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Old 27-03-2012, 17:01   #31
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

I have been replacing rafts for about 30 years. Winslow is one brand that I a certified to service. Answering some of the questions raised:

All rafts don't pack the same way. Part of the folding is to obtain right side up inflation (you also want to ensure nothing fouls).

The Mirada 3000 valve has o-rings that need to be replaced every 6 years (remember the space shuttle's o-ring problem). This is one of the more critical items and failure of an o-ring means you don't have a life raft. Filling this valve takes a special adapter that fire extinguisher companies will not have.

When I first started servicing rafts I used a fire extinguisher company to refill my cylinders. I very quickly learned they could not keep within the tolerances required. The pressure relief valves can only handle so much excess gas. By the way this raft uses a blend of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, straight CO2 will freeze in the inflation system.

Good luck and think twice.
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Old 27-03-2012, 18:04   #32
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

"The Mirada 3000 valve has o-rings that need to be replaced every 6 years (remember the space shuttle's o-ring problem)."

The space shuttle's problem was actually not from the age of the o-rings, but because they were not intended to be used in such cold conditions. Not at all, not even once.

So, are the Miranda o-rings....what? A cheaper elastomer that breaks down in 6 years? Or under such extreme stress that they can't last longer?

I'm used to routine maintenance and pm replacement of o-rings in some applications but the manufacturers of that equipment state it right up front. And the o-rings are cheaply and easily replaced.

Is the Miranda typical, or special? Are life raft o-rings in general frail? Highly stressed while not in use?

Customers might respect the issues more, if we were told what the issues were. or even that they existed. It is all too rare that someone will speak up on these issues.
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Old 27-03-2012, 20:39   #33
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

Quote:
Originally Posted by liferaft View Post
I have been replacing rafts for about 30 years. Winslow is one brand that I a certified to service. Answering some of the questions raised:

All rafts don't pack the same way. Part of the folding is to obtain right side up inflation (you also want to ensure nothing fouls).

The Mirada 3000 valve has o-rings that need to be replaced every 6 years (remember the space shuttle's o-ring problem). This is one of the more critical items and failure of an o-ring means you don't have a life raft. Filling this valve takes a special adapter that fire extinguisher companies will not have.

When I first started servicing rafts I used a fire extinguisher company to refill my cylinders. I very quickly learned they could not keep within the tolerances required. The pressure relief valves can only handle so much excess gas. By the way this raft uses a blend of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, straight CO2 will freeze in the inflation system.

Good luck and think twice.
Hi Rollie and thanks for chiming in. Nice to hear from someone that has "been there and done that" with repacking.

If I read your comments correctly the o-rings in the CO2 system need to be replaced but the special adapter required is only for filling the gas. So the o-rings could be replaced using normal tools and techniques? Do they require any special grade o-rings like Viton or Teflon or is plain buna rubber ok?

What is the +/- psi you need to hit filling the CO2 cylinder? I filled a lot of SCUBA tanks including mixing trimix for critical dives and think I could get close to the spec unless it is something really tight like +/- 5 psi.

Regards
Skip
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Old 27-03-2012, 20:54   #34
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

I spent about $500 servicing my Avon life raft last summer before my big summer cruise. I thought it was a good value. The labor was only about $150, and there were skills involved (I watched) which I know I couldn't replicate myself, including hydrotesting the cylinder, regassing it, and replacing the firing head. The rest of the cost was replacing emergency items. Some of these were probably subject to an excessive markup, but I was allowed to choose what to replace and what not. I did not replace the flares as I have a fresh, in-date, complete RORC set of flares on board in my grab bag.

