Looking after your Lifejacket Properly Could Save Your Life

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2010 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Lifejackets are one of the most essential pieces of safety equipment you can arm yourself with, whether you’re out at sea or enjoying the UK’s many and varied inland waterways, lochs and rivers.

As they are so important, lifejackets need to be checked and maintained on a regular basis to ensure that they are performing properly and will stand the test of time.

Taking a few simple steps to look after your lifejacket could help save a life as well as prolong the life of this invaluable piece of kit:

1. Protect the ‘salt bobbin’.


Halkey Roberts Salt Bobbin

The trigger mechanism for most automatic lifejackets is a dissolvable ‘salt bobbin’. The salt bobbin will react if it is stored in an area which is humid or damp.

It can also react if has not been wiped down and aired after each use. As such, your lifejacket should never be put away damp.

After each use, you should:

  • Wipe the lifejacket down to remove the salt.
  • Remove the bobbin if using water to wipe and clean the lifejacket.
  • Allow the lifejacket to air dry, remembering to replace the bobbin once dry.

2. Check the gas cylinder for loose screws and corrosion.

CO2 Cylinder

The screws in CO2 cylinders can loosen up over time so you should check them for tightness each month. You should also check the cylinder for corrosion every three months and replace it if it is rusty. Check any material that was in contact with the cylinder as the fabric may have been damaged.

It is advised that you should always carry a re-arming kit for each jacket you have on board your vessel which will allow you to get it ready for use again immediately should it inflate for any reason.

Check the manufacturer expiry dates on cylinders as they may differ depending on whether they are Halkey Roberts, United Moulders or Hammar. Replace expired cylinders as recommended.

3. Check for leaks.

Every six months, you should inflate the lifejacket manually with a hand pump using the oral inflation (top-up) tube. Using a hand pump instead of your mouth will help to prevent moisture build-up inside the lifejacket.

Leave it inflated for 24 hours to ensure that there are no leaks or damage. If there are no issues, re-pack the lifejacket according to the manufacturer’s folding instructions.

4. Check the exterior of the lifejacket.

The webbing of your lifejacket, along with the stitching that holds the webbing together, should be checked every three months.

You should also check the zips, buckles and other fastenings are in good condition.

5. Store it correctly.

Store the lifejacket in a dry area on a non-metal coat-hanger. Out of season, automatic lifejackets should be stored partially inflated.

They should not be stored in hot engine rooms, on engine blocks, or kept under tarpaulins in open areas. These environments will essentially create a ‘greenhouse effect’ and could damage or weaken the operation of the lifejacket.

6. Service the lifejacket at least once a year.gael-force-lifejacket

The manufacturers of our own Gael Force Cruise, Hi Line Pro and SeaStorm Lifejackets recommend that you have your lifejacket serviced at least once a year by a registered servicing centre.

If this service is not performed, the chance of an accidental firing of the lifejacket is greatly increased.

7. Consider getting a free RNLI safety check.

As an extra security measure for your peace of mind, the RNLI perform free inspections at their lifejacket clinics. They also advise you on how to carry out your own checks. Email them at community_safety@rnli.org.uk to find your nearest clinic.

Gael Force supplies a range of baby, child and adult lifejackets along with appropriate re-arming kits. Prices for lifejackets start from as little as £17.95 (inc. VAT) while re-arming kits start at £11.49 (inc. VAT).

RNLI also offers a great official guide to lifejackets and buoyancy aids, from choosing the right one for you to maintaining it. You can download and read it here.

The DIY Restoration of a Small Yacht: An Introduction (#1)

Given Gael Force’s position in the leisure marine industry, when a colleague mentioned that he had recently bought a small yacht and planned to restore it, I jumped at the opportunity to follow his progress and see the result of all his hard work!

seb-profile-photo-ytSeb, originally from Portsmouth in Hampshire, is the Sales Supervisor for the Gael Force Marine Megastore here in Inverness.

He has been with us for almost three years and has kindly agreed to write a series of posts following him and the restoration of his boat.

So without further ado, let’s hear from Seb!

