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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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
PSC 31
 

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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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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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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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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:
RescYou™ 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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I also bought a viking rescyou 4 man offshore in a valise for my pacific crossing last year. All I can say is that it sat in the pilot berth doing nothing very nicely!
BTW if you want to buy it let me know (Ideas on how to get it from perth to the states would also be apprieciated)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for all the input! The Givens seems to be top of the line (and the only USCG approved liferaft), but twice as much $$ as the Viking Rescyou Pro. :( My wife said to just buy an inflatable mattress and using the saved cash to increase my life insurance policy. That's another way of looking at it..:laugher I think I will opt for the Viking, for financial reasons, and hopefully will not be floating in the Atlantic, cursing my frugality.
Bernd
PSC 31, Asylum
 

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Thanks for all the input! The Givens seems to be top of the line (and the only USCG approved liferaft), but twice as much $$ as the Viking Rescyou Pro. :( My wife said to just buy an inflatable mattress and using the saved cash to increase my life insurance policy. That's another way of looking at it..:laugher I think I will opt for the Viking, for financial reasons, and hopefully will not be floating in the Atlantic, cursing my frugality.
Bernd
PSC 31, Asylum
HAHAHAH!

Funny. That was a good one with the inflateable mattress.

I bought a 6 person Switlik. Darned expensive. Remember that a 4 person, unless you are really coastal, typically will not keep 4 people. You really need to up to 6.

Also, why get a cheap life raft which would have questionable results? The exception would be if you were just coastal. I figure for most of us, the odds are that you will simply hit a shipping container or whale or lose a T-hull adn sink. Not many of us do anything really hard offshore, and when we do, we pick our weather windows very closely. SO I guess I could see the point of a 'cheap' liferaft, but if that is the case, why not just your inflateable?

I have been offshore in storms. In one in particular, where we thought another buddy boat had a 22 yo woman break a rib, I will tell you that your liferaft better be REALLY stable. That video of Givens where one of them was flipping over would probably have been more dangerous to be in then not using one at all - especialyl when the seas are square and breaking.

So, on the subject of what to get, if you are going to be doing anything that would prevent you from really choosing your weather window, choose your liferaft by ability and not cost. Otherwise, what's the point? If you are simply coastal and can choose a weather window, I guess anything with an orange top and a 6 pack of beer will do.

My opinions.

- CD

PS Please note that you can rent liferafts for crossings. That may be cheaper unless you plan to use it all the time. Also, many of the liferafts now have pushed their maintenance to 3 years, not 12 months (like mine was). THe cost of poppng and re-packing that thing is considerable. I believe Switlik wanted $600-800 dollars. And, like I said, it was annual. Another comment is that depending on where you put that thing, it is a bad observatioal hazard.

 

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From everything I've heard and read, nothing compares with the Givens...

Hey T37. I googled Givens Liferafts, and came up with this from a different board. Maybe wroth thinking about?

I posted here about my problems with Givens Life Rafts in the Jan - Feb 2008 time frame.
We bought their BEST raft. 6 Man Deluxe for off shore. It should have been their best effort and maybe it was. It arrived at the end of May 2004. $5,000 plus shipping as I recall. Please understand, I have been ill for the last few years. I just detoxed off morphine due to severe Respiratory problems. My memory is not back yet, so I use terms like approximate or about for dates.

When we took our Givens Deluxe Raft to Sal's in Alameda, he unpacked it with my wife and I watching. Here is the email I sent to Lori and her reply on Feb 20, 2008:

Lori Perrino wrote:
Please provide your telephone # so someone can call you regarding this emai. Thank You.
On Feb 14, 2008, at 11:08 PM, Dllfo wrote:
>
Hi Lori,
Dave ____ here. We received our Givens 6-man Deluxe Off Shore raft at the very end of May 2004. It is serial number 3398. We were headed up the coast on June 1, 2004. I became ill later in the year and we never used the the raft -- which, actually is always good. As people say, a life raft is sort of like life insurance, good to have, but you really don't want to use it. Anyway, we stored it in our house since 2004, waiting until I was healthy enough to need it.
>>
>> We took it for a re-pack and found some things we don't understand. For example, the bottle that inflates the raft was made in 5 of 2000, which is stamped on it, and we received it in late May of 2004. We received it within the 5 year hydrostat laws, but expected NEW materials when we bought your Deluxe raft. The two oars look used. I have photos if you want to see them. The fishing packet was dated 1988 and was open. Again, I took a photo of it so you can see what I am talking about if you wish. Also, on the PRV valves, there is supposed to be a PRV plug, but there weren't any plugs included. We were told the sea anchor is supposed to deploy when we activate the inflation of the raft, but the sea anchor was pushed up inside the interior and would have to be manually "tossed out". Again, I took lots of photos if you have any questions.
>>
Instead of needing a Hydrostat next year, 5 years after we bought your new, Deluxe raft, we find it expired before the end of the first year we got it. And the valve used on the CO2 cylinder back then cannot be used anymore. It is a Sparklee. I think the new one is called SEI. I am hoping you will replace the old items with 2004 items for us.

Thank You,

Dave

Lori offered to send a new one. Frank apparently overrode that decision. They promised to send the parts, apologized for the crap they stuck us with, made excuses, etc. They only set the valve. I am stuck with a bill for $861 for a hydro on the tank, etc. Sal was kind enough to replace quite a few things from his stock.

GIVENS CANNOT BE TRUSTED BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE. THEY PROMISE YOU PARTS, THEY APPEAR TO BE APPALLED AND CLAIM THEY WANT TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT, THEN THEY CONVENIENTLY FORGET TO SUPPORT THEIR EQUIPMENT. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. YOU ARE WELCOME TO BUY THEIR LIFE RAFTS, BUT WILL YOU FIND AN OPEN FISHING KIT FROM 1988 IN IT? WILL YOUR OARS BE SO OLD THEY MAY OR MAY NOT WORK?