Your life raft is something you pray to God you never have to use, but IF you do ever need to use it, you want to be as sure as you can that it works. $500 every three years doesn't seem to me to be such a bad deal.
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Old 27-03-2012, 21:06   #35
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

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Some of these were probably subject to an excessive markup, but I was allowed to choose what to replace and what not.
I spoke with 2 companies in Florida and was refused that option. A full repack and re-certification or nothing. The claim is they are required by someone (USCG, life raft manufacturer, the company CFO, ???) to replace all the little cans and batteries and food packs in the raft at a significant cost, all stuff that I put in my ditch bag.
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Old 27-03-2012, 21:27   #36
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

Quote:
Originally Posted by liferaft View Post
I have been replacing rafts for about 30 years. Winslow is one brand that I a certified to service. Answering some of the questions raised:
Hi Rolle -
I have a Winslow 6 man superlite offshore raft in a hard pelican case. I believe it was purchased new in 2002 and never re-certified. What would you charge to inspect and re-certify it? If you are more comfortable quoting the job offline, feel free to PM me or email me through my profile.
Thanks!
-M
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Old 28-03-2012, 07:59   #37
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

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Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
Hi Rollie and thanks for chiming in. Nice to hear from someone that has "been there and done that" with repacking.

If I read your comments correctly the o-rings in the CO2 system need to be replaced but the special adapter required is only for filling the gas. So the o-rings could be replaced using normal tools and techniques? Do they require any special grade o-rings like Viton or Teflon or is plain buna rubber ok?

What is the +/- psi you need to hit filling the CO2 cylinder? I filled a lot of SCUBA tanks including mixing trimix for critical dives and think I could get close to the spec unless it is something really tight like +/- 5 psi.

Regards
Skip
I am not sure what the o-rings are since I purchase them from Winslow. They take some special tools to install and needless to say the cylinder needs to be empty.

Life raft cylinders are filled by weight, not pressure and you need to be within a few grams of both the CO2 and N2 charges.
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Old 28-03-2012, 08:07   #38
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

I still don't get why Winslow recert quotes are routinely 2x-3x the cost of other rafts. Does anyone know?
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Old 28-03-2012, 08:14   #39
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Rollie.

Thanks for sharing your professional expertise.
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Old 28-03-2012, 08:19   #40
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

Special tooling that is only used on this brand of raft is part of the issue. Businesses need to recoup the cost of tools and training.

Expensive parts, especially the inflation valve which needs to be replaced every six years. Other manufacturers allow us to rebuild their valves.

Recertification fee which some manufacturers do not charge.

Labor to pack the rafts. Winslow rafts take at least twice as long to pack into their container/valise than other brands. This is due to the extremly tight fit (small size) demanded by their customers (at least some of their customers).

Hope this helps.
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Old 28-03-2012, 09:03   #41
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

Quote:
Originally Posted by liferaft View Post
Special tooling that is only used on this brand of raft is part of the issue. Businesses need to recoup the cost of tools and training.

Expensive parts, especially the inflation valve which needs to be replaced every six years. Other manufacturers allow us to rebuild their valves.

Recertification fee which some manufacturers do not charge.

Labor to pack the rafts. Winslow rafts take at least twice as long to pack into their container/valise than other brands. This is due to the extremly tight fit (small size) demanded by their customers (at least some of their customers).

Hope this helps.
Thanks Rolle -

That is more info than I was able to obtain from the Winslow reps themselves -- so I definitely appreciate it.

That said, I think they ought to be required to disclose these future costs at the time of sale. I would never buy a Winslow raft if I knew the additional ongoing costs that would impose.

It is a shame because it is a good raft and the raft I have, but I can buy a used offshore raft with current certification for the price of recertifying the Winslow (and have 50-65% lower costs going forward).

It is a hard choice for me between keeping this uncertified raft on the boat and counting on it to be at least minimally functional if needed or trading down to a current model from another manufacturer or (as discussed above) taking on the maintenance (if not the recert) myself.

I will be interested to see the discussion of self maintenance (or non authorized maintenance centers for Winslows) play out fiurther.

Thanks again Rolle (you understand I am grateful for your contribution here and none of the above discussion of winslow is directed at you).

-M
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Old 28-03-2012, 11:01   #42
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

Quote:
Originally Posted by liferaft View Post
I have been replacing rafts for about 30 years. Winslow is one brand that I a certified to service. Answering some of the questions raised:

All rafts don't pack the same way. Part of the folding is to obtain right side up inflation (you also want to ensure nothing fouls).

