Offshore Gear Review


Disclaimer:  We are not providing anyone with formal guidance regarding what personal safety equipment you buy or wear.  Individual safety needs vary from rider to rider and different body-types.  Racing and riding watercraft involves risk and you can die or get seriously hurt regardless of what safety gear you wear.  We are not experts, professionals or certified safety experts and we could be wrong in the choices we make regarding safety gear.  Do your own research and make your own decisions regarding what safety equipment you wear to mitigate your own personal risk while on the water.  Consult with the US Coast Guard regarding water safety and protective gear prior to riding or racing watercraft / Jet Skis in the ocean.
 


Midland Nautico 1 Marine Radio:  A few of us are using this radio as our backup / redundant radio we keep in our pack.  For what you get, a relatively inexpensive radio option  for your kit
   

Body Glove EVX 3 Mil Gloves:  These gloves appear to have the best grip of the neoprene gloves we've tested (for neoprene gloves).  Remember to buy them a little snug.


The POWERADD Apollo Mobile Solar Power Pad: There are multiple communication devices that an offshore rider should carry like SPOT or an EPIRB device and of course a Marine Radio -  a dying or uncharged mobile phone in the ocean when you need assistance could mean life or death (assuming of course there is cell coverage in that spot you are calling from).  This solar device can play a role in charging cell phones and other devices while at sea (as a backup / contingency charging device / check for compatibility with devices).  At only six (6) inches long and lightweight, this device does not take up a great deal of kit space and can be a nice addition to your offshore kit.  The key here is to ensure that you protect the device from water and impact.  I use the Pelican case and sponges to absorb impact inside the Pelican case.  As a reminder - ensure your cell phone is fully charged prior to departing on your ride or race and that it is in the off position.   For around 40.00 US, why not?  Make sure you have a Marine radio and that it has a full charge prior to stepping off on your ride.   


11/2013 - SPOT 3:  I just picked up the SPOT 3 Satellite GPS Messenger (TM) 

SPOT 2:
 
SPOT3 
Height 3.7 in  Height 3.43
Width 2.6 in Width 2.56
Thickness 1 in  Thickness 1
Weigth 5.2oz Weight 5.64oz
Battery life w/power on 7 days tracking          Battery life w/power  on 14 days in track mode (only transmits while moving)
Requires 3AAA Lithium Batteries  Requires 4AAA Lithium Batteries

Key Differences / Overview of the SPOT 3 vs. the SPOT 2:
  1. Longer Battery life
  2. Smaller size
  3. Internal vibration sensor to only send tacking messages while moving 
  4. Vibration sensor also enables the unit to provide the new unlimited tracking service - allows for transmission indefinitely 
  5. New movement messaging - theft alert capacity
  6. Variable rates in track mode (60 min, 30, 15, 10,5 2 1/5)
  7. Inserting OK or custom messages into a track session no longer blocks track messages from being sent for 30 minutes
  8.  USB connection for line power (indefinite life span)
  9. Device will run off of NiMH rechargeable batteries (USB power will NOT charge the batteries, they must be removed and charged separately).
  10. LEDs visible while pressing the buttons with tactile feedback i.e. more user friendly
  11. Loops on top and bottom provide mounting options instead of requiring a carrying case 
SPOT 2 on left, SPOT 3 on right: 


Active Ankle T2 Ankle Brace:

Offshore racing involves high speeds, big air and usually a modified standing position.  When the craft gets air and then comes down and reengages with the water, forces bring the rider back into the tray quickly - these forces can cause ankle rolls and possible injury.   We purchased the Active Ankle T2 brace to *hopefully* play a role in decreasing the likelihood of injury and as a preventative measure .  Initial feel of the brace is comfortable but you will want to wear a sleeve inside the brace.  We are wearing this inside our race boots .  Stay tuned for more review.  Purchased via Amazon for $65.00 for both including shipping.
 
LIFELINE Helmet Restraint / PN-410:
I will be testing the LIFELINE Helmet restraint system for a PWC offshore racing application.  This system is designed for high speed boat racing / drag boat racing.  It is designed to attempt to mitigate (mitigate) the risk of serious neck injury by "increasing head and neck support."  Those of you who drag race PWC's might already be familiar with this equipment.  Stay tuned, offshore testing is underway.  As a reminder, NO piece of equipment can guarantee your safety.  Its all about risk mitigation.   I paid $105.00 for this piece of equipment.   
  
