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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 09-07-2009
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Liferaft Question

I am looking to buy a 4 person offshore liferaft. There is quite a difference in price between brands. Hopefully never to be used, but if it will, it better do it's job.
Any input regarding differrent brands etc. would be greatly appreciated.
Bernd
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Old 09-07-2009
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I bought a Viking Offshore. I liked the features, it seemed to have enough room and be strong. It was priced better than the competition. I got a good deal at the boatshow.
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Old 09-07-2009
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I second the Viking.
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Old 09-07-2009
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I bought the Givens Bouy back in 1976, I just looked at the current prices and had a bit of sticker shock. They were expensive back then but WOW the prices today. Still the big convincer for me was the insulated floor. I had worked on The TAPS project and had spent a couple of winters in Alaska. To me a huge problem is hypothermia so it was the insulated floor which sold me. At that time tht was a feature that Givens had and many/most did not. I also bought the 6 person model as I don't know how 4 people are supposed to survive in the small space of the four (any of the models designed for 4) especially if one is hurt and needs to be horizontal. Also I want to be able to save as much food water etc as possible and stuff takes space.

When it comes to servicing a liferaft check with your local major airport. All the rafts on international flights have to be serviced regularly and by dealing directly with the guys who do that servicing you can remove the middle man...that's the guy at the boat shop (that's where he will take your raft).

While in Hawaii I made friends with a guy who worked for such a facility. He shared with me some tricks to servicing life rafts and walked me thru doing it myself. I have repacked mine three times at quite a savings (needs it again). Since the raft is mine and I am the one who will suffer or benefit from customizing my raft I changed out alot of the included "provisions" and updated to a water maker (rather than a fixed number of cans of water) and included a deck of cards (plasticized) with cribbage board. All in all the hardest part about repacking one's own raft is getting it back into the canister (the same configuration of folds etc. as it came out).

There are a couple of tricks to servicing a raft: Don't pull the cord to inflate, this freezes the material near the connection of the cylinder to fabric and one risks cracking (it only has to survive one fast inflation). And so inflate using the hand/foot pump to your inflatable boat. And take photos for each and every step (back when I first did mine I actually used a whole roll of film). The usual time left inflated with no loss of shape etc. is something like 24 hours. When ready to deflate, again use the hand pump but instead of inflation use it to deflate (extract the air) from the raft And as you do recreate the same folds as the raft was packed originally. Other than that it's a piece of cake, the cylinder has a gram weight and so simply weigh the whole and if it's off by much take it to a testing facility where they will test and refill the cylinder to the marked weight. Some may want to do this part anyway as a check that the valve on the cylinder works, I did mine the first time.

This is more info than you wanted but I included it because I would have no problem going with a "second hand" raft, provided I could service and inspect it prior to purchace.
Hope this helps.
Wiley
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Old 09-17-2009
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If I had the budget for a real life raft I'd buy the Portland Pudgy. It sounds a lot more durable, seaworthy, and navigable than those round inflatable things.

After reading "adrift" by Steven Callahan I don't think I'd consider buying one of those typical round safety rafts. The fact that they're easy to pop, and can't make significant headway towards safety really lowers your chances of surviving or being comfortable before rescue.
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Old 09-17-2009
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From everything I've heard and read, nothing compares with the Givens...


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Old 09-19-2009
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Holy cow!!! great system and any one to use a C130 to test the thing...
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Old 09-19-2009
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The Givens looks very stable and looks like it would have a really low drift rate. Great if people come looking for you, but bad if you need to survive, navigate, and make landfall on your own.
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Old 09-19-2009
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I also bought a Viking Rescue Pro 4 person. The price was attractive, but another point that influenced me was that it's the only raft that is self righting upon deployment. Also being vacumn packed inside the canister increases the servicing requirement to 3 years.
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Old 09-19-2009
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Bottleinamessage, This is not to get on your case, so please don't take it that way. I did a small amount of research to see what the Viking people had to say about their rafts and they made no mention that I could find of vacuum packing. So I guess my first question: is vacuum packing more like ground coffee in a can or more like vacuum sealing, like coffee beans in a bag? One would think it would be like beans in a bag if it were a soft valise.

Here's the link to their brochure:
RescYouâ„¢ liferafts

However, I do not understand the value in having a liferaft vacuum packed. Here are my issues/questions:

1) Coated fabrics tend to pin hole when folded then folded again. Such folds put alot of stress on the coating and fabric on the outside of the final fold. The idea of compressing that fold even harder as is the case of vacuum packing would perhaps tend to exacerbate the problem of pin holing.

2) Because of the harder compression the plasticized material would perhaps be more prone to sticking/welding/glueing together. And should one need to do the rapid inflate (pop the raft) where the fabric is near frozen in the areas near the valve (due to expansion of CO2) would this cause more possibility of these stuck together coatings separating from the fabric?

3) And in conjunction with the above, the relative flexibility of many coatings is due to plasticizers in the plastic. As they evaporate out coatings get brittle. Usually lower atmospheric pressures cause lower evaporative temperatures (for instance, water boils at a lower temp at altitude etc.) So does placing the plasticized fabric under a vacuum cause the plasticizers to more rapidly come out of the coating? Perhaps gluing the layers together? Or do the coatings tend to dry out and become more brittle sooner?

These are just some questions that popped into my head when you mentioned vacuum packed liferafts. Personally I think carefully packed in a dry nitrogen atmosphere might be better than vacuum packed.

Bests,
Wiley
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