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Old 13-05-2009, 14:51   #46
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Excellent (frightening!) link, Alain. Here is a link to a machine translation of the website for those of us who speak English but not French.


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Old 13-05-2009, 15:45   #47
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Originally Posted by sneuman View Post
Steve's book, btw, is fascinating. I read it about 15 years ago and seem to recall he didn't have much good to say about the raft.
From memory, the biggest issue he had with the raft was that it was completely passive, he had no way to change its course, and had to just drift with the currents and wait for a ship to pass by.

I think I recall reading that if he could have altered course by just a few degrees he could have been rescued much sooner.

So liferaft he has designed has the ability to be sailed.

Modern EPIRBS have probably changed all that now.

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Old 14-05-2009, 11:30   #48
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Different styles of sailing, different needs, different solutions

Along this thread, it is obvious that forum members have various styles of sailing: coastal, offshore, intercontinental, in various climate zones.

If a boat sinks close to shore in the Western Indies, it is possible to swim back home (just hope that the sharks don't find you).

If my 30" boat sinks in the middle of the English Channel, I should have time to send a DSC distress call on the GMDSS VHF radio (I am considering an EPIRB). Then, rescue would be only hours (a day or 2, at the most) away, a "classic" liferaft is suitable and I don't have room for anything bigger.

In the middle on an ocean, it's a completely different situation. The boat may be out of range for shore-based helicopters and away from shipping lanes. The survivors may have to wait for more than one week before being rescued, even if their distress message went through. Since the boat is probably fairly large (40 to 50"), there may be room for a RIB lifeboat to take 4 people.

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Old 14-05-2009, 12:12   #49
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The insurance company does insure you and your guests. (Medical & Liability Coverage). They don't want you relying on a liferaft that might not function, so that's why they want it fixed or removed- to encourage you to have safety equipment that works. The idea is that they don't want you to have a false sense of security. (And if they told you it was OK to go around with an expired liferaft, and you died as a result, then your family would probably sue the insurance company for giving bad advice!)
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Old 14-05-2009, 21:08   #50

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Susan, that sounds like specious logic. If the insured has no requirement to carry a life raft, and is not willing to spend $5-10,000 on a new raft, you are saying that the insurer would be better served by having NO RAFT on board, than having anything.

That's just not right, anything beats nothing.

That's why most of us carry outdated flares on board--as extras--besides carrying the required ones or something better than required. The outdated flares might be worthless, but then again, they are affordable, and if they do work (as they often do when stored properly) they are way better than nothing.

For the insurer to say "that raft is expired, as far as we are concerned it does not exist" would be perfectly logical. But to say it must be removed--when there is absolutely no legal ground for that--is foolishness. OK, I say it is removed and there is no raft at all. And then I sneak it back on board. What is accomplished? The insurer's liability doesn't change at all, but the safety level arguably may have been raised. If anything, an insurer who "required" removing safety equipment SHOULD be held liable for endangering the crew! Even optional, expired, dubious safety equipment, because it could only have helped and could not have harmed.

Someone at the insurer is smart enough to know this. Someone else either has an ulterior motive--or needs to be sent out and retrained. For the benefit of the insurer, and the policyholders alike.
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Old 14-05-2009, 23:04   #51
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In the commercial vessel world (including even the very small commercial vessels) which is regulated as to what LSA is carried, all the jurisdictions I know do not allow out of date LSA to be carried at all and it must be removed from the vessel eg liferafts, flares, etc.

Maybe the insurance company is applying the same philosophy?

Regarding liferaft failures, I know of no history of likely failures of not to inflate being identified during service here and if there were I would have heard of it and there would also have been an inquiry. However, at service rafts are manually inflated so would have to be picked up from inspection rather than test using the inflation bottle. But we don't have any fly by night type service centres here and the majority of services are for commercial vessel rafts which are always in date here (well almost always).