BLOG POST #1: The Boat and I: An Introduction

On the 5th of February 2018, I purchased a 26 foot, 54-year-old fibreglass yacht in need of some serious TLC. My plans are to spend the next year or so (probably more like 2!) restoring the yacht and documenting its restoration in this blog post.

I have some experience working on boats, but I’m not a professional, so this blog will be from a DIYers point of view with lots of product testing and learning on the go.

In this first post, I’ll talk a little bit about my own sailing/boat repair experience and also introduce the yacht, giving a brief outline of the work that will eventually be completed.

I grew up sailing with my dad on the south coast of England on various boats, all mono-hull sloops from 18-36ft. We competed in club races in the Solent and took the occasional trip to France, the Scilly Isles and the Channel Islands. These multi-day sailing holidays are what inspired me to get my own boat and sail off into the distance.

My first boat, Maya, was a 25 foot GRP Folkboat variant – a Folksong 25.1.first-boat-maya-25ft-GRP-folksong25She was purchased for just £1000 but needed a lot of work and investment: a new mast (new to her at least); wind vane self-steering gear; a complete interior refit; push-pit; spray hood; new companionway hatch…the list could go on…

After 18 months of blood, sweat and tears she was ready to go. My first single-handed voyage was about to commence!

Over a period of 4 months, I took her from Portsmouth to Ibiza, which included knockdowns in the Bay of Biscay, trade wind sailing down the Portuguese coast and seemingly endless, scorching hot days of calms off the Mediterranean coast of Morocco.

She was a great boat – heavily canvassed so she was great in light airs, but she wasn’t set up for the still heat of the Mediterranean. No central hatch or wind-scoop meant that she turned into an oven on hot days and with no real shade outside, I was getting either baked or fried! She was eventually sold and last sighted in Malta:

My second boat was a much more comfortable affair. I inherited a High Tension 36, a 1980’s high volume cruiser racer. I had to collect her at short notice from a small island off of Rhodes and sail to a marina in Crete, where she was paid up for the winter.


My wife and I then took time out of work and spent 18 months sailing her around the Med and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, where we had an amazing time sailing around the Lesser Antilles. The voyage was finished off with me sailing her back to England single-handed – an experience that I will never forget!

Compared to Maya she was a luxurious boat, equipped with a fridge, a shower, hot water, solar and wind power, etc. Having to maintain those relatively complex and diverse systems for 18 months of continuous sailing taught me a lot about boat maintenance.

Things tend to fail at the most inopportune moments and without the knowledge, tools and spares to fix them your dream voyage can easily become a nightmare.

Once safely back in the UK, the boat was sold and several years of landlubbing (plus baby) followed.

This leads us on to the next project – Sunfire – an Invicta 26.


She’s been on the hard for two years and is certainly showing it. I plan to strip her back and start again – inside and out – with the aim of taking her across the North Sea to Norway, up to Shetland and beyond.

She was designed by Van De Stadt in 1964 and was one of the early production boats built in GRP. Designed as a Folkboat variant, she has a long encapsulated keel, narrow lines and carries quite a lot of canvas. She’s actually very similar to Maya (the Folksong 25)…just a little longer, heavier and quite a bit older.

The list of work to be done will inevitably grow arms and legs, but this initial list will give an idea of the contents of future blog posts:

  • Gut the boat down below.
  • Recommission and service the inboard diesel engine.
  • Get the mast down.
  • Remove the engine.
  • Remove and restore the rudder.
  • Strip back and repaint the deck.
  • Strip back and repaint the hull.
  • Replace all ageing exterior wood, including washboards and toe rail.
  • Design, build and fit the new interior.
  • A full re-wire.

On top of this, I’m also seriously (and controversially) considering converting the rig to a junk rig. I’ve always been drawn to the simplicity of junk rigs and given that the current mast on Sunfire is of a dubious condition anyway, she could be the perfect guinea pig.

Till next time!

COMING UP NEXT TIME: Getting up close and personal with the inboard engine, a Yanmar 1GM10, for a service and to get it up and running!

If you have any questions for Seb regarding this post, please feel free to comment below.