 Source of the picture below:  LIFELINE Race Gear
 
Camelbak Backpack:
We use this primarily for training, fits more safety equipment and has a large water capacity at 70 ounces.  Keep the zippers lubricated.  I paid 85.00
 

ICON Tingley Reflective Coat:
I was looking for a very high visibility reflective coat for days that I am far offshore with limited visibility / marine layer and to augment my kit for the possibility of losing an engine, drifting and wanting to be seen - all for under 100.00.  I discovered and purchased the ICON Tingley Waterproof, Windproof coat.  Conforms to ANSI 107 for Breathability and high visibility.  Class 3 compliant Jacket and Coat or Class E Overall.  Heavy duty woven polyester material.  It appears to be built for first responders or construction workers that work close to roads.  This coat is well made, very much like a heavy raincoat.  I purchased it a size large (2XL) so I can wear it over my life jacket.         



Pelican Cases:
These boxes are expensive but well worth the money.  If you are going far offshore and want to keep your key electronics dry and secure, consider these boxes.  We like them.
Below - Pelican case after a few hundred miles offshore, all remained dry

===========
The ACR AquaLink 
406 MHz GPS Personal Locator Beacon with GPS lat/Lon 6.3 Watts. 

With prices on PLB's coming down dramatically in the recent years, this item is no-brainer and a must have for any serious offshore rider or racer.  For only 365.00, the rider can now enjoy yet another level of communication should an emergency situation present itself while he/she is miles offshore.  The size is about the same size as a Garmin 76 GPS.  This item is highly recommended.  No annual fee.  Make sure to register it per the instructions.   



ACR Firefly strobe:  This is a must have strobe for any offshore rider or racer.  Cost is 80.00 to 90.00:

ICOM Floating IC-M36 Marine Radio:  For those of you who were asking about the best radio for less than 200.00, here is what we found

Lifeline Jackets Comp Jacket arrived today, 2/2/2011


As seasoned offshore racers, we see the need to emphasize the importance of proper preparation and wearing and having all of the appropriate safety gear while on the water.  With PWC/Jet Ski offshore racing craft reaching top speeds in excess of 85 mph in 2013, 90 mph PROAM craft will be commonplace within the next three to five years. 

Keep in mind that we are referring to top speeds here, the average speed of the LB2CAT winner a few years ago on a PROAM craft was actually 60 mph.  Some craft are capable of 85 plus mph now, but the reality is that those speeds are rarely attained due to hookup reasons.  There could and likely are a few spots that these 85 mph craft actually achieve those speeds, but not for extended periods of time while offshore.  Some of the top pro racers don't average (average) 60 mph in the race.  The average speeds and ability to hit top speeds in Super-course Races are higher, the races usually take place on lakes where the water is flatter and top speeds are more easily achieved.      

Regardless, we see a need to augment the protection in the kit of our offshore racers.  Most Jet Ski / PWC life jackets are designed for lakes and lower speeds.  Clearly the gear most offshore racers are wearing is not appropriate for the application
.      

It should be noted that if you come off your PWC or any boat the wrong way at any significant speed, you can die or be seriously hurt regardless of what gear you’re wearing.  This is about risk mitigation vs. risk elimination.  Anyone that thinks they can eliminate risk in offshore Jet Ski / PWC racing is not being realistic.  We ride and race at high speeds, the water can be like concrete and things happen out there, people get hurt.  It is not a question of if you will come off your craft; it is a question of when you come of your craft.  It is up to all of us including you to evaluate and find ways to mitigate our own personal risk as responsibly as possible and share best practices.  Also keep in mind that many will tell you its more dangerous to hop on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles than get on a PWC!        

Looking for viable options, my research started with the Offshore Boat Racing and Cracker Box boat racing niche.  I did so because these jackets are designed for significantly higher speeds and much higher impacts than conventional PWC / Jet Ski life jackets.  It’s a challenge to find a complete cross over between boat racing and PWC racing.  I looked at a few options and decided to work with the LifeLine Jackets rep of LifeLine Jackets to create a jacket that would fit my needs.  After a number of conversations, the only significant changes we made to a standard Comp Boat Jacket was 1) Sweeping the collar back a little bit to allow for a “linebacker-like” modified standing position of offshore racers and 2) A few pockets to store my SPOT Satellite tracking device and Marine Radio. 

*Liffeline is not a sponsor of mine nor did I get price relief that I am aware of – I paid full price – with the Comp Jacket and the collar, my cost was 585.00 total.

