No experience either way, but I'm very interested in the choices. Here's a post from the Alberg 30
list that gives me some food
for thought. For those who don't know Survivorman is an excellent show, it's like an actual real version of the Bear Gryll's nonsense. Les Stroud actually lives through each situation, for the land based ones he carries all the cameras, and does everything alone. The documentary on how he shoots these situations is fascinating as well, the hardware
techniques and tools required to survive and film in those situations.
"A few years ago when I did a gig leading the support crew for the TV
show called 'Survivorman' in the episode which involved the show's star
being cast adrift for a week, we approached 'a major manufacturer of
liferafts to use one of their four man outfits. The 'major
manufacturer' early on eagerly agreed, but at the last minute recanted
and refused to send us a raft, even if we paid full retail for one.
They said the issue was the length of the test - five days which they
thought was unfairly long.
By the time they came clean and told us they were not in fact sending
the liferaft (we went through several weeks of excuses during which they
blamed the airline, shipping
, etc) the film crew and
I were already in Belize
and filming was about to start in a matter of
Thinking swiftly, I suggested to the show's star and producer that we
a raft from a yacht in port, there were several in port. I
that aside from getting us a raft, this would increase the veracity of
the episode by use of a 'real' raft of a real yacht which was intending
to use it in an emergency. Les Stroud of Suvivorman is, I am proud to
say, very serious about the integrity of his episodes.
We obtained two rafts, the deal being that at the end of the week we'd
for the repack of the one we used. The first was off a yacht in a
and over three years past it's repack date. It had
it's canister on the yacht's coach roof for several years. We set up
cameras, chucked it into the drink and pulled the lanyard. Out it
popped, it inflated, then fell to pieces. The glue had totally perished
and it ended up as sheets
of hypalon randomly floating or sinking. You
should have seen the face of the guy who owned it and for whom it was
his parachute. He graciously thanked us for exploding his false sense
and ordered a new raft on his own. I won't name the maker
because this raft had been abused and I wouldn't want to infer any blame
on the manufacturer.
The second raft was a Plastimo
, also from a yacht on a long voyage, and
also with a stale repack date but in this case less than two years. It
had also been stored on deck
in a hard canister.
Into the drink it went, we yanked the lanyard as the cameras rolled, and
it inflated properly. It was this raft Stroud used for his week adrift
(while I stooged to windward in a chartered ketch
standing ready to take
action if things turned really bad for him.)
This raft was fairly good and survived the test, but had four problems.
First, the zipper in the canopy was very fragile and I broke it while
exiting - which meant that Les couldn't properly close it all week. We
talk so I reckon that's a testament to his powers of forgiveness. Not
being able to close the canopy caused him fairly severe hardship.
The second issue was that there was a leak in the floor of the raft that
he couldn't find. This meant that he had to bail water out every half
hour or so or he'd rapidly find himself waist deep in a water.
The third issue was that there was several minute air leaks
In addition to the bailing Les had to pump constantly. When he fell
asleep he'd wake up 'standing' in a half collapsed raft full of
The fourth issue had to do with the raft's survival kit. Everything
advertised was there....but for some reason there was twice as much food
as expected...but the extra food was IN PLACE OF THE WATER. There was
no drinking water. Imagine that.
What saved Stroud was this: we outfitted him with all the gear I
reckoned a sailor with normal forethought might have in a fast abandon
He had a jug of fresh water in a 'crash bag' of gear that I modeled
after the one I used to carry when I did a yacht delivery at sea when I
was younger. (contents: gallon of water, flashlight, Swiss army knife,
fishing kit, old foul weather jacket, mirror, rope) We also allowed him
an old 10'
Zodiac inflatable dink with a wooden transom and floorboards I bought
for a few hundred bucks from a friend in our sailing club in Midland.
The old beat up Zodiac performed flawlessly.
Les fell into a routine of sleeping in the open dinghy at night, but had
to get out of the sun during the day so he went into the life raft where
he had to pump and bail all day.
It was hard work, and not so nice at
the weather was rough which it was twice in the week. There was a
on night and for a while I thought we'd lost
him - not a pleasant few
hours for either of us during which we searched looking for his strobe
while saying on the VHF
'do you see us/me?' alternatively to each other.
So, what was the first life raft maker's issue? As I said at the top,
after finally admitting they wouldn't lend or even sell us a four man
raft, they said they didn't like the fact that the survival test was
going to be five
days long and on television. Their vice president told us that no
should expect to be adrift that long, given modern electronic signaling
devices. That of course is utterly preposterous - I've spoken with
various of their people at marine trade
shows several times since the
shooting of that episode; the employees I spoke to were horrified and
apologetic - and I think those reactions are entirely appropriate.
When we finally picked Stroud up, his hands and feet were swollen and
like big padded mitts. He was exhausted - he said this was from the
constant jostling. He said the stress of being in a constantly jiggling
soft world was terrible and that the week adrift was one of the most
difficult experiences he'd undergone. I took in this information
silently - for me the five days was at that moment a fresh memory of
sailing around in a magnificently outfitted and provisioned 54' ketch
with two companions and a cook. I kept my mouth shut."