Re the reference earlier to 20 rafts and 1/3 not inflating and 1/3 not staying inflated, I assume that all 20 cruisers decided that they were happy to pay the cost of recharging the inflation bottle and replacing the arming mechanism. I would want to see reliable evidence of the event myself before accepting it as so, but I readily concede that looking at the poor condition of some of the rafts that are on cruising vessels that come down here I would not be totally surprised. The few real life failures I have known of have been failures of autorelease rafts in the case of capsize of the distressed vessel and the raft getting fouled when released - that on powered vessels so I myself would be very wary of carrying an auto release raft on a sail boat where the risk of fouling is much greater.

In the NZ search and Rescue area, which is one of the largest in the world and also includes a lot of isolated seas, the vast majority of EPIRB alert initiated rescues are made by ship from the distressed boat itself ie the boat either has not had time to sink/break up or the crew has given up under duress (one just has to calculate how far a merchant ship can go in a day to find that there doesn't have to be a high density of them for one to arrive within a day) so the raft is not needed. Rapid sinkings away from land seem to be very rare and apart from catastrophic break up of the vessel in heavy conditions (and I know of monos and multis that have suffered that fate here with the crew not surviving as conditions are too severe to survive in a raft or on/in the hull) fire may be the next cause of rapid loss of the vessel - but I do not recall EPIRB initiated blue water alerts from pleasure vessels in this region where the crew has been rescued or lost for that reason which would infer possibly not many without EPIRBs have been lost either. I have personal friends though who had an electrical fire on board while blue water but controlled it themselves - no doubt there are a number such which are never reported.

NZ requires an inspection of all NZ flagged boats departing on a foreign voyage before they can be cleared for departure, this roughly to the ISAF Offshore Special Regulations Category 1. While I am of two minds about that being enforced, it ends up that very few NZ boats seem to get into trouble in the temperate waters part of the run up to the tropic South Pacific or crossing the Tasman whereas quite a number of other nationality sail boats do. I would feel that concern about the general abilities of the vessel and crew are much more important things to worry about than sinking or breaking up.
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Old 15-05-2009, 10:53   #52

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"In the commercial vessel world ...
Maybe the insurance company is applying the same philosophy?"

"When in Rome, do as the Hurubi do" ? Doesn't work for me. If the insurer can't grasp the difference between commerical and recreational vessels--I wouldn't want to be insured by them.

Sadly, at least one certified and authorized liferaft repack facility has been closed for fraud in the US. And repack facilities regularly condemn life rafts for failing to test properly during repacks. It would not be unreasonable to consider that if some percent (5? 15?) of life rafts fail to inflate during repacks, that a similar percent, which have not been tested in the same way but have been deployed at sea, would fail at the same percentage rate--and those failures would be at sea.
The only real question is what is the real failure rate, and is anyone tracking it. And, if Zodiac-US is correct that glued rafts fail so often as to be dangerously unreliable after ten anyone still gluing up rafts?

I think the whole recreational life raft industry needs a paradigm shift. Much the same way that commercial life boats were obsoleted by the development of life "capsules" that are totally sealed, can roll without swamping, and deploy from stern slides instead of needing davits.

If we can tin meat, fish, and veggies with a 5-10 year shelf life, we should certainly not be wasting time and effort (and causing damage form repacks!) with life saving equipment.
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Old 10-06-2009, 06:20   #53
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Met Steve Callahan,
He was not a fan of the traditional life raft, he said he'd use something more like a life boat that could be sailed. He also was very interested in flotation systems, something that could keep you with the boat. Neat guy.

My last Gulf crossing was a little tough and I wondered if this was the trip that would end badly (long story) anyways when we finally got to land the owners had their life raft checked and it didn't work. Frankly, I wasn't surprised cause everything went wrong on that trip.

I haven't read the whole thread so sorry if this has been said before.
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Old 10-06-2009, 18:17   #54
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There seems to be something of an impression in this thread that any Tom, Dick or Harriet can go design and build a liferaft and then start selling it. This, I assure you, is not the case.