Initial out of the box impressions of the jacket:

1.        Exceptionally well made compared to standard 90.00 PWC jackets, I was very impressed.

2.       There appears to be a few layers to the internals, the outer layer of the internal material appears to be a light armor like material (I don’t know what it is made of)

3.       As a former Marine, I was accustomed to wearing flak jackets back in the day.  This reminded me of a very light, very thin set of armor (relatively speaking, compared to real military armor)        

4.       The neck wrap around collar is much softer than the Cart racing collar that I was wearing.  I am told by boat racers that this is a good thing.  We shall see.

5.       There is no comparison in the build quality between this coat and a standard Jet Ski like life jacket.  It is in an entirely different league.  

 

Process for ordering:

1.       You take and scribe your measurements on a form and submit the form via a form to LifeLine Jackets

2.       Lifeline consulted with me via phone to validate measurements

3.       They custom build the jacket to your measurement specs and can accommodate most unique requirements you might have.

4.       It took approximately two weeks from submission of the form to receiving the jacket. 

Their contact information:

1.       www.lifelinejackets.com

2.       (928) 669-9241

3.       Location:  Parker, Az

Questions we've received: 

        1. Is this LifeLine Jacket a Coast Guard Approved (USCG Approved).  Answer is no  but read the Coast Guard letter regarding the exemption for APBA members:  CLICK HERE Also review the Boating Safety Circular 80, page 6 regarding life jacket speed ratings CLICK HERE
        2. What is the speed rating on this jacket?  Unknown.  I don't believe Lifeline provides a speed rating on this Jacket.  

Update:  Took a significant chest blow from the handlebars during the 2011 rough water Dana Point to Oceanside Race, the vest did a great job of absorbing the blow.  I was impressed. 

Check out the USCG site regarding PFD Selection, CLICK HERE

Disclaimer:  We are not providing anyone with formal guidance regarding what personal safety equipment you buy or wear.  Individual safety needs vary from rider to rider and different body-types.  Racing and riding watercraft involves risk and you can die or get seriously hurt regardless of what safety gear you wear.  We are not experts, professionals or certified safety experts and we could be wrong in the choices we make regarding safety gear.  Do your own research and make your own decisions regarding what safety equipment you wear to mitigate your own personal risk while on the water.  Consult with the US Coast Guard regarding water safety and protective gear prior to riding or racing watercraft / Jet Skis in the ocean.

        

SPOT 2 GPS/Satellite Tracking Device


If you ride in the ocean, we highly encourage you to get a satellite tracking safety device like a SPOT 2 - I own one.  They are approximately 149.99 plus a 100.00 annual subscription.  It is our opinion that this is one of those critical items that all serious offshore riders and racers should consider owning.  Highly recommended.
Garmin GPS 72H

A good low cost alternative in the low to mid 100 dollar range (150 give or take).  I am told that the "H" model has a more sensitive satellite receptor that is significantly more accurate than the previous model.  Black and white screen.  Large screen that is easy to see.  Large direction pointer that I like.  No mapping function.  You input your lat and long vs clicking on a map location.   Runs on standard batteries.        


Force 6 Instructor Vest

Approximately 300.00.  Appears to be built primarily as a swift water rescue vest.  Significant padding can result in heat while riding, but that could also keep you warm when you come off.  It could also provide padding if you come off or hit the craft.  There does not appear to be any armor like material.  I like the front storage bag with heavy duty zipper.  The front storage bag was a great place for me store a radio and SPOT2.  I like the large belt like locking device that keeps the vest secure.  Like the reflectors.  If you are considering a standard "jet Ski" like vest for offshore riding as so many do (i.e. 80.00/ 90.00 vest), this Mustang vest is a quantum leap forward.   There is no comparison in the quality of this vest vs. the standard 80 / 90.00 Jet Ski vests on the market.  Ensure it fits based on the manufacture's recommendations.
Disclaimer:  We are not providing anyone with formal guidance regarding what personal safety equipment you buy or wear.  Individual safety needs vary from rider to rider and different body-types.  Racing and riding watercraft involves risk and you can die or get seriously hurt regardless of what safety gear you wear.  We are not experts, professionals or certified safety experts and we could be wrong in the choices we make regarding safety gear.  Do your own research and make your own decisions regarding what safety equipment you wear to mitigate your own personal risk while on the water.  Consult with the US Coast Guard regarding water safety and protective gear prior to riding or racing watercraft / Jet Skis in the ocean. 
 