MCA – What are the minimum compliance requirements for fishing vessels?

At the end of last year, the Maritime and Coastal Agency (MCA) updated their documentation for ensuring fishing vessel compliance with international and UK safety requirements and correct certificates for vessels to operate in territorial waters.

Some of the main changes are:

  • Liferafts are now required on open vessels 7m (L) – 15m (LOA) and decked vessels 7-10m (L) (The type of liferaft required depends on the distance from a safe haven based on operating miles).
  • Emergency drills are mandatory.
  • Radar reflectors must be fitted to all vessels.
  • Bilge Alarms should be added to open vessels 7m (L) – 15m (LOA).
  • Certificates must be issued for Small Fishing Vessels.
  • EPIRBs with built-in GPS receiver are required for all vessels over 10m (L).
  • Vessels under 10m can have PLBs for each crew member or an EPIRB.
  • Carbon Monoxide Monitors should be fitted if the vessel has an enclosed cooking/heating space.

If you have previously registered your vessel, you will not have to meet the new liferaft and EPIRB/PLB requirements right away but you do have to meet them by the end of October 2019. Any vessels newly registering need to comply immediately.

While not mandatory, the Code also strongly recommends that all fishermen wear Personal Flotation Devices.

The products required on board are much the same across the different sizes of vessels (under 7m, 7-12m, 12-15m) however, the larger the vessel, the higher the quantity of the products you will need.

What you need to do now:

The process of ensuring your vessel complies can be time-consuming so to make things easier, Gael Force has pulled together a list of products that are suitable for Open and Decked vessels of various sizes so that our customers can stock up and meet these requirements for inspection.

We’ve also included a guidance document/checklist for each vessel for quantities required for each product which can be found on the individual vessel pages.

These lists are intended as a guide. You should always check your specific requirements directly with the MCA.

Their updated documentation can be read here which includes the full list of changes.


Antifouling FAQs – What, Why, How and When

Whether you’re a seasoned professional, a cautious novice, or somewhere in between, antifouling is a significant part of the maintenance of your boat and something you need to know about.

If you didn’t already know, antifouling is a type of paint that is used to protect your boat’s hull against a variety of marine growth which can affect the performance of your boat along with fuel efficiency.

Despite the persistent snow and ice over the past 8 weeks, we’ll soon be coming out of winter and into boating season again so it’s time to start thinking about preparing your boat.

To help with this, we’ve answered some common questions regarding antifouling to get you ready for another successful season.

Feel free to click on the links below to jump to the question you’re interested in reading an answer to:

1. When should I apply antifouling?
2. How often should I apply antifouling?
3. What antifouling paint should I use?
4. How much antifouling paint do I need?
5. How do I apply antifouling?
6. How do I remove antifouling?

1. When should I apply antifouling?

The optimal time to apply antifouling is in dry weather (accounting for the extra time required for multiple coats and drying times) when it is above 12 degrees.

uk map

In the UK, it can be difficult to get long stretches of dry and warmer weather so you may need to wait for the best time of year, depending on where you store your boat.

If you’re in the Highlands of Scotland, April to October offers the right temperature. For the Lowlands of Scotland, this stretches out to between March and November while the weather in the east and west coasts of England may allow you to start work as early as February, also lasting into November.

It is also worth noting that freshly painted boats release their biocides better so it’s best to antifoul your boat a maximum of 12 weeks before launch.

2. How often should I apply antifouling?

This really depends on the type of antifouling that you use and how often you use your boat throughout the year, along with where you store it. Generally, it’s advised that you apply it once a year though some may last for two years. See question 4 for further information.

3. What antifouling paint should I use?

The type of antifouling paint you use should align with the type of sailing you do so it’s important to pick the right antifouling for you.


Some antifouling performs better than others in high fouling areas. For example, International Micron Optima, Micron Extra 2 and Interspeed Ultra 2 perform particularly well in these waters.

At the same time, certain types of antifouling are more suitable for a high-speed craft. For example, Cruiser Bright White and Trilux 33, while Micron Extra 2 and Cruiser Uno EU supports speeds up to 25 knots.

