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Old 08-01-2008, 19:29   #1
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Life Raft Repacking

found a good deal on a life raft. A 6 man that has been stored indoors when not on the boat and it is one of those vacum packed units. It was built in 2004 and has all the bells and whistles that were avaialble at that time. The certification expired in late 2007. Obviously the certification is not a drop dead time but how long do you think is reasonable to go beyond the certification date a day? a month? a year?

The reason I ask is -- I want to take the boat from PNW thru the canal and then to FL. problem is I don't see me getting the boat to San Diego for about a year and then probably three years before I get it to FL. If I recert it now then it will be in Mexico next time it needs a recert. With the transportation isssue I'm thinking of waiting till a month or two before I leave for mexico and then it will be only a year or maybe two out of cert before I get to Florida.

with any luck I'll never need it but who knows.
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Old 08-01-2008, 20:06   #2
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I would get it recertified by someone who will let you be there when they inflate it to recertify it.

When we got our life raft certified in Brisbane, Australia, they inflated it right in front of us, and they showed us all of its features, and they explained how everything worked. We found it to be extremely helpful as we didn't understand all the deployment issues, boarding issues, and what all the little accessories are for. You also get to inspect the repair kit, and all the accompanying safety gear.

If you go to this URL, you can see what we learned when we observed the inflation and inspection:

THE FACTS OF LIFE RAFTS* Imagine that you were flying in an airplane and the stewardess came to you

I think you have a golden opportunity to learn about this vital piece of safety gear.
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Old 08-01-2008, 20:14   #3
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Charlie, Your plan sounds good and I would take the same approach if I had your timetable. The recommendations is yearly for a repack but we have let our Switlik go for up to 3 years if the boat was not seriously cruising. We then had it done before a major cruise and were present when the raft was opened up. It is a very good idea if you can arrange it. At each repack there was no serious problems and the raft would probably have functioned as advertised, but you never know. In each case there were items on board that had reached their expiration date so that was the big thing. After a period of time the cylinder did need to be replaced, at least according to manufacturer recommendations.
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Old 08-01-2008, 20:34   #4
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Maxing Out:

Thanks for the tips. I had an old liferaft on my boat and I took it in to get recerted and it didn't pass at all. Only one tube inflated and that one was leaking. It was an eyeopener to see a relatively strong guy not have the strength to open the cylinder. he had to get a stick and wrap it around the rip cord and then really yank on it to get it to open. I don' think I can get it factory certified on the West Coast though.

Chuck:

BTW I like your Blog. It's a great read.

The raft I'm looking at has a 3 year recert time frame so waiting an extra year should be fine.
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Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 08-01-2008, 21:00   #5
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I work in the liferaft industry (I design them... be very, very afraid).

Realistically, if the liferaft has been stored correctly, there is no reason why it wouldn't operate correctly even 12 months after its recertification date. On the other hand, if it has been exposed to adverse conditions, it might not work even if it is still within its certification period.

Given that the liferaft was built in 2004, I would suggest that it would be fine without re-certification. Essentally, the time-stamped issues such as rations, flares, first aid kit, etc will have expired, but there is no reason why it wouldn't inflate ok.

Put it another way, if it didn't inflate ok, it wouldn't be because it was past its recertification date.

Having said that, I would always be a little bit suspicious of a 2nd hand liferaft of unknown provenance. Unless you know the seller personally and trust them, it is probably best to treat their claims of storage and maintenance with a pinch of salt. If I were in your shoes I would get it recertified just in case it isn't as perfect as the seller is telling you

Put it another way; if a few hundred dollars for recertification buys you peace of mind, then maybe it is worth it (i call it "the sleep at night test").
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Old 08-01-2008, 21:08   #6
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Weylan:

Good point. I'll think about whether it will prevent me from getting sleep or not.
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Charlie

Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 08-01-2008, 21:54   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie View Post
I don' think I can get it factory certified on the West Coast though.
Sure you can! (If a licensed repacker counts as factory certified):

Avalon Rafts - Wilmington 310-549-9665
Coast MarineSan Francisco 415-673-1923
Sal’s Inflatable Services – Alameda 510-522-1824
Hewett Industrial Supply – San Francisco 415-371-1054
Puget Sound Inflatables, Inc. – Seattle 800-743-7238 (or) 206-762-3877 Life Raft, EPIRB, PLB, Survival Gear and Marine Safety Equipment Sales & Service
Westpac Marine Services, Inc.- Tacoma 800-343-5826


(From BoatUS Foundation)
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Old 11-01-2008, 10:56   #8
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Okay here's what I bought from a very pleasant fellow who is swallowing the anchor. I got a 2004 Winslow 6 man life raft in a pelican case that has just come out of certification in 10/2007, a Fisherman's anchor with some rust, a pair of 36' jacklines, an 406 EPIRB with an expired battery, and a West Marine handheld VHF that the owner said wouldn't hold a charge. All of this for a little less than the 3 boat units that I had budgeted for a life raft. I am trying to post pictures but that willhave to wait.

