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Old 04-04-2008, 14:02   #16
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I got curious about liferaft recalls, having heard of a few over the years. Googled the term and found

Safety issues

which includes links to TOO MANY life raft and pfd recall notices. If you have any kind of blow-ups on your boat (besides companions[g]) you might want to check that link.
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Old 04-04-2008, 15:18   #17
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I like to think of it in terms of risk management.
What are the chances of having to get off my boat coz it is sinking due to bad weather , answer:surprisingly slim.
Next question: how much use is a liferaft in weather that might sink my boat, answer:not a lot. (way too many examples to quote of people getting into a raft when they would have been better off staying on their boat.
Next, if I have to leave my boat in reasonable conditions is there a better alternative to a liferaft, Answer: Probably (personal preference a decent hard sailing dinghy.)
What are the chances of leaving my boat in reasonable conditions (whale, container, fire), probably way higher than having to get off due to weather.

So while I won't argue against Weyalan who obviously knows more than I do, I can still question whether a liferaft is the best solution overall.
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Old 04-04-2008, 16:11   #18
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I think that most liferafts found on cruising vessels are not SOLAS approved.

Again a question of dollars versus quality.

Any ideas about using aviation liferafts? They seem to be lighter and more compact, so you can take an 8 man instead of a normal 6 man version.

I have spent a night in a liferaft as part of my initial training, and I will never voluntarily get into one again. My boat will be designed to float regardless, so only an unmanageable fire will get me into a raft.

All talk of using a dinghy instead of a liferaft is a joke, unless your boat won't sink.

I'm looking at using a Peli case that is waterproof and floats. Want to mount a solar panel on the outside, and have all comms and Epirb etc in it, as well as a watermaker. It will have a waterproof electrical plug, so that all batteries are always fully charged while it is stored on board.

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Old 04-04-2008, 20:20   #19
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My understanding of aviation liferafts are that they very lightly constructed (obvious reasons) and designed for very short term use and are not built to withstand heavy weather.

While I tend to agree with the comments of using a dinghy as a liferaft is a joke; it wasn't for Dougal Robertson.

Read "Survive the Savage Sea". After been sunk by a whale in the Pacific, he and his family (wife, 18 yr old son, 12 yr old twin boys) and another adult survived 37 days in a 9 foot fibreglass dinghy towing an inflatable liferaft.
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Old 07-04-2008, 16:43   #20
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Sorry if I have upset anyone with my previous posts in this thread. I was having a tough day during a tough week and probably redirected my frustations inappropriately. I also had temporarily misplaced my sense of humour (fortuntely, after spending the weekend on my boat, I found it again). So please accept my apologies.

I should mention that the liferafts and evacuation systems with which I am associated are strictly commercial and are not used on any private/pleasure craft. The smallest liferaft that I have designed (and that the company manufactures) is a 50 person self-righting liferaft (SOLAS A or B pack). So strictly speaking, I really don't have a dog in this race, just an interest in dog-racing.

I have some limited experience with aviation liferafts. Let me tell you; those puppies make marine liferafts look like the best thing since sliced bread. If you think that your marine liferaft lacks strength and robustness, the aviation equivalent is tissue and brown paper by comparison. A senior pilot (Cathay Pacific) once told me that, in general, if a large commerical plane ditches in the sea, chances are everyone is gonna die anyway, so the liferafts are really just a nod in the direction of safety and reassurance for passengers. Having seen some liferafts and slides (from some Airbus craft), I'm inclined to agree with him.

For what it is worth; the reason that the company I work for has not produced any small capacity liferafts such as might be suitable for your private vessels is that it is just not worth it for us. We could not compete with the prices of products already in the market. The margins are very small and we are not a large volume producer. There just wouldn't be enough money in it for us. Now, we like to think that our product is the best on the market (in our little corner of it, anyway), and having seen several small liferafts (4man up to 10 man) up close, some of them were definitely not of the quality of workmanship / fabrication that we offer, nevertheless, as I tried to explain before, these liferafts have been designed and manufactured in accordance with the Internation Maritime Organisation's standards (such as are applicable to all life saving equipment on commercial vessels), not to mention the requirements of interested statutory bodies such as USCG, MCA, etc.
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Old 07-04-2008, 18:16   #21
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Weyalan, the prevalent thinking, or at least the official line, in the US seems to be that commercial aircraft are now so reliable they simply never will have to ditch. (Ahuh.) And, to give them credit, the last time one almost had to ditch at sea, was only "almost". IIRC that was the Canadian jet that made a dead stick landing in the Azores(?), the time before that was a BOAC 747 that ingested too much volcanic dust over Indonesia, and no one seems to know quite when the last real ditching was in these parts.

