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Old 11-05-2008, 07:47   #1
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Buying a Six-Person Liferaft in Canister

I'm shopping for a 6-person liferaft in cannister here in NB, Canada, before returning to the Caribbean. I want the liferaft new and freshly packed. My route is via Newport, Bermuda, BVI, and the raft will not be back to be repacked by any local dealer for as long as I can see. Here is what I have found. I would enjoy comments about the price range, sources, appropriateness, quality, etc.:

Locally Supplied

Zodiac Coastal $3082
Viking Coastal $3267
Plastimo Offshore $3067

Internet Prices

Plastimo Cruiser ORC (Shoplocal.com - Boatersworld) $2400
Revere Offshore Ocean (Online Marine) $1660
Avon Coastline (LRSE.com) $2350
Avon Ocean (LRSE.com) $2800
Revere Offshore Ocean (Landfallnav.com) $2525
Zodiac Coastal (West Marine) $2199
Plastimo Offshore Plus (West Marine) $2999


In anticipation of your questions, I don't have any ideas yet about shipping, customs charges, or where the beast will be repacked again. I am removing my 1999 10-person, Eurovinil raft and selling it on Ebay. It's old, heavy, needs repacking, and the locals will not repack it. The boat is a FP Tobago 35 that is registered with the French gov't as unsinkable, and will likely carry 3-4 people aboard on the two ocean-crossing pieces of the trip. After we get to the BVI, we intend to limit our sailing up and down the crescent of Windwards and Leewards. We sail with an EPIRB.

As always, I solicit and will enjoy all your comments.

Oh...and thanks for the Birthday Greeting, Gord
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Old 11-05-2008, 08:38   #2
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I know that Winslow offers 3 year repacking on their liferafts. Some of the others might as well. Practical Sailor recently did a report on Life rafts. It would be worth reading. Since you are going thru the US on the way why not buy it on the way.
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Old 11-05-2008, 08:47   #3
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Where do you see that Revere price at Online Marine? I see it at $2509 on their website.

Chris
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Old 11-05-2008, 08:53   #4
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Sonosailor, I've also been pricing out 6 person offshore rafts in Canada and have decided to buy from the US over the internet. The best price for the Revere Offshore Ocean 6 valise seems to be fromwww.rivermarinesupply.com at $2195.00.

I don't expect that you should be stuck with any duties as they are made in the US - you will, of course, have to pay shipping plus PST and GST. It will have to be ground shipped (hazmat regs.), but any of the internet vendors should be able to quote you shipping charges. If you have a choice, I would avoid UPS - they charge a 'brokerage fee' for the border crossing which you can generally get for free through USPS.

As to repacking at least every 3 years - I don't see any way around it, even if you opt for vacuum packing.

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Old 11-05-2008, 09:02   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by witzgall View Post
Where do you see that Revere price at Online Marine? I see it at $2509 on their website.

Chris
Sorry, Chris: These prices were collected over the last month or so. They may have changed it or I may have screwed up. Thanks for the correction.
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Old 12-05-2008, 12:27   #6
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We have a Viking Rescue Pro 4 person self righting raft.
Did a fair amount of research before buying. Price was $3200 delivered to the Annapolis show. It's a vacumn packed raft with a 3 year certification.

Visited their service center in Miami for a valve recall. Very impressive!
The handle about 80% of the cruise ship business.

They replaced the valves, (several manufacturers use the same valves and all were recalled because a few leaked) tested the unit, repacked, recertified for another 3 years and gave me a very good deal on the hydrostatic release.
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Old 07-06-2008, 14:23   #7
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Having been in the liferaft packing business in a Coast Guard Licenced and Approved facility I have some perspective. Be very careful who you trust enough to purchase a liferaft from. A valid North American (ie in the USA or Canada) is the ONLY way to go. I know these things are very expensive but its your life. There is a huge difference from manufacturer to manufacturer and design to design. My first choice without doing a lot of recent research is Viking for initial quality and reliability. But dont forget these rafts need to last a long time in a marine environment and the heat of the tropics in many cases. Another make mentioned here would never be on my boat. Rafts will last much longer if kept below in a dry place rather than lashed on deck exposed to the heat of the sun. The horror stories of liferaft service in far away countries is scary. I have unpacked such rafts belonging to trusting sailors and seen the results. A couple just desintegrated. Be careful. A good raft carefully properly packed will last a long time.
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Old 07-06-2008, 18:33   #8
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I would have a look at the quality of the rafts between the different manufacturers. I was at the Oakland boat show a couple months ago and was surprised by the differences in quality of materials, design and workmanship between the different raft manufacturers and these were not minor differences. I don't want to trash any one particular company, but there is one manufacturer who I would never consider buying a raft from, given what I saw at the boat show. Lets just say it looked pool toy quality. It was obvious that what they were doing was to cut back on quality in order to keep the price down.

Probably the best deal is going with a raft somewhere between pool toy quality and the most expensive raft you can purchase. What good is purchasing a cheapo life raft going to do you if it does not work when you need it?
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Old 11-03-2009, 10:36   #9
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Just so you folks know what actually happened.

I'm now in St. Lucia, having come down from Canada via Bermuda. I had left the question of the life raft so long, that at the end, I decided to buy only what was available through local suppliers. I believe all choices came in near $3000 Canadian, delivered. I settled on the 6 person Plastimo Offshore, with all necessary accessories, and waited for delivery. However, when the retailer made the order to the Canadian supplier, they found that the Plastimo Offshore they had in stock had been stolen. Somebody had spirited it out of the warehouse, and left the box in the slot as if it was still there.

