a great addition to any boat’s safety gear. For serious offshore passages, Survivor+ allows peace of mind and individual security for situations where one might lose a crew member overboard or additional safety for those who cannot make it to the liferaft in rough seas. Survivor+ may also be the incremental device for the safety-conscious boater who isn’t quite ready to pull the trigger on a full-size life raft, but as the product is currently only available through direct, commercial sales, we’ll see if the concept will trickle down to the recreational market soon.