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Old 09-09-2018, 11:15   #1
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How expired is this liferaft?

I have a cunning plan. Curious if this will work, and what I'm missing.



I was thinking that instead of buying a new liferaft, or a used certified one, it would be cheaper to pick up an expired one and pay for it to be serviced.



Is there an age after which old liferafts can't be serviced to today's standards?



How old is too old? How out of date is too out of date?


I have searched but didn't find anything on this, so feel free to point me to previous discussions if this has already been covered in the budget aisle of the forum.
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Old 09-09-2018, 11:33   #2
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

I too, looked into this, and there is no simple answer. Liferaft lifespan depends on storage conditions, original materials, etc. I have heard multiple stories of older liferafts not being able to be re-certified due to age and condition of material welds.

What I found to be true is generally the cost of servicing an older raft nearly brought the cost into the range of a new one, and then you take on the risk of whether or not it is re-certifiable. It is a huge risk.

Bottom line, there is no free lunch here.
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Old 09-09-2018, 11:45   #3
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

Andy-
If the raft is to be used in commercial or mandatory service, yes, there are often regulations about it. Rashly assuming you want to use one for voluntary recreational boating, generally no. At least not in the US.
Every manufacturer has the option of having their own policies and prohibiting authorized repack centers from working on rafts past a certain age, whatever they pick. Zodiac-US used to say they couldn't touch a Zodiac product more than ten years old, because the French government condemned the rafts at that age. (Used to.)
As a practical matter, if you personally are going to service a raft, as long as it hasn't decayed you could in theory service it forever. Oh, the gas bottle will need to be checked and hydro tested from time to time in order to keep it filled. And if the raft was made with the older glued seams, you may find they've simply rotted apart. (Supposedly the Zodiac problem.) If you've never played whack-a-mole chasing leaking seams on an inflatable, that can be fun. Not.
So there are reasons why used rafts are "cheap". And why some folks would rather buy a new one, repack it once, and then sell it before six or eight years have gone by. Authorized repacks are not cheap, and DIY on that is not for everyone.
And since shipping a raft usually means hazmat rates unless you use motor freight, it also means shopping locally, if you want to play it safe and see what you're buying in advance.
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Old 09-09-2018, 13:47   #4
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

Really helpful. Thanks to both of you. It does seem like a bigger risk than I initially thought.



I didn't realise that self-servicing was an option, but after a bit of research it seems eminently doable: In so far as it looks easier than say re-rigging the mast and plenty of boat owners take that on. The consequences of screwing that up are arguably just as grave.
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Old 09-09-2018, 18:37   #5
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

Quote:
Originally Posted by andypag View Post
Really helpful. Thanks to both of you. It does seem like a bigger risk than I initially thought.



I didn't realise that self-servicing was an option, but after a bit of research it seems eminently doable: In so far as it looks easier than say re-rigging the mast and plenty of boat owners take that on. The consequences of screwing that up are arguably just as grave.
"The consequences of screwing that up are arguably just as grave"
The consequences of screwing up "self-servicing" a liferaft is a grave.
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Old 09-09-2018, 18:49   #6
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

Instead of an iffy liferaft, you may be better served by a used portland pudgy dinghy. It can be your dinghy and you can sit in it awaiting the helo or mv that you hope sees you and picks you up. There is no such thing as 'cheap' LIFE SAVING equipment! Buy known quality, and let your crew and guests you 'saved money on the liferaft' LOL!
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Old 09-09-2018, 18:57   #7
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

Self serviced ours. It is an old Avon 8 person blue water type. Pressure test was easy and great. Old obsolete lighting was laughably horrible and inoperative. Replaced with LED SOLAS and lithium. Big problem was NOBODY would service the gas bottle. I had to make a filling octopus and charge nitrogen and CO2 mixture by weights. Frustrating that we live on and manage very complex machine systems but are somehow deemed too stupid to stuff a rubber boat in a box. We too found buying new was probably a better choice. We keep the dinghy operable under way.
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Old 09-09-2018, 19:24   #8
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

Somebody gave me a raft recently, a 6-person aviation type from a G-5 airplane.
10 years old and out of date.
Called the re-packing place and they quoted me some big number, $3,500 or whatever it was. Gave it away.
A brand new Coastal Marine raft is $1,200.
Will probably buy a good dink instead and use if for emergencies as well as for pleasure.
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Old 10-09-2018, 09:04   #9
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

I got an expired Avon raft with the boat I bought three years ago. I got a quote to re-pack it from the guys who did the last re-pack was close to the cost of a new raft. Of course Avon is out of the fife raft business, so that may have increased cost, but for another $200, I could get a new raft.
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Old 10-09-2018, 10:43   #10
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orion Jim View Post
"The consequences of screwing that up are arguably just as grave"
The consequences of screwing up "self-servicing" a liferaft is a grave.
Consequences ARE grave. More so than grammatical errors.
Unless you plan to weather hurricanes and breaking waves, go with the unsinkable dinghy and a well-found bug-out bag.
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Old 10-09-2018, 11:33   #11
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

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Old 10-09-2018, 13:05   #12
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

Dinghy is looking better all of the time.
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Old 10-09-2018, 13:30   #13
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

Well.


If what you pay for it + the cost of servicing it = the cost of a new raft then obviously this is stupid.


HOWEVER, some good quality life rafts last for a very long time. So I don't think the plan is necessarily stupid -- it depends on the raft.


If I were you, I would look for something like this:


1. Quality brand (Avon, Switlick, etc.). No cheap stuff.

2. Less than 20 years old (preferably much less).
3. Reasonable price -- not more than $500.
4. Seller agrees you can test it and return it no questions asked, if it doesn't hold air.


Then, inflate it and leave it for a couple of days, bounce around in it, and see for yourself whether the seams have integrity.



I don't think there is any magic about servicing them and I would gladly do mine myself, except (a) I need the document; and (b) the labor cost for servicing in the Solent is only £150. If you are not required carry, and servicing is very expensive, I would figure out how to do it, and do it myself, personally.


What you won't be able to do is to hydro test the cylinder, but a dive shop can do that.


The most important thing about servicing life rafts is to be absolutely sure that the seams are holding and WILL hold in case, God forbid, you need the raft. I actually think that an intelligent owner could do a better job with this than a service station because you have more time to observe the raft.
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Old 10-09-2018, 14:14   #14
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

"Dinghy is looking better all of the time."
Except, with no ballast pockets, a dinghy would flunk one of the major required criteria for life rafts these days. No problem, as long as your main vessel had the courtesy to sink in good weather.
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Old 10-09-2018, 14:18   #15
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Re: How expired is this liferaft?

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"Dinghy is looking better all of the time."
Except, with no ballast pockets, a dinghy would flunk one of the major required criteria for life rafts these days. No problem, as long as your main vessel had the courtesy to sink in good weather.

There is a Dinghy that is Coast Guard approved as a life raft. Here's a nice article on it. I wouldn't go that route but for some it works.



https://www.cruisingworld.com/how/two-boat-cruisers
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