I bought a Zodiac Coastal for $100 more. The local Zodiac dealer suggested it was as good as the Plastimo, and that it was appropriate for what I was planning: two major offshore jumps of less than a week each, using a weather tactician to assist in finding safe weather windows, with a working EPIRB, and on a french catamaran deemed to be unsinkable.

So, thanks for the info, and I hope it has helped others. I, on the other hand, studied the problem so long that I ended up with limited choices. Sometimes a long, detailed analysis can be the wrong thing to do. In my case? Well, I'm sure the Zodiac Coastal is ok, and will serve me well for the 5+ years I'm going to be island hopping down here.

Thanks again.
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Old 11-03-2009, 12:42   #10
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Thanks for the update Sonosailor. How was your passage from Bermuda to St. Lucia (and when did you make it)?

Brad
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Old 14-03-2009, 15:06   #11
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Actually, the trip was done via way of many islands along the way. The trip from Bermuda to the BVIs was ok, with the only real problem being two days of no wind, through which we sadly increased our carbon footprint. We enjoyed St. Martin, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and picked up friends in Pte-a-Pitre before the strikers barricaded the airport. The strikes also had us rushing through the Saints and bypassing Martinique. Dominica was great.

We had a lot of 25 knot winds, some on the nose from the southeast, as we made our way down. However, I'm doing very well at reefing, and getting used to going upwind in 25 knots.

All in all, we're having a blast, and thanks for asking. Fishing is a little poor, however.
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Old 05-02-2010, 21:35   #12
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Hi SonoSailor
I'm in PEI for the winter. Will do a Trans-Atl in summer. I have been researching, talking to makers of life rafts and researching recall info. I believe Viking is Top-Of-Line. I especially like the new yellow color as it can be seen in most sea conditions and from very far. I would have purchased a Viking 6-man by now but am waiting to see cost of the new yum-yum yellow's. Remember, a hydra-static release for a sailboat is not worth the money, unless of course you happen to like looking at a funny little object that costs $100+
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Old 13-02-2010, 01:26   #13
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Hydrostatic Release

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Originally Posted by northiceman View Post
Hi SonoSailor
I'm in PEI for the winter. Will do a Trans-Atl in summer. I have been researching, talking to makers of life rafts and researching recall info. I believe Viking is Top-Of-Line. I especially like the new yellow color as it can be seen in most sea conditions and from very far. I would have purchased a Viking 6-man by now but am waiting to see cost of the new yum-yum yellow's. Remember, a hydra-static release for a sailboat is not worth the money, unless of course you happen to like looking at a funny little object that costs $100+
Why wouldn't a hydrostatic release be as useful on a sailboat as a powerboat?
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Old 13-02-2010, 07:38   #14
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Hydrostatic Release for Sailboat LifeRaft

I would not recommend hydrostatic releases for sail boats. They do not activate until the raft is 6 - 12 feet under water, they are a pressure release. Sailboats tend to roll when they go down increasing the chance of the raft getting tangled in the standing rigging. I have seen them on some sailing yachts, and when I enquired why - the response was "as a last ditch effort if they can't get to the raft". So think about this and decide for your configuration (where the raft will be on the boat, etc) what you want in the event the boat went down and rolled (which is typically the worst case scenario - heavy seas and wind - as opposed to a bright shiny day in calm seas). Be aware of the potential for problems if the hydrostatic release is to be relied upon, and choose a place where the raft is away from rigging. Remember, nothing can replace your last minute decisions in a lifesaving situation. The raft will not help much if you cannot get to it. (Time is of the essence - see the pub on cold water survival by Canadian gov)
Be careful with commercial rafts as opposed to rafts made for pleasure use. There are subtle differences. And do not confuse "commercial" with the term "offshore". They are two very different terms, despite the way some folks use them as though they mean the same thing.
Commercial rafts are not vacuum sealed, so you would have annual service. The rafts are much heavier, a 6 person commercial rafts weighs almost 200 lbs due to the additional gear packed inside. They are more expensive to service as well because they are commercial, and they have almost twice as many flares, additional water and rations. Pleasure raft equipment is the same as the equipment in commercial rafts, just not the same packs. Self righting is not a feature offered on commercial USCG rafts, since it is not required.
As for near-shore vs offshore, near shore rafts are typically geared toward rescue within 24 hours in warm water. The near shore raft allows 3 sq ft per person = total of 18 sq ft, the offshore allows 4 sq ft per person, total of 24 sq ft in a 6 person raft. Self righting is not a feature offered on commercial USCG rafts, since it is not required.
The new yum-yum yellows are pleasure rafts (for the most part) because commercial rafts are all required by CG to be international orange, so Viking cannot change the commercial rafts to the new color they have developed for yachting.
I pick up my information by talking to a lot of people who seem to know what thay are talking about, not necessarily someone who has first-hand experience in a raft at sea. Remember that emergencies at sea will all happen differently, try to talk to folks who know something about your type of vessel and travelled waters. The canadian coast guard is a very good source as are the USCG - they are trained professionally for these types of events.
Lastly, if you travel in cold(er) waters - get a copy of the Canadian governments paper on survival in cold waters. You will then see that you must also have a DRY suit to stay warm, so you don't freeze before being rescued in that "living room at sea" - that none of us (hopefully) will ever see out of its cannister.

~Ron, CPS JN, Captain, aspiring world traveller
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Old 13-02-2010, 09:10   #15
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Boe marine is having a sale on the Zodiac brands, got mine there and was very pleased.
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