Dover Open Marina Weekend is a fantastic opportunity to have a detailed look around the workings of a busy marina as well as enjoy a tour of the Dover lifeboat. When we were invited by the Dover Lifeboat Coxswain James Clapham to hold a lifejacket clinic at this fantastic event we jumped at the chance.  Inaddition to supporting the Maritime Safety Week which showcased maritime safety good practise.

Running a lifejacket clinic is an invaluable way of helping the sailing community to keep safe by checking their lifejackets to ensure they work if they were needed and secondly to pass on some tips to help keep them in a good condition incase they are required to be deployed . The checks we carry out are not meant to replace a full service that a service agent or manufacturer would carry out which we recommend that you undertake on a yearly basis.

The RNLI have teamed up with the marine insurance company GJW Direct to support our lifejacket clinic’s nationally and are now a commercial partner.

During the lifejacket clinic our team checked forty five lifejackets with seventeen failing for a variety of reasons. These were out of date firing mechanisms, rusty or corroded gas cyclinders, decaying jackets which will have been left in damp conditions, already fired and missing cylinders.  We also noticed that anumber were missing crotch straps which are absolutely essential for the safe and effective deployment of the jacket if you ended up in the water.

A thoroughly enjoyable day chatting to visitors and passing on our key safety messages to help keep people safe whilst at the coast.  We would like to pass on our thanks to James Clapham (Coxswain) and the rest of the Dover Lifeboat Station for making us hugely welcome.

Our top 10 tips on how to keep your lifejacket serviceable

  1. Inspect the outside of the jacket for wear and tear. Take a detailed look at the cover for any damage, webbing, harnesses, crotch straps, sizing and fit
  2. Even if it is a jacket with an inspection window, undoe the lifejacket at the point next to the inflator.
  3. Check the gas cylinder is hand tight, or if it’s a bayonet type, is it firmly locked in position.
  4. If the lifejacket is new to you, remove the cylinder and check it has not been fired.
  5. Replace the cylinder if required.
  6. Look for the green coloured indicators on the trigger and if fitted, on the automatic firing system.
  7. Keep spare cyclinders and replacement parts for the automatic firing system on hand. So, that the jacket can be re-armed. Or, keep a spare jacket for each person onboard. The replacement parts are relatively inexpensive to purchase. Don’t forget jackets for your dog(s) if you take them on a voyage!
  8. Get the jacket serviced at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals.  This is highly recommended.
  9. Undertake a thorough inspection of each and every lifejacket at least once a year – more often if the lifejacket is used frequently.
  10. Conduct an inflation test of the bladder annually. Inflate the bladder through the oral inflation tube via a low pressure air pump or simply blowing into the tube. Leave inflated for at least 24 hours in a termperature stable environment to check the bladders integrity.

More useful links on lifejackets:

The RNLI’s complete guide to lifejackets

How to choose a lifejacket and maintain it – RNLI

Lifejackets Useless Unless Worn – Thanet RNLI CS

How to book a free RNLI lifejacket clinic

Dover Lifeboat Station

GJW Direct


Andy Mills

Thanet RNLI Community Safety Officer Striving to reduce accidental drownings by 50% by 2024 by spreading key safety messages to Thanet communities and its visitors.