Hi to all,
Here is my own experience with the first life raft I did own and that had its life ended after 12 years, never being used I mean.
I decided to experience it in my garden, as I read so many disappointing articles on life raft performance (in Europe), in particular about their lack of ability to keep pressure once inflated.
Mine was a Plastimo offshore 12 persons capacity, in hard container, duly serviced as per the manufacturer requirement (I am in the QA/QC activities, so I get used to stick to the rules generally).
I did pull the rope
and I was very happy to see it inflating, self opening and breaking the container straps, as it should do, then getting fully erected, making a nice color contrast between the green lawn and the bright orange of the top fabric
on the raft.
1rst good point, it worked !
2nd good point all the included goodies were there, in good shape !
I decided to see how long it would stay in such good condition, well inflated, so I went to bed
the same day.
The morning after, I don't know why I was not surprised to see the top of the raft almost fully deflated, and the body (hull?) 50% deflated as well.
I was not that surprised, as, as I said I read this happening so frequently that the surprise would have been if it had remain in the same condition than after inflation 24 hours after. It obviously did not happened.
i checked the raft, could not find any leak, only re-inflate it to 100% pressure (easy to do on land, will not be as easy at sea...) and had another 24 hours waiting period, ended the same, if not more...
I waited a full week to have it 100% deflated as is.
The conclusion was easy, although it is (was) one of the most renown brand in my country, cost me a fortune to service, not to mention its original price
, this is absolutely worthless in the middle of the ocean if you are not rescued immediately.
I am not that disappointed because I always consider this object as mandatory by the regulation and useless in term of safety, I just had the confirmation.
Based on this experience, everyone is, of course, free to make any decision on it, my is to manage my safety onboard counting not on the life raft which will eventually become the very last way-out, when everything else would have been tried...and the boat not visible anymore form the surface.
I also ensure that I have as much pumps available in the raft as possible, any kind of repair tools for them, to ensure a good pumping about 2 hours a day, for a month period at least to keep it afloat.
I read articles of such poor performance on about all the major well known brands for leisure craft in my country, so, if you know 1 (even a commercial / industrial one) that is a serious one, please let me know.
Waiting the time were I'll have a real life raft, I do not count on the one I have as I said.
Hope this will help.