Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Jacksonville, Fl
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We have an 8 man AVON on Island Breeze.
Some things to consider, we just recently found out: older models, like ours, are supposed to be checked each year. I've personally watched the procedure, and here is what happens: The unit is unpacked and visually inspected while laying on the floor. The CO2 bottle is removed, emptied and tested the same way they check dive tanks. Meanwhile, all of the survival gear is removed from the raft. There is precious little in them, by the way.
Once everything is out of the raft, it's hooked up to a standard air compressor and filled. The rig at the shop left a pressure gauge hooked up when the air line was disconnected.
The raft is left inflated and the pressure checked, in this case, on three consecutive days. We were lucky, the old Avon did fine, not even a pinhole.
With that test completed, the survival packet is replaced, new batteries are installed in the light(s) and the whole thing is repacked.
The cost? A skosh over $1000 bucks, and we provided some of the stuff we wanted packed in the onboard survival kit. These included a 4 AA cell dive light and some space blankets. I also took a hard look at the fishing kit, first aid kit, etc, and added a few little items. The key word is 'little' There is just no room inside the cannister to add things. I really would have liked to put in a very small EPIRB, but there simply isn't room.
One last note on this: If you're chartering your boat or using it in any kind of commercial endeavor, you can not add, change, or modify what is inside that life raft's survival kit. Period. You can't even change out alkaline batteries for lithium batteries, which have a better endurance and shelf life. Keep that in mind.
Now, then. Here's the interesting part. The new lift rafts are packaged in a large, thick walled vacuum bag, and only have to be inspected every three years. So, over a period of three years, with an Avon like ours, you'll plan on spending 3 grand having it inspected yearly. The new life rafts are about 3 grand, but they don't have to be inspected as often, and according to the shop, are basically a disposable item. Most shops don't have the equipment necessary to bag and vaccum the raft after inspection, regardless of what they say. My guess is that if the unit was properly bagged by the factory to begin with, you could safely use it for five or maybe even ten years if it was in a hard case, kept inside when the boat wasn't underway, etc.
I am not advocating this, I just mention it in passing.
S/V Island Breeze