Getting people to wear lifejackets while on the water has always been a tough goal. Over the years we have seen all kinds of campaigns from boring government brochures to funny spoofs of old cop shows. Now things have taken a bit of darker turn with the new drowning simulator called, Sorte En Mer.

You need to try it but be prepared, it's pretty intense.

The simulator starts off with a video of you and a friend out sailing on a calm day then quickly turns into a disaster when you are knocked overboard and left watching your friend sail off into the horizon unable to control the sailboat. To keep your head above water you need to scroll your mouse wheel for as long as you can.

Drowning simulator capture

Are you able to stay afloat long enough until your buddy comes back? I couldn't.

Shock campaigns like this have been around for a long time and I’m sure you’ve seen posters with splashy photos of traffic accidents telling you to slow down, or reminders that you love your dog so don’t kill it by leaving it in a car on a hot day.

For a while now researchers have been looking into shock campaigns to see how effective they are. While there is an emotional reaction to seeing bloody car wreck photos, a study back in 2008 in the Netherlands showed that they had the opposite effect. In the study, some male subjects who saw the commercials judged driving fast to be less dangerous or trivialized the message that driving fast is dangerous.

I remember as a teenager our local high school used to arrange for a local wrecker to come and drop off a crashed up car to remind students not to drink and drive. Who knows how many students got the message but all I know is that a large group of us used to stand trying to figure out how to get in the crushed car so we could get photos of ourselves.

Another interesting study out of Belgium showed that campaigns based on fear tended have a short-lived effect on attitudes and opinions and that the public get used to the element of fear faster than a message based on a positive emotion.

So does that mean that this campaign won’t be effective in the long term? I don’t know. I’m not a behavioural scientist.

What does make this video unique (and thus possibility more effective) is that you need to interact with the video to keep the character alive. After my little index finger got tired of scrolling the mouse wheel and I drowned, the first thing I thought was, "wow, if I could only last 3 minutes and my finger was worn out, how could I swim longer than 5 in those waves?"

To me, it was a very different response compared to seeing a poster below put out by Life Saving Victoria.

Where's your child poster

Maybe that interaction element could be just the thing to drive home the message of Lifejacket usage while on the water.

Published in Safety

From the YouTube description:

Maritime New Zealand's (MNZ's) new advertising campaign harks back to the glory days of 1980s cop shows to show that, like bulletproof vests, lifejackets don't save people's lives unless they're worn. Police officers Brandon Reynolds & Joe Lyons head to the docks for a bust. Things don't go as planned...

The campaign draws on MNZ's latest research, which shows that men aged 40 plus are the least likely to zip up on the water. Black humour and '80s TV show nostalgia are used to deliver the deadly message that having a lifejacket on board won't save boaties or their mates if things go wrong. Being close to your lifejacket is like being close to your bulletproof vest -- it's just not close enough. People think if they have an accident, they'll have time to put their lifejacket on, but boating tragedies tell a different story....

For more information about summer boating safety, visit

And for good measure here is the Starsky and Hutch opening that made me want to be a cop so bad…

Published in Safety


Homemade Lifejacket Fail

I don’t have the facts to back this up but what you are seeing here is evidence of a top secret prototype lifejacket photographed with a long range telephoto lens.

No word on if the twisted strings around the bottles held together in the surf but I have it on good authority that you will be seeing it on the shelves of your local big-box store this Spring.

Photo credit:

Published in Funny

I always listen with amusement when I hear people complain that new life jackets or PFD’s are uncomfortable, hot and therefore better off strapped to the back deck of a kayak or thrown in the bottom of the canoe.

To help appreciate the technology advancements keeping us afloat, let’s look back at we would have had to use while on the water...

Cork Life Vests from 1980. Photo Credit: Life Magazine

This photo was taken around 1890. Back then life jackets were made from pieces of cork sewn together. Though it kept you afloat, it wasn’t very practical for anything else. Since many would have only used them in an emergency, I can imagine a good number of sailors would find them rotten, crumbling and useless when they needed them most.

Photo Credit: Sean Sexton/Getty Images

Old life vest and survival suit. Photo credit:

Here is an integrated life vest and early version of a survival suit taken by Harris & Ewing in 1916. I don’t think I would have fit in my kayak with it on.

Photo Credit:

Life Vests Made from Bicycle Inner Tubes. Photo credit:

Life vests took a big step forward in technology in 1925 but clearly a huge step back in fashion. These are made from inflated bicycle inner tubes.

When wearing this you can be guaranteed of two things, severe chafing and the fact that everybody will be staring at your crotch the whole time.

Photo Credit:

On a different note, If you are interested in cool war history stories, here is a good one where somebody found a very old German life vest from the 2nd world war and worked to try to unite it with the pilot over 60 years later.

Published in Gear

Refuge Retreat Fall '08

Well here is one for the books.

A man in a kayak (not the guy in the stock photo above) in Mesick, Michigan was stopped by officers of the Department of Natural Resources doing safety equipment check on small boats. They told the paddler he needed a PFD but the man replied that he had enough paddling skills and was adamant he didn’t see a lifejacket. Never had, never would.

You can see where this is going.

The officers let the guy go with a warning only to have to rescue him moments later when he flipped his kayak in the 51-degree water.

After pulling the man into their boat and taking him to shore to warm-up they promptly wrote him a ticket for failure to wear a lifejacket.

You can read the full story here.

You can't make that stuff up!

Flickr photo credit: -

Published in Funny

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