RE: the whole life jacket thing
I use a US Coast Guard approved Kayak vest.
I don't wear it often, but when it's "nukin" the vest makes sense.
I tried a bunch of them.... and the vest I got from Perception Kayaks seemed the best.
It's the only one I tried that will turn an unconcious victim face up in the water. It has a bit more padding in the upper front panels to achieve this.
Since you are in Canada, I think on many Canadian waters a PFD is a Canadian Coast Guard requirement. Check on the laws that affect the places that you sail.
Hope this helps,