Man overboard victims might enjoy a better chance of rescue if wearing a SeeArch, a novel safety device developed by Canadian Neil Darroch.

An easy-to-wear, comfortable unit that’s worn around a boatie’s waist, the SeeArch is activated much like a conventional lifejacket with a CO2 cartridge: pulling on the rip cord deploys a brightly-coloured, 1.5m-high arch that helps rescuers spot you in the water.

Though it’s ideally worn in conjunction with a lifejacket, the unit has more than enough buoyancy to keep the wearer afloat if he/she isn’t wearing a lifejacket. In addition, the tough construction also functions as a sling, useful when winching the MOB person aboard with a halyard. As with a conventional life-jacket, the built-in CO2 cartridge is easily replenished.

Earlier this year the device received the Canadian Safe Boating Council’s Marine Industry Award at the organisation’s annual gala celebrating excellence in marine safety.

Recently in New Zealand to find and appoint a dealer for the SeeArch, Darroch says the unit’s development was instigated by a personal – and very frightening – experience.

“I was with a bunch of chaps sailing on Lake Ontario – and most of us, but not all, were wearing lifejackets. As often happens on the Great Lakes, the weather changed very suddenly and within minutes it was blowing a gale, accompanied by mountainous waves.


“One of the guys not wearing a lifejacket fell overboard in the chaos. I hasten to add that I wasn’t the skipper – had I been everyone would have been wearing a lifejacket. He disappeared and in the worsening conditions we struggled to bring the vessel under control before we could turn around and find him.

“Miraculously, we did eventually spot him – though it took an awfully long time – and of course the water is bloody freezing. When we finally hauled him aboard he was close to death. 

“It served as a valuable lesson for all of us – not only about the importance of wearing lifejackets – but also of the need to be seen. If your rescuers can’t find you, you’re toast.” 

After many prototypes, hours of testing and consultations with the Coast Guard, engineers, designers, friends and sailors, he developed the SeeArch. 

Until the unit has a New Zealand distributor, it can be ordered direct from Canada. Cost (excluding shipping) is NZ$235, and a further $29 for the recharge kit.

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