BTW that addage of the happiest and sadest day of a persons life being when they bought and sold their boat. I'm not buying it. He didn't look happy about selling his boat. Down right miserable.
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Charlie

Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 11-01-2008, 11:26   #9
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Charlie-
The VHF with bad batteries can probably have the pack rebuilt (if it isn't replaceable) by "The NiCad Lady" or any of several other rebuilders you can dig up on the web. Since batteries have been improving, they can usually give you more power for a lower cost than a replacement pack from the factory (which uses the same old commercial cells) as well. Specify brand-name Japanese cells, the no-name ones from China often fail.

The liferaft is more problematic. As Weyalan says, if it fails to inflate that is not because of the "certificaton" date. Anything vacuum sealed and kept in a Pelican case should keep forever--or close to it. The problem appears to be that materials break down, literally the adhesives or calendared layers of fabric delaminate. And the gas bottles, which should last "forever", sometimes have a pinhole in the solder seal over the neck.
It really makes you wonder, if so many rafts need work AT recertification, how many of them would fail if deployed at sea anyway?

There have been documented incidents of gross misbehavior at repack facilities, I'd go one step further than maxingout and say to ONLY have it repacked by a facility that will let you be there to observe while that is being done. Even if you know nothing about the process, you can look for a clean floor, no punctures, gentle handling, etc. And of course, get familiar with the inflation process if you want to blow the bottle and replace it with a new (and again unproven) one. I'd rather have the bottle weighed (to confirm contents) and inflate the raft gently, with dry compressed air, instead of thermal shocking it with the bottled gas. Supposedly the thermal shock eventually leads to failures--making it not a great idea.
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Old 11-01-2008, 11:35   #10
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Thaks HS:

Winslow seems to have a very good (if not the best) reputation for liferafts. I wanted one but didn't have the budget for a new one. I am confident that this liferaft will be fine. When I post pictures of it you will see how clean it is. I have decided to wait till we have the boat in CA before recerting the life raft. From there it will be four years before I get it to FL where I can have it done again. Its vacum packed and kept in a Pelican case. Don't think it will be a problem.

The old Plastimo that came with the boat managed to inflate after way too much exertion although only one of the tubes inflated. It was not vacum sealed and 14 years old.

Thanks for the tip on the batteries. I didn't know that you could ge them replaced other than the factory. I'll have to check that out.
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Charlie

Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 11-01-2008, 11:44   #11
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I've also used Bulldog Battery 1-800-721-1119 in Ohio, great folks to deal with. You'll also usually ifnd that unless your VHF is still being sold as new, the "factory" replacement packs (for any brand) are incredibly expensive, perhaps simply because someone wants to make money selling a new radio instead.
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Old 12-01-2008, 09:10   #12
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here are pictures of the life raft. She's clean as a whistle.
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Fair Winds,

Charlie

Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad
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Old 12-01-2008, 09:35   #13
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Charlie
The Guy to talk to in our area is "Sals inflatable" in Alameda.. I bought my Avon from him.. He's right across the street from Svendsens. Last time I was over there he had a couple of the life rafts from the San Francisco ferries that carry 30 people..Damn they're big...
I asked him about a life raft at one time and he spent an hour telling me what to look for and took me out to the shop showed me the area on the raft that will fail..

He would also be the one to re-certify the unit you have....
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Old 12-01-2008, 14:18   #14
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Thanks Randy:

I just saw in Lat 38 that Sal's in now a Winslow authorized repacker. Sal is great. I took him an Plastimo life raft and he showed me how bad a shape the other one was which is why I searched this one out.
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Charlie

Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad
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Old 12-01-2008, 19:25   #15
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Hi Charlie…… My 2 cents worth !
Don’t ever leave port on an offshore voyage with such a basic survival question as, “will this (new to me) liferaft work?” Just think of the worst case consequences if it didn’t. You’d feel pretty bad about that pennywise decision.

Get the liferaft inspected and serviced just before you depart PNW
As Dave suggests, be present with your crew at time of deployment and initial inspection.
Also VIDEO the process so that you have a record of everybody inside the raft and where things can be found in the dark. Especially film the orientation and method of righting this particular raft if upturned in a storm. (becomes a useful training tool)
Save and vacu-seal the out of date consumables in the SOLAS pack for an additional abandon ship bag.
I used to have problems servicing Givens liferafts in other parts of the world but found that established liferaft service companies would communicate with Givens and do a very competent service.
I always made sure I was present if tests called for deployment and always visited when inflated and restocked.
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