International has a wide range of antifouling with Gael Force offering its own brand too.

4. How much antifouling paint do I need?

The amount of antifouling you will need is dependent on the size of your boat and how long you want the antifouling to last.

The practical coverage of antifouling is approximately 9 square metres per litre, though specific brands and types of antifouling may vary.

It would be advised to apply 2-3 coats if you want it to last a single season while 3-4 coats will often last two seasons.

International also has a useful guide to working out how much you need, if you’re still unsure.

5. How do I apply antifouling?

You can apply antifouling with either a large width brush (for quick application) or a roller (takes longer but is less labour intensive).


Before applying antifouling, check for any indication that existing paint is not in good condition. If it’s in poor condition, i.e. antifoul is cracked, peeling or showing signs of detachment – see question 6. If it is in good condition, high-pressure wash it to remove loose antifouling and allow the area to dry.

Next, mask off the area that will be painted, repair any damage, and inspect GRP for gelcoat damage. Check the recommendations on the tin to find out about drying times and overcoating intervals, along with compatibility (using a primer if necessary).

Paint should be mixed thoroughly with a stirring stick to allow any settlement to be mixed in, applying it evenly to the correct thickness.

Multiple coats may be required and it is worth noting that areas with more ‘water turbulence’ such as the waterline, trim tabs, outdrives, keels and rudders may need an extra coat.

6. How do I remove antifouling?

Antifouling should be removed from your boat before applying new antifouling if it is in poor condition.

To remove old antifouling, you can use an antifouling stripper such as International Interstrip which has been specially formulated to remove this paint without causing damage to your boat.

Application of the paint stripper should be with an old brush, applied liberally, according to the application guidelines on the tin. When the appropriate amount of time for the stripper has passed, remove old antifouling with a blunt scraper while it is still soft.

We advise wearing all necessary health and safety equipment such as safety goggles, nitrile rubber gloves and overalls when carrying out this work. Remember to sand and prime the hull before applying fresh antifouling.

The British Coatings Federation (BCF) launched a DIY antifouling initiative in 2017 to “inform and educate boat owners with regard to the hazards associated with antifouling their boats.”


Download their handy leaflet of Do’s and Don’ts for antifouling or visit their website for more information.

N.B. Due to the strict carriage of dangerous goods regulations, Gael Force can only dispatch antifouling to addresses in the UK.

Best Black Friday Chandlery Deals at Gael Force

Although Black Friday isn’t native to the UK, given that Brits don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s still one of the biggest shopping days of the year. This year, it falls on Friday 24th November and is generally regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

Of course, Gael Force couldn’t resist getting involved with offering discounted chandlery products for you to benefit from so let’s take a look at some of the best Black Friday deals we have to offer this year.

This list is by no means exhaustive so make sure you visit our Black Friday shop (link at the bottom) so that you don’t miss out on our other great deals on sailing clothing, marine electronics, and much more!

1. Holebrook Frank JacketRRP £149 NOW £109.95 (Save 26%)


This full-zip windproof sweater is perfect for keeping the chill away in any season. The subtle red contrast stitch on the collar, flat knitted arms and pattern knitted front make this piece fashionable, comfortable, and functional.  It comes in navy or light grey and is unisex so it can be worn by men and women of all ages! Don’t forget to opt for a size up from your normal size to ensure the best fit. You can’t go wrong with Holebrook and its high-quality knitwear. Don’t just take our word for it though, have a look at what our customers say and browse more Holebrook Windproof jumpers.

2. Icom IC-M323G Compact Fixed VHF/DSC RadioRRP £254.99 NOW £199.95 (Save 22%)


The IC-M323G is almost identical to Icom’s best-selling IC-M323 but with the added benefit of an integral GPS receiver. This useful addition allows current position and time to be used for DSC calls with the option of an internal or external GPS data source. The radio menu is easy to navigate and the directional keypad helps you perform various operations without any issues. The built-in DSC watch functions include distress, individual, group, all ships, urgency, safety, DSC test calls, and more. It can even withstand submersion in up to 1m depth of water for 30 minutes, though we wouldn’t recommend you test it out!

