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Liferaft recommendations?

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by goplay, Mar 5, 2009.

  1. goplay

    goplay Senior Member

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    8 person: Datrex, Winslow, Switlik? Others?

    Does paying double for something like a Switlik really ensure peace of mind? Or should I get two Datrex for the same amount of money?

    Thanks!
  2. PropBet

    PropBet Senior Member

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    I'm a fan of Winslow.
    Never used it (knocks on wood) but a fan.
  3. Capt Bill11

    Capt Bill11 Senior Member

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    Winslow and Givens.

    Not that I would turn down the rest if need be. :)
  4. Mark I

    Mark I Member

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    I have a Switlik and thankfully have never had to use it.

    Needs to be serviced annually and that is a PIA and costly.
  5. Ken Bracewell

    Ken Bracewell Senior Member

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    They should all be serviced annually by a REPUTABLE and licensed service center
  6. Mark I

    Mark I Member

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    I believe there are some that are vacuum sealed and are serviced every other year.
  7. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    Hi,

    The raft you choose should be determined by the areas you cruise.

    Having read a few books by those who have been unfortunate enough to spend a long time in a raft I would not look at any that did not have a double floor.

    Take a look at what else the raft comes with in way of survival gear, signal mirrors, repair kit etc.

    DO NOT buy from or have your raft(s)/hydrostatic releases serviced by anyone other than licensed and authorised sales and service outlets. There are too many horror stories of rafts that don't actually contain rafts when opened and rafts that do not inflate doing the rounds to make one very nervous about where you get this type of equipment from and serviced.

    Lets face it, if you need to use one for real there is a better than average chance it will be rough, dark and everyone will be on edge. The last thing you want is the darn thing to malfunction of fail owing to a shonky history.

    Also there are regs about the number of life-raft places you have to carry and how they are released. Do these apply to your boat?
  8. goplay

    goplay Senior Member

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    If I were to refine my question better, it would be: are there substantive differences in similar models made by the different OEMs?

    One brand that I mentioned has two different "models", one is 2x the price of the other and is marketed as being more "extreme". As it turns out, there is no difference in construction or use-case, just mainly a difference in the survival gear like EPIRP and manual watermaker.

    So I wonder how much this industry relies on fear to charge a premium on substantively similar products...
  9. PropBet

    PropBet Senior Member

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    In my opinion, spend the extra money on the things that will keep you alive, and get you located sooner.

    For example, we upgraded the EPIRP's from the standard 'beacon' type to the unit(s) that will transmit your X/Y via sat. At the end of the day, I think that's a good use of money.

    I agreed with K1W1 with the double floor item being a must as well.
  10. CaptPKilbride

    CaptPKilbride Senior Member

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    Go to a place that services these things and ask them their opinion. They see all types all the time and see first hand what is good and what isn't.
    They are not all made of the same material.

    Case in point: we recently replaced some inflatable bouyant apparatus that were showing fabric stress from the annual inflation. They had this inflation every year for 15 years.

    We also have an offshore liferaft that gets the same annual inflation, and doesn't show any indication of this fabric stress. The service technician said flat out it's because of the difference in material.

    This is not an item you want to cheap out on.
  11. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    Well, the question boils down to this. Is your life worth $2,000 and a maybe you will be rescued in time before you perish from lack of water or food or the passing ship didn't see you. Or is it worth $5,000 and you have a water maker, an epirb that will greatly help your rescue time, among first aid items and food?

    Call 84 boatworks in Fort Lauderdale. They are reputable and sell many different brands, and can advise you on their recommendation. Call a few other large places that sell them and ask their opinion. I like the Revere life rafts, I also had a Winslow on another boat and it had a double floor, but the canvas material was very thin (which they showed me from one they were servicing) and was told it tears easily and they don't last as long as others (even if recertified when they are supposed to). That is what 84 boatworks told me........ don't take it as gospel.......
  12. DocRon

    DocRon New Member

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    Since we are told and only assume that the survival gear like EPIRBS, flares, water makeres, etc are in the life rafts we purchase, we never really get to see them until an emergency arrises. If you get your liferaft from a reputable dealer you may feel a lot more comfortable knowing that it works according to manufacturers instructions.

    I also like having a grab bag containing these emergency items stowed in a position close to the liferaft. We can pack our own water tight containers and service them regularly ourselves and also place additional supplies in it pertaining specifically to the crew and guest on board eg. special medical supplies, additional water, extra flares etc.

    As was mentioned in the post above, what value do you place on your life and that of the crew and guests? I believe added safety and precautions will never be wasted in the time of an emergency.
  13. goplay

    goplay Senior Member

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    Thanks guys for your reply. I get the point "how much do you value your life". I didn't phrase my posting correctly because that isn't the point of the question. I wasn't asking either whether having an EPIRB and watermaker when stranded at sea is worth the money.

    On board, I have two EPIRBs, two identically equipped ditch bags, MoB alarms, and a whole host of other safety and survival gear. My wife and I are signed up for a survival at sea class. This isn't a question of spending the money or whether we value our or our guests lives.

    My posting was an attempt to ellict some views and experience of some substance on the topic. Frankly, many of the responses tell me that this is a subject that needs more data on it. Part of the problem is hardly anyone ever has had to use a life raft!