    

3 mil Neoprene Gloves:

If you are riding in cold weather, neoprene gloves are a necessity.  Cold, numbing hands can present safety issues while underway so it is critical that you take all precautions to keep your hands, feet and head warm.  These are 3 mil dive gloves that can purchase at most sports stores or dive shots.  Cost is between 20.00 and 35.00 US.  Some have said that the palm material on these gloves have less grip than PWC race gloves so do your own testing in terms of your handlebar grips and how they grip with these gloves.  If you lose grip, evaluate other neoprene gloves.  Gloves like this should be considered as part of your kit.           


Full Face Road Helmet With Fold Down Visor Review: 

Having ridden road bikes for a number of years, I decided to test a full face street helmet with full face shield for offshore PWC riding and racing.  I did so for a number of reasons, most of which revolved around the reduced forward silhouette of the full face street helmet vs the standard motocross racing helmets and possibly reducing the bucketing effect if you came off the craft at speed with the lower profile street helmet vs. the motocross helmet.  Bucketing is always a concern of mine with a helmet in the water at high speeds.  

I always found that the street helmets with a fold down visor were more comfortable and involved a quieter ride.  True to point, I did find that the full face street helmet was quieter on the water (especially with an after market exhaust, I liked it), so much so that I sometimes had a difficult time communicating with my riding partners during stops.  I was told that the street helmet would fog while underway on the water.  I left one notch up on the visor of the full face helmet while underway to allow for airflow, I never fogged and realized greater vision than what I have with a motocross helmet and goggles.  The full face street helmet also allowed me to have greater continuity with the Lifeline neck role I wear.  Bottom line is that I found the full face street helmet to be more comfortable. 

That said, the downside is that I am told that 1)  The full face street helmet is not approved by the APBA or IJSBA for PWC races.  2)  I am told that contrary to the motocross helmet with a visor, that the visor on the full face street helmet will not want to come off when you hit the water  - the visor could possibly come up and could be less likely to come off therefore acting as a wing resulting in a greater possibility of potential neck injuries vs. the motocross helmet that has a visor that will likely come off (not guaranteed) and not act as a wing (Note to reader, I always remove the visor on my motocross helmet when I ride offshore and recommend removal of the visor, I do not want anything that even remotely resembles a wing on my helmet when riding or racing.  Also note that ANY full face helmet could present bucketing issues resulting in neck injuries.  It is all relative and involves weighing the pros and cons as it pertains to risk). 3)  I was also told by a relatively knowledgeable racer that if you were to come off the craft with the full face helmet and should you go unconscious, the visor could possibly close resulting in water being contained in the helmet and a possible drowning situation. 

So net-net, although the full face street helmet is more comfortable and presents less of a forward silhouette, after weighing the pros and cons I will shelf the full face street helmet with the face shield and stay with the motocross helmet when riding and racing offshore.  And, I will continue to do so without the visor.   If you wear any full face helmet (including a full face motocross helmet), bucketing presents an issue in the water and presents potential risk of a neck injury.  Again, its about pros and cons and weighing the risks out for yourself.           
Update:   Regarding why the IJSBA and APBA have not allowed full face face shields. They have never been allowed because if a racer was to be in an accident and was he/she to go unconscious and your helmet could fill up with water, you could drown due to the full face helmet with shield not allowing the water to drain.

Back Belt: 
30.00 at Sports Authority.  Helps the offshore rider and racer maintain the modified standing position for offshore


 
Disclaimer:  We are not providing anyone with formal guidance regarding what personal safety equipment you buy or wear.  Individual safety needs vary from rider to rider and different body-types.  Racing and riding watercraft involves risk and you can die or get seriously hurt regardless of what safety gear you wear.  We are not experts, professionals or certified safety experts and we could be wrong in the choices we make regarding safety gear.  Do your own research and make your own decisions regarding what safety equipment you wear to mitigate your own personal risk while on the water.  Consult with the US Coast Guard regarding water safety and protective gear prior to riding or racing watercraft / Jet Skis in the ocean.  






Disclaimer:  We are not providing anyone with formal guidance regarding what personal safety equipment you buy or wear.  Individual safety needs vary from rider to rider and different body-types.  Racing and riding watercraft involves risk and you can die or get seriously hurt regardless of what safety gear you wear.  We are not experts, professionals or certified safety experts and we could be wrong in the choices we make regarding safety gear.  Do your own research and make your own decisions regarding what safety equipment you wear to mitigate your own personal risk while on the water.  Consult with the US Coast Guard regarding water safety and protective gear prior to riding or racing watercraft / Jet Skis in the ocean.