Liferafts are designed in accordance with an internationally accepted code
Liferafts also subject to stringent and detailed testing.

The Code covering design of liferafts is called the International Life-Saving Appliances Code, being IMO Resolution MSC.48(66).
The testing program is called Testing and Evaluation of Life-Saving Appliances, being IMO Resolution MSC.81(70).

Not only do you have to design and test to the above rules, but you have to have your design audited by, and your prototype testing witnessed by, an authority that is approved to certify adherence to the above rules and regulations. Such authorities include USCG, CE, Transport Canada, etc. In some cases the tests can be witnessed on behalf of these organsations by approved surveyors from Det Norske Veritas, or Germanischer Lloyd, etc.

So, please do not believe, for a second, that there are a whole lot of shonky backyard designers and manufacturers of liferafts out there creating, on a whim, inflatable deathtraps, because it just ain't so. Of course, like any industry, there are problems, grey areas and dodgy things occur... that is the nature of the world and no industry is free from it. I could cite specific cases that would make your hair curl (and, if I named names, would probably put me in court), but that is not the point. The point is that the design and manufacture of liferafts is far more regulated than many people here seem to give credit.

FWIW, I would be very interested to know, with reference to some of the (anecdotal) statistics being throw around here (1/3 liferafts don't inflate, 1/3 inflate then deflate immediately), (a) the source of this data, and, more imprtantly (b) what percentage of those liferafts were in survey at the time.
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Old 10-06-2009, 18:36   #55
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Just to add to weyalan,

What I didn't add to my liferaft story, which I will now, is that the raft on the boat I delivered was overdue for survey by three years. I didn't check before leaving port because I assumed the captain was on top of it (poor judgment on my behalf).
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Old 10-06-2009, 19:03   #56

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Weyalan, would life rafts be somewhat akin to aircraft? That is, every one that has catastrophically failed while in normal service, was carefully designed, extensively tested, inspected, maintained, and certified to incredibly carefully prepared national and international safety standards?

After all, the Titanic met all international safety standards when she was built. Met and exceeded them. And we all know how the standards changed afterwards to reflect their inadequecies.

Or am I being unfair to say that life rafts still need a paradigm shift because they just aren't good enough?
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Old 10-06-2009, 21:51   #57
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I believe the way it works unfortunately is that lives have to be lost. Often in commercial shipping disasters where the CoastGuard performs a formal investigation or with yachting the Fastnet or Sidney-Hobart races.

But are we asking for our ventures to be failsafe? I don't think that's going to happen. There are inherent dangers that we are talking about minimizing.
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Old 11-06-2009, 07:30   #58

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Nothing is failsafe, but one might expect a life raft to be held to the same standards as a parachute: Either it works, or it isn't worth buying at all. Maybe recreational life rafts should simply not be sealed, so they can be repacked and checked from time to time, without major expense and inconvenience.
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Old 11-06-2009, 08:36   #59
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Originally Posted by Hiracer View Post
"First, liferafts, like much of the available 'safety equipment', especially the single purpose 'sealed magic boxes' do not work very well. In NZ about 20 cruising boats got together to get their rafts repacked. Before repacking they all pulled their inflation cords and about 1/3 did not inflate, 1/3 inflated but promptly deflated and only 1/3 inflated and stayed inflated (this after the rafts were on average only two years at sea)."


Was there any publication of this event and/or government investigation?
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Old 11-06-2009, 08:43   #60
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My liferaft flips upside down with a 60ft. keel attatched to it & 1k sq.ft. of living space. Most likely there will be at least 30 gl of fresh water still accessible. A pantry that is usually stocked with fresh, canned, and dried foods. I am also sure there would be a wee bit of liquor accessible if my brother wasn't on the boat before the flipover. What more could a sailor ask for?........i2f

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