    I am in the process of buying a new liferaft(s) and figured I put more thought into it than for the last boat and buying what seemed credible based on the advertising.

    I haven't been able to find any recent or relevant testing of life rafts. Material durability is a important criteria, but we should also be concerned about how stable in rough water, one platform is over another. Is one easier to right than another? Are boarding ramps better than boarding ladders? Winslow's relative lightweight is because lighter fabric, but is lighter fabric truly a problem or just one person's opinion? Definitely, an insulated/inflated floor is a must. Are there brands that should avoided because they are outright dangerous?

    It would be great if one of the dozens of organizations and magazines did an up-to-date roundup of the various brands.
  14. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    Hi,

    For te extra couple of grand I would say go with the extra EPIRB and the water maker.

    If you are unfortunate enough to have a major catastrophe the only thing you might find floating is your raft if the hydrostatic releases work ok.

    From the Sea Survival Courses, Helicopter Crash Course and OPTIO Offshore (North Sea Oil Rig Survival Course)I have had to do over the years I would say that in heavy weather and being maybe cold, wet ,tired and frightened that the less you have to be responsible for in way of extra bags etc the better.

    If you can take anything extra then well and good but have the max you can as your first line of survival.

    Hopefully you will get to do a good realistic Sea Survival Course that includes a session in a wave pool with cold driving rain in the dark- It is about as realistic as it gets and it ain't easy to get in the raft especially if you are first.
  15. Capt Bill11

    Capt Bill11 Senior Member

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    ftp://ftp.rta.nato.int/PubFullText/RTO/AG/RTO-AG-HFM-152/$$AG-HFM-152-ALL.pdf
  16. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    Hi,

    This starts to load and then just hangs.
  17. Mark I

    Mark I Member

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    I dragged this up from a while back to advise anyone who is not doing so, to take an active interest in the servicing of their life rafts.

    Here is the saga:

    When we purchased the boat mid-season of 2006, it came with a Switlik life raft mounted on the foredeck in a cradle. The raft canister had an inspection label indicating that it was serviced that year. (was up to date)

    Switlik is a manufacturer that does not vacuum pack their rafts, so they require annual servicing by someone authorized to do so. In both 2007 and 2008, my yard sent the raft out to a place in RI for service. Why there? I picked up their card at the NY boat show and they are a factory authorized dealer and service center. Both years, the raft was returned with a new inspection sticker and a report indicating that it had passed all of the tests proscribed by Switlik.

    This year, my yard sent the raft to a different factory authorized servicer located in NJ. From them, I received a report (including pictures) indicating that due to the raft's age (mfg in 1994) and poor condition, they did not recommend servicing it at all. The brief report and pictures indicated that seams were coming apart and the canopy was no longer attached.

    I can certainly understand that the raft was made in 1994 and it is reasonable to assume that it has reached the end of its useful life. No problem there at all.

    My issue really stems from the fact that I find it hard to believe that in neither of the two previous inspections were any notations/recommendations made as to signs of deterioration or wear. No notes about showing signs of wear, nearing the end of its life, start thinking about replacement etc.

    I sent the current report to the company in RI that inspected it in 2007 and 2008 and received a very nice reply from their President detailing what a great company they are and how this could have occurred over the previous 12 months. (BTW it is $650+ for annual servicing)

    I'm not in a position to dispute that all of the deterioration occured during this past year although I am skeptical as to it being perfectly fine at 14 years old and not worth servicing at 15.

    I guess the moral of the story is that we take for granted that a safety item like this is sent out, inspected and returned and that everyone is doing what they are supposed to do for the fees that they are charging. In the future, when whatever raft I purchase requires service, at a minimum I intend to ask for pictures of the raft inflated on every inspection and I may go to personally see it get inflated.

    This is one of those items that you hope to never need but it better work when you do so I'm not sure I trust just the sticker any more.
  18. travler

    travler Senior Member

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    a lot of very good advice here we have 2 /8 man life rafts on our boat and due to fact that we like alaska and the north east we also have survival suites as well i very strongly agree that training is VERY important i am glad we have never had to use any of our gear we did help in the search for a sail boat off cape blanko in bad weather and it was quit a wake up call

    smooth sailing travler
  19. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    You can believe they can be condemned from one year to the next. I started managing a yacht way back that had a 3 year old Avon liferaft, well the boat was for sale and the owner never did the 2 year service on it. It was only 3 years old, well one day I noticed water dripping out of where the rope cord comes through to inflate it. Well someone else bought the yacht and we went to have the raft inspected. Needless to say the 3 year old liferaft was junk and it was an 8man offshore.

    But on a 14 year old raft, it's possible for the glue or fabric to still appear to be intact, yet one day just rip.......kind of like an older t-shirt.
  20. Loren Schweizer

    Loren Schweizer YF Associate Writer

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    Something else to consider...

    ...as K1W1 pointed out, you might be jumping ship in the dark under less than pleasant weather (and other) circumstances, i.e., from a dry, stabilized environment to the inside of a sea-going tent that is on the verge of capsizing.
    Add to your ditch-bags a good quantity of your favorite seasickness curatives.

    Packing a hand-operated reverse osmosis gizmo might also come in handy.

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