Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - BY SI­MON MUR­RAY

Test­ing a suit that can save your life in cold wa­ter.

Awave of panic washes over me. I’m hav­ing trou­ble get­ting both my legs into the sur­vival suit. I try to calm my­self down, but I’m rush­ing to get the suit over my mid­sec­tion. Oh, no. The zip­per’s stuck. You should’ve lu­bri­cated the zip­per teeth so it

would’ve been eas­ier to zip up, I scream at my­self. And I still haven’t got­ten the hood over my head yet. No, I’m not on a storm-tossed boat in the mid­dle of the Arc­tic Cir­cle. In fact, I’m not even on a boat: I’m on a dock in Es­sex, Con­necti­cut, wrestling with a bright red Neo­prene Cold Wa­ter Im­mer­sion Suit ($500) from Mus­tang Sur­vival as the rest of the ed­i­to­rial staff looks on. About the only thing that is in any real dan­ger of get­ting se­ri­ously in­jured in this sit­u­a­tion is my ego. But I’m scram­bling like my life de­pended on it.

Stan­dard equip­ment on ev­ery­thing from Alaskan com­mer­cial fish­ing ves­sels to off­shore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mex­ico and, in­creas­ingly, pri­vate yachts, sur­vival suits are vir­tu­ally wa­ter­proof dry suits that pro­tect the wearer from ex­treme tem­per­a­tures. When I saw a box ar­rive at the of­fice marked “Mus­tang Sur­vival” I knew we were go­ing to put this im­mer­sion suit through hell.

All things con­sid­ered, I got it on in un­der a minute. Not fast enough to win the gentleman’s bet among our staff (you’ll want to see this video at, but fast enough to sat­isfy the rec­om­mended time for don­ning an im­mer­sion suit by the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NOAA).

Ac­cord­ing to NOAA, monthly prac­tice—not to men­tion in­spec­tions, which would have alerted me to that pesky zip­per—can re­duce suit-up time from min­utes to sec­onds. And in a sit­u­a­tion where time mat­ters, those ad­di­tional sec­onds could mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death. (For more rea­sons to prac­tice safety drills, see our new col­umn “Sea­man­ship” on page 34.)

Bot­tom line: This is the suit you want to be in when you have no choice but to en­ter the wa­ter.

Made from neo­prene, a syn­thetic rub­ber that main­tains flex­i­bil­ity over a wide tem­per­a­ture range, the 5-mil­lime­ter-thick suit has flame-re­tar­dant qual­i­ties, floats ef­fort­lessly, and can stave off hy­pother­mia for al­most 24 hours in the open wa­ter.

Its buoy­ancy is down­right shock­ing; once I po­si­tioned my­self ly­ing on my back in the wa­ter, I had trou­ble touch­ing my feet down and stand­ing up­right. (One test was wad­ing into the Con­necti­cut River.) While a wa­ter­tight face seal keeps out spray, an in­flat­able head pil­low sup­ports the neck and po­si­tions more of the up­per body out of the wa­ter—some­thing any sur­vival ex­pert will tell you is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant when try­ing to pre­serve pre­cious body heat.

The more times I put the suit on, the more com­fort­able it be­came, un­til I saw it less as a gumby suit, or a so­phis­ti­cated tool, and more as an ex­ten­sion of my abil­ity to sur­vive.

Prac­tice makes per­fect when it comes to sur­vival.

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