3. Gill OS1 Offshore Sailing Jacket – RRP £425 NOW £295.00 (Save 31%)


Gill’s OS1 Offshore Jacket doesn’t compromise on protection for sailing in the toughest ocean conditions so it’s an easy choice to make. This jacket is durable, waterproof, light, and breathable, using a new shell fabric which has been designed to withstand open ocean environments. Its high, wrap-around face guard, hand-warmer pockets and hood offer maximum comfort and protection. The exterior material is 100% nylon, while the interior fleece is 100% polyester. In addition to this, there is a handy D-ring attachment point for marine tools or a kill-cord leash. Choose from graphite (men’s) or red (women’s). This jacket won’t be around for much longer so take advantage while stocks last!

The women’s version is also available on the website with 31% off, along with the matching Offshore Sailing Trousers for men and women which are 28% off.

4. Starbrite Boat Guard 650ml – RRP £18.89 NOW £12.95 (Save 31%)


This Boat Guard Speed Detailer and Protectant uses high-tech polymers that can bond to fibreglass, polished metal, plastics, rubber, and painted surfaces. This spray gently removes dirt and grime while adding shine, enhancing the colour and providing a barrier against UV damage. The bonus of using this product is that you can extend the time between having your boat waxed or polished. To use, simply spray onto the appropriate surface and clean with a cloth before lightly buffing the area.

5. Sealskinz All Season GlovesRRP £47.50 NOW £33.00 (Save 31%)


What more could you want this winter or even all-year round with this pair of All Season Gloves? Available in black or black and purple, these gloves are soft, supple and durable with a goatskin leather palm for comfort, control and a natural feel. They’re 100% waterproof, windproof and breathable – the perfect addition to your gear this winter season. The soft touch Velcro closure allows for a secure fit and the pull on tab means no struggling to put them on. And to make things even easier, they’re touch screen compatible (on the thumb and index finger) meaning you won’t have to brave the cold to use your phone.

The women’s pair is also available on the website at 31% off too.

6. Raymarine Dragonfly 5 Pro Fishfinder/ChartplotterRRP £545 NOW £429.95 (Save 21%)


The Dragonfly 5 Pro makes it easy to identify fish and underwater objects with its photo-like sonar images. The use of wide spectrum DownVision CHIRP technology allows for more sonar signals to be transmitted into the water across a range of sonar frequencies, giving you more detail, unmatched image clarity and resolution, and the ability to target more fish. Its all-weather 5″ LCD display has high-definition colour and is optically bonded so it’s guaranteed to never fog up. The European C-Map Essentials Cartography is included with the unit (along with the CPT-DVS Transducer) but it is also compatible with Navionics and LightHouse charts. It even comes with built-in Wi-Fi to stream sonar data straight to your smartphone or tablet via the Wi-Fish app.

7. Trem Full Engine CoverRRP £24.99. NOW from £15.99 (Save 36%)


Trem’s engine covers are made from extra strong polyester which is UV resistant making them great value for money. They come in three different sizes – small (140cm x 125cm), medium (160cm x 150cm), and large (180cm x 145cm) – to suit your outboard engine. Make sure you check the measurements of your outboard to find out which size is best for you. The covers are available in silver grey.

Check out the rest of our deals in our Black Friday shop. We’ve split them up across sailing clothing, marine electronics, boat maintenance and all categories to make it easier for you to browse. You’ll be spoiled for choice!

Offers end on Cyber Monday (27th November) so don’t miss out!

Boat Power Consumption on 12v Systems

Before you begin reading, for an in-depth discourse on 12 volt electrics systems for boats, we would perhaps suggest obtaining a copy of “The 12 Volt Bible for Boats” which is generally lauded as a very good guide for using 12 volt power in a marine capacity, to fully understand what may be involved in setting up a 12v supply. You can purchase the book here.

GPS Chartplotters require a 12volt power supply, usually external and taken from the boat supply.

