Roaring Forties Tropical Saver life vest
  |  First Published: December 2008

Relatively recent changes to marine safety regulations have changed the way anglers think about lifejackets. Previously, many anglers kept lifejackets in their boat primarily to satisfy the law that said you needed them on board. Trouble was, when you actually had to wear those cheap, bulky hunks of foam that spent most of their time stuffed in the storage compartment, you ended up looking like some kind of fluorescent yellow Michelin Man, and had the mobility of one as well.

Now things are different. Now while underway in a boat less than 5m, or in other boats at ‘times of heightened risk’, anglers must by law wear lifejackets – or personal flotation devices (PFDs) as they’re known in techno-speak. Not to mention the fact that lifejackets are useless unless you’re wearing them at the time you go overboard. As a result, anglers are spending a lot more time wearing PFDs these days – and they require one that is not only legal, but is comfortable to wear and will save your life when you need it. Enter the range of Roaring Forties PFDs from Safety Marine Australia.

Roaring Forties PFDs are the only Australian-made brand of PFDs, which straight off the bat is a pretty good reason to consider them. The range comprises a number of different closed cell foam lifejackets and inflatable PFDs (both manual and automatic). The one I have been using for the last eight months is an Australian Standard approved, manually inflatable mesh vest called the Tropical Saver.

This Tropical Saver is manufactured from 420 dernier-woven nylon and incorporates a yoke that conceals the inflatable bladder. The vest zips up snugly at the front and there is also a 38mm waist belt with a side release buckle. It is important to do this waist belt up securely because, even though you can’t see it from the outside, it is attached to the inflatable bladder and provides important support when the vest is inflated in the water.

Other features of the vest include a lifting harness at the back, an easily accessible inflation toggle at the front, and large clip-down pockets at the side. These pockets would be useful for holding the various items of tackle, sunscreen and other bits and pieces that anglers need for a day on the water – especially if you’re on a mate’s boat or a charter and can’t stash it in your boat.

The tropical Saver is light, easy to don and a pleasure to wear, especially on hot days. Several times I have docked my boat, retrieved my car and had the trailer half way down the ramp before realising I hadn’t yet removed my life vest. That’s not a bad indication that it’s pretty comfy.

I’m glad to say that since taking possession of my vest I haven’t found myself overboard at sea and needing to pull the inflation toggle. For the purposes of this review, however, I was curious to see how it worked. I have to admit I cheated and didn’t actually jump into Western Port – it’s been far too cold for that. Rather, I headed off to the heated indoor pool at the Warragul Recreation Centre.

I’ve never inflated a PFD before, so it was definitely an interesting experience. I guess I was expecting an almighty explosion or something, but the inflation process was much more controlled than that – not scary at all! Essentially the bladder inflates at a steady pace and bursts out from behind the velcro panels of the yoke.

The Tropical Saver PFD is inflated via a CO2 canister concealed under the front yoke of the vest. The bladder inflates to 150 Newtons and is manufactured from nylon buoyancy fabric coated in yellow welded polyurethane. According to the manufacturers the bladder is extremely durable and designed to float an unconscious person in a safe position with their heads angled upwards. That’s important for the automatic versions but probably a bit irrelevant for the manual models – unconscious people can’t pull toggles anyway. Nevertheless the vest certainly made it very easy for me to float in the pool and gave me confidence that it would save me in a real emergency.

Features of the bladder when inflated include an oral inflation tube to increase (or decrease) it’s buoyancy, a good number of reflection patches for extra visibility at night, and a whistle for attracting attention.

Safety Marine Australia recommend that you get your PFD serviced once a year or after an inflation. If you do have to inflate it, they will also re-arm it for you later, or provide you with a re-arming kit at minimal cost.

Today there are a lot of PFDs on the market so the choice can be a little confusing. I can tell you that the Tropical Saver vest is comfortable to wear when fishing and keeps you afloat in the water. It sounds simple – but what more do you really want from a PFD?



The Roaring Forties Tropical Saver mesh vest PFD costs $179. It is manufactured on site at Safety Marine Australia in Moorabbin and can be purchased from there. The Tropical Saver, along with the rest of the Roaring Forties range, can also be purchased over the internet. Go to the Safety Marine Australia website (www.safetymarineaust.com.au) for details.

Safety Marine Australia’s Head office is located at 37 Levanswell Road, Moorabbin VIC 3189 (Melways reference 78 A8). Alternatively call them on 03 9555 5211, or email --e-mail address hidden--

Written correspondence should be addressed to P.O. Box 1121, Moorabbin VIC 3189.

The Roaring Forties mesh vest PFD is very comfortable to wear when fishing.

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