But the ditching equipment...UGH. I tried on an airline PFD, and the bes tthing about it was that my head couldn't fit INTO it so it couldn't strangle me. I'd stick one on each leg and ride 'em. That's the standard Switlik design, or was. I notice that when the flight attendants demo the vests now, either they've cut open the neck keyholes, or they've started making them bigger because they lost too many attendants during demos.<G>

But then again, I'm totally unimpressed with how "airlines" started by aviators have morphed into "the aviation business" run by MBAs. I'd rather bring my own PFD along--but of course, I can't do that, I might use it to take over the aircraft. You know, the CO2 bottle *could* be filled with cyanide gas, or C4. I can't help wonder what would happen if someone said "Well, if that's dangerous goods...maybe you'd better shut down the airport, there's 200 of them already on the aircraft."

I'd rather be sailing!

Hey, if the Chinese can make a million blow-up waterwings without losing any kiddies to product failure, who's to say someone can't make a cost effective life craft for the recreational market as well !?
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Old 07-04-2008, 19:22   #22
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Weyalan,
In your opinion, who makes the best liferafts suitable for smaller commercial vessels and yachts with cost not being a factor AND with cost being a factor. Which brands would you avoid?

I would really like to hear some brands mentioned because all I am pretty much able to find in my research is company hype. Finding knowledgeable reviews written by someone without an agenda towards one brand or another has been nearly impossible to find.

Personally, I would much rather be in a raft with an inflatable floor, waterballast, a canopy, food and a way to collect water than in a dinghy or in the water clinging to the side my capsized catamaran completely exposed to the weather.

Besides, having a liferaft gives you one more alternative that those without a liferaft simply do not have. I believe that a big part of safety is having multiple backups.

Thanks,
David
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Old 07-04-2008, 20:04   #23
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David,

I am hesitant about talking directly and specifically about liferafts from other manufacturers. These guys are our competitors... not directly in the small boat market, but they are almost all players in our corner of the market, so I have to be careful to be professional and ethical even in an informal environment such as this. I should also add that my experience, such as it is, with liferafts other than those that we manufacture, has been doing favours for friends or friends of workmates in repairing or servicing liferafts that don't need to be formally certified, but are carried on pleasure craft... and as a designer, I don't do much of the dirty-hands stuff with glue or sewing machine.

Having said that, I will say this:

One of our senior liferaft technicians, who now runs our QC section, and who is a guy who's opinions I respect, used to work, for many years, in a large Chandlery which had the agency to service and repack most of the major brands of small liferaft: RFD, Zodiac, DBC, Roaring Forties, Viking, to name some of them. This guy was a certified service technician for all of these and conducted hundreds of services, minor repairs, etc.

He said that, in his opinion, The RFD Survivor range was the best product that he regularly serviced in terms of build quality, strength, design, durability, etc. He also said some good things about some of the Viking product. He was less complimentay about some of the other RFD products; Ferryman, for example, and was less than impressed with some of the Zodiac stuff. He also didn't like the Plastimo gear. He did comment that the better stuff was, as a general rule, the more expensive stuff.

That, above, is about as specific as I am going to get. You can make of it what you will.

For what it is worth, I have an old (1998), second hand, zodiac 8-person liferaft for my boat. If I had plenty of coin, It wouldn't be my first choice (nor second, nor third, for that matter), but the economic reality is that it is what I can currently afford, and frankly, it improves my chances of survival over no liferaft at all.

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Originally Posted by David M View Post
Weyalan,
In your opinion, who makes the best liferafts suitable for smaller commercial vessels and yachts with cost not being a factor AND with cost being a factor. Which brands would you avoid?