Please, if you have loved ones with you, find the local "repack" shop and talk to them.
Switlik SAR is supposed to be extremely well built (more than one person told me this would be their first choice if they had to use one), but most of the people I have spoken to said most of the rafts built today, including Givens are ok. They inflate, they float,
but what they pack inside can make a huge difference.

I WANT TO FILE COMPLAINTS AGAINST GIVENS. DO ANY OF YOU KNOW WHO I SHOULD FILE THIS COMPLAINT WITH? SF USCG did not want to hear about it. Not their area. NOAA? If you do not want to post it here, please PM me or email me with suggestions. After watching Air Force survival films and going through water survival, etc. I know I could never, ever recommend Givens Life Rafts. IF you have one from the factory and it has not been repacked by adults, you may be kidding yourself as to whether you will survive with it. I hope my raft was an aberration, but with the lies from Lori and Frank, I have zero faith in any product coming from them. Little or no support is what Givens is about.
 

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...Also, why get a cheap life raft which would have questionable results? ...
So you can take the money that you saved and do the things on the boat that may actually prevent you from ever having to use the liferaft. Thorough preparations of the crew, quality and adequate fire fighting gear, de-watering systems and plan, epirb and communications.....
Since the liferaft is the last item to be used, the money is probably better spent on ensuring the items used before all do their job. Then if you have an extra 3 grand left over, buy a 5 grand liferaft instead of a 2 grand liferaft.

Paul L
 

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So you can take the money that you saved and do the things on the boat that may actually prevent you from ever having to use the liferaft. Thorough preparations of the crew, quality and adequate fire fighting gear, de-watering systems and plan, epirb and communications.....
Since the liferaft is the last item to be used, the money is probably better spent on ensuring the items used before all do their job. Then if you have an extra 3 grand left over, buy a 5 grand liferaft instead of a 2 grand liferaft.

Paul L
I agree Paul. Good thoughts. But, things can happen. Whales, shipping conatiners, a failed Thull, collision, etc. Unlikely, but possible.

I have kids so I have a higher level of responsibility then many of you others do. That said, we hated that liferaft and thought it was a major PITA. And, unfortunately, I will have to get another one and hate it still. God forbid I am ever glad I bought it.

- CD
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
CD, I also came across the same thread on the Givens, and some other comments on their lack of responsiveness to customers.. But as we all know, online complaints are easily raised and their validity is hard to assess. Who knows...??
I wouldn't consider the Viking a cheap alternative, as it is pretty much in line with other rafts( the Switlik is just a little more), but considerably cheaper than the Givens (most of them are). It is also the only other self-righting liferaft ( correct me if i am wrong!?). The comment on the 4 person raft is a valid point, and I am opting for a 6 person raft ( to have enough room for the beer ;) ). The obstructional hazard the canister poses is real, but how practical is a 90 lb valise stored below?
Bernd
 

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Since it's your life playing here, you tend to go for the best feature, more rugged construction, best in class, etc ... In my perspective, although I don't wanna threat my life with junk solutions, I believe Callahan situation will not repeat easily, considering Epirb, VHF, Iridium technology of these days. I use a "fair" Plastimo offshore, plus added handheld watermaker, portable VHF, Epirb and a Pelican case with Iridium setup. I feel myself confident it will work at almos 99% of rough conditions. PS another IMPORTANT point, I just red Heavy Weather Sailing book, by Peter Bruce, and learned to never, ever install a liferaft on deck. If your boat doesn't have a specific location to install it, I prefer a valise model, and install it on a well protected cockpit locker.
 

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CD, I also came across the same thread on the Givens, and some other comments on their lack of responsiveness to customers.. But as we all know, online complaints are easily raised and their validity is hard to assess. Who knows...??
I wouldn't consider the Viking a cheap alternative, as it is pretty much in line with other rafts( the Switlik is just a little more), but considerably cheaper than the Givens (most of them are). It is also the only other self-righting liferaft ( correct me if i am wrong!?). The comment on the 4 person raft is a valid point, and I am opting for a 6 person raft ( to have enough room for the beer ;) ). The obstructional hazard the canister poses is real, but how practical is a 90 lb valise stored below?
Bernd
A 90lb valise is practical. If your boat is sinking, even my 120lb wife would get that thing up the steps! I also like that because it cannot be washed off the boat AND (and read this carefully) it cannot be stolen. You better thak that into consideration, depending on where you are cruising. Those things, even the cheap ones, are many thousands.

The negative of it being down below, and the only one I can think of, is that if your boat were to suddenly sink, it would be worthless. However, the only way I cna think of a boat sinking that quickly is a very, very large wave breaking on her, or being struck by a large ship. If it were the large, breaking wave, surely you had enough sense ahead of time to get your ditch bag and stuff ready to go and the valise is in a quick to deploy location. The types of storms that produce those waves do not exactly sneak up on you. As for a collision, you might wonder that if it were strong enough to snap your boat in two, whether you would survive it anyways. I don't know.

I will proabably go with the canister again. I do this because I have kids and I will have other things that will occupy my time in order to abandon ship. My boat is also a larger boat than before (and I believe larger than yours) which allows for more room and for it to be out of the way. I also have twin steering, so I am off to one side typically. Again, my circumstances are different than yours and most peoples.

I would not buy one without a 36 month repack interval - no matter what.

These are just my opinions. You need to do what gives you peace of mind. The ultimate responsibility for crew and vessel safety lies with you. I honestly hope it is the most money you ever wasted.

- CD
 

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What's the lifespan on these anyway? I can't imagine that they last forever, even repacked per requirements.
 
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