12 Volt Power Consumption and Amp Hours

As an idea of consumption vs battery capacity, it helps to  think of the following scenario:

Lets say you are running a 12volt Chartplotter and it draws 2amps.  Now if you had the plotter switched on for the full hour, it would have drawn 2amps in total for that hour, or 2 Amp Hours (2Ah), if you then leave the chartplotter running for a full day, or 24 hours, it would have drawn and consumed 48 Amp Hours in total (2ah x 24h = 48Ah)

For power supply: 12v batteries usually have an amp hour (Ah) rating which, on a simple level, can be thought of as the number of amps they will supply for an hour before being fully discharged. A typical small marine leisure battery of about the size of an average car battery is usually rated around 80Ah. This means the battery could supply an appliance drawing 80amps for about an hour before the battery would be discharged, or an appliance drawing 1 amp for 80 hours.

So to apply a typical 80ah battery to running the above Chartplotter example at it’s 2amp draw, The battery could run this Chartplotter for 40 hours before the battery was completely discharged and requiring charging (80ah divided by 2amp draw = 40hours). If you were likely to be running the battery to empty on a regular basis, you would have to ensure that it is a “deep cycle” battery, which is designed to take heavy discharging and re-charge – though you would also need to ensure the battery is getting a full charge as I mention in the next paragraph, to prevent the battery degrading over time.

Establishing Battery Bank requirement and Re-charging your battery bank from renewable sources (Wind or Solar)

If using Solar or Wind power to maintain the charge of a bank of batteries on a boat, you should identify what the draw on the electrical system will be, in amps, from all the electrical items you will be running, Eg : Lights, VHF, Plotter, Fridge, Heaters, Microwave and so on. Most appliances show their Amp draw and multiplying that by the number of hours run on each will give you an idea of the total amount of Amp Hours (Ah) being drawn from the battery bank. (Some appliances are only rated in Watts; to calculate the Amps draw, you take the Watts rating and divide it by voltage to get Amps)

To use another example of a larger boat to illustrate this – Let’s say that you’re:

  1. Still running the your chart plotter at 2amps, and this runs for the full hour.
  2. In addition you have a 12volt fridge rated at 8 amps when running, but it only runs for 15 minutes in an hour
  3. The combined total of your running lights draw 0.5amp and are left on over the hour, and
  4. Your VHF also uses 0.5amp in standby and receive mode and is left on over the hour
  5. You also run a 12v heater which draws 80amps but is only run for 15 minutes over the hour.  This means that in one hour, you are drawing:

A power consumption total of:

  1. Chartplotter – 1amps over the hour
  2. Fridge 8/4 = 2amps over the hour
  3. Running Lights 0.5amps over the hour
  4. VHF = 0.5amps over the hour
  5. Heater 80/4 = 20amps over the hour.

This adds up to 24ah of consumption in a typical hour. On identifying this figure you would then need to establish for how long you would normally be sailing and using all this electricity for before being able to charge the batteries at a shore power point, that would determine the size of your battery bank.

For example, if, in the above scenario, you regularly sail for 5 hours while using all this electricity, you would multiply 24amps x 5hours and identify a requirement for at least 120Ah capacity in your battery bank if you have no charging system between visits to shore to “hook up” to a battery charger. Which leads us on to onboard charging.

Most Solar Panels or Wind Turbines give an output in Watts – So to establish what wattage input you will require from your charging source, you can use the familiar (to those who work with electronics regularly!) equation of (Watts = Volts x Amps) – You know that you have 24amps being drawn from the calculation above, and you know that you have a 12 volt system on the vessel – so by multiplying 24 x 12, you establish that you will require 288 watts of input per hour to “keep up” with the electricity being consumed – a Fairly hefty bank of solar and a good sunny day, a good quality turbine and a decent breeze, or a combination of the two!  Obviously this amount of input would only be required if you wanted to keep the battery banks continuously topped up – If you were simply looking to extend the time you could spend at sea before requiring to return to shore power to fully recharge the battery bank, a lower Solar/Wind power input wattage could be used, and using the (Watts = Volts x Amps) equation you would be able to calculate how many amp hours you would be able to extend your power supply by.