I would really like to hear some brands mentioned because all I am pretty much able to find in my research is company hype. Finding knowledgeable reviews written by someone without an agenda towards one brand or another has been nearly impossible to find.

Personally, I would much rather be in a raft with an inflatable floor, waterballast, a canopy, food and a way to collect water than in a dinghy or in the water clinging to the side my capsized catamaran completely exposed to the weather.

Besides, having a liferaft gives you one more alternative that those without a liferaft simply do not have. I believe that a big part of safety is having multiple backups.

Thanks,
David
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Old 08-04-2008, 21:32   #24
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Weyalan,
Thanks for your response. I appreciate hearing from someone who actually designs and builds them. The ironic thing about liferafts is that very few people have had actual experience with using one, so asking people which are the best is sort of a fruitless endeavor...unless its someone who knows the ins and outs of liferaft design.

Going by the guideline of SOLAS approved and looking at the more expensive models sounds like a pretty good way of making a decision. It sounds like in the liferaft business, you pretty much get what you pay for.

One more question. Would you say the rafts designed for commercial use on smaller workboats are better in general than the ones designed for pleasure boats?

David
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Old 09-04-2008, 06:45   #25
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Old 09-04-2008, 11:44   #26
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"I have an old (1998), second hand, zodiac 8-person liferaft for my boat."
Interesting. Since you are about to enter the year in which Zodiac says the seams wil begin to come unglued, and the raft literally will fall apart on the shelf. Do let us know if they've exaggerrated on that point?
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Old 09-04-2008, 15:23   #27
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Weyalan,

From your experience with commercial lifesaving equipment, how do you think lifeboats (Offshore Technology - Totally and partially enclosed lifeboats) compare with liferafts? I was under the impression that the fully enclosed lifeboats were supposed to be an improvement over inflatable rafts. I don't know how the Pudgy would compare to a commercial lifeboat, either.

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Old 09-04-2008, 16:30   #28
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Lifeboats are undoubtedly much better than inflatable liferafts. They are, however, hugely more expensive, and, more importantly to the operator, take up a huge amount more space. A 100 person inflatable liferaft stores in a case about 6' long by about 3' diameter. I shudder to think how much space a 100 person lifeboat would require, but I would be guessing about 40' x 18'. Deck space is always at a premium on commercial vessels - they could get another 40 seats in the space taken up by a lifeboat, and seats = income.

The thing that you should bear in mind, but in the commercial passenger ferrying industry, the operators don't necessarily want the best system, they want the cheapest system that is approved and will allow them to legally trade. Most of our customers will be interested, in decreasing order of importance, in
a) Price
b) Size
c) Weight
d) How many crew are required to operate it
e) Cost of service
f) How good it is
That probably sounds rather cynical, but that is generally how it works.
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Old 09-04-2008, 18:12   #29
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And I'll bet the ferry companies, and the airlines, could sell tickets "With or without lifeboat availability?" and folks would snap at the chance to buy the cheaper passage, without seating in the lifeboat.
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Old 10-04-2008, 22:40   #30
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Weyalan,

Cynical is just another way of saying 'realistic'. I hear what you're saying, and glad to hear my impressions were in line with an expert's. Iirc, it was the unions/professional seafarers' associations that were pushing for improvement to the liferafts, and on most cargo carriers, with around 20 souls on board, lifeboats are a practical choice, if not the most economical. I see your points regarding passenger carriers though. Translating back to the original topic - what's the consensus on the Pudgy? Is it a reasonable facsimile of a lifeboat? See from their website, that a para-anchor is available, which presumedly would keep the bow into wind and sea, therefore preventing capsize. Site says it was tested and passed with "flying colours", but I wonder if there are any independent tests to corroborate these claims. The biggest downside IMO, is the removeable canopy - it doesn't make sense to wait for an extremis situation to attach it, but it's evidently not robust enough to be left on when the pudgy's being used as a dink. That means attaching it every time you proceed on passage, and taking it off every time you come into port - certainly onerous sounding.

Kevin
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