The Mirada 3000 valve has o-rings that need to be replaced every 6 years (remember the space shuttle's o-ring problem). This is one of the more critical items and failure of an o-ring means you don't have a life raft. Filling this valve takes a special adapter that fire extinguisher companies will not have.

When I first started servicing rafts I used a fire extinguisher company to refill my cylinders. I very quickly learned they could not keep within the tolerances required. The pressure relief valves can only handle so much excess gas. By the way this raft uses a blend of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, straight CO2 will freeze in the inflation system.

Good luck and think twice.

Thanks much for the reply and I hope you will be generous enough to answer questions in the future.

Thanks for clarifying the valve info. It does not say "Miranda" anywhere that I could find, but that is definitely the valve that I have. See Mirada Research and Manufacturing, Inc. - Manufacturer Of High Pressure Inflation Valves And Supporting Components.

Got the tank back. Disassembled the valve to get familiar with it. Also had an adaptor made up to fit another existing tank. The intended fill on the original tank was 97% CO2 and 3% Nitrogen.

I have new o-rings for the valve.

The original tank was discharged before shipping to make shipping easier to deal with. So, the burst disk used as part of the firing mechanism is punctured. There is some very minor surface corrosion on some of the firing mechanism parts. This appears to be due to the fact that the seal where the trip-wire enters the head is not so effective -- just a small rubber "cup".

Re filling. There are two ports on the sides of the lower half of the valve. One contains what I assume is an over-pressure burst disk. The other, I assume is the port through which the tank should be filled. Is this correct?
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Old 28-03-2012, 11:14   #43
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

belize-
I got control over the routine corrosion if burst disks in scuba regulators years ago, by simply coating and packing with silicone grease. (Or whatever is compatible with any o-rings, etc. in the vicinty, I use Krytox now.)

Same thing on my PFD, I know the puncture needle will not corrode as it is liberally greased. Again, with grease that won't affect anything else or migrate.
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Old 28-03-2012, 11:22   #44
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

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Originally Posted by Mambo View Post
Thanks Rolle -

That is more info than I was able to obtain from the Winslow reps themselves -- so I definitely appreciate it.

That said, I think they ought to be required to disclose these future costs at the time of sale. I would never buy a Winslow raft if I knew the additional ongoing costs that would impose.

It is a shame because it is a good raft and the raft I have, but I can buy a used offshore raft with current certification for the price of recertifying the Winslow (and have 50-65% lower costs going forward).

It is a hard choice for me between keeping this uncertified raft on the boat and counting on it to be at least minimally functional if needed or trading down to a current model from another manufacturer or (as discussed above) taking on the maintenance (if not the recert) myself.

I will be interested to see the discussion of self maintenance (or non authorized maintenance centers for Winslows) play out fiurther.

Thanks again Rolle (you understand I am grateful for your contribution here and none of the above discussion of winslow is directed at you).

-M
We have discussed this before, and it seems that life rafts are much more expensive in the US than they are in Europe. I am guessing that that might be the cost of liability insurance . . .

If you want a top quality raft which does not cost an arm and a leg to service, try an Avon. They are really beautifully made -- I got to play with mine while it was inflated during recert last summer.

Another approach is to buy a super cheap one from Seago -- which are highly rated in tests. Instead of recertifying it, just sell in on FleaBay and buy a new one. They cost less than $1000, and as I said, they are top performers in tests. The guy who repacked my Avon told me that he refuses to work on the Seagos -- they are not made to last. But since they cost less than what some rafts cost for the large (6 year) recert, it seems to me nothing wrong with this approach -- they are essentially disposable.
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Old 28-03-2012, 12:04   #45
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Re: Life Raft Self-Service

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I am not sure what the o-rings are since I purchase them from Winslow. They take some special tools to install and needless to say the cylinder needs to be empty.
Curious about the "special tools". I have dissembled the firing valve and so far have not found any thing that _appears_ to require special tools. Can you share some specifics?
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