Saturday, 25 July 2015

Would you trust your life to a 30 year old life raft?

July 24 2015

When we bought ‘Our Dreamtime’ she came complete with an Avon four man life raft. The bad news was it was 1980s vintage and had not been serviced since 2002. Our surveyor had one look and said  You’ll have to throw that away.”

However it did have a comprehensive list of contents of what was inside stuck on the canister. This included a small hand desalinator which the boat’s sellers urged us to retrieve if we were going to dump the raft.

We are the type of people who hate the modern throwaway society we live in and always rather repair or renew something if possible than simply discard it. So decided to do some research to see if the raft was worth saving before making any rash decisions. In the meantime the Avon stayed in place on the stern while we sailed locally in Moreton Bay learning the boat.

It turns out authorised Avon servicing agents are few and far between in Australia these days but we did find manage to one in Brisbane but the news wasn’t good. Their advice was that although Avon make excellent rafts, the type of inflating mechanism used on our vintage raft was virtually unobtainable at any reasonable cost making servicing it financially unviable. Their instant suggestion was to buy a new raft at a not inconsiderable expense.

Instead we found a near new Zodiac four man life raft for sale that was just past its due service date so decided it would be a better option to buy it for just a few hundred dollars and have it serviced. This entailed opening the case, inflating the raft with a compressor and checking it over. It was good to be able to personally have a good look in and around the life raft and gain a good understanding of its construction and contents.
Our new (to us) four man life raft in for servicing
Thankfully almost everything inside including an EPIRB, flares, ration packs etc were all well in date and didn’t need to be changed. The only things replaced were the batteries in the flashlight and the sea sickness tablets. We did take the opportunity to vacuum seal a couple of weeks supply of our regular medication, spare eye glasses, copies of our passports and ships papers in bag and have it included in the rafts contents. At just over $1,100 dollars for the service we hope the batteries are gold plated and the tablets magically effective. Imagine how much the bill would have been if we’d needed everything. Considering the printed sticker now on the canister shows the next recommended service  just twelve months away, life raft servicing appears to be a lucrative business.

All this was pre-packed into the life raft just in case

Anyway, we now had the peace of mind of knowing everything was right with our new (to us) life raft should we ever have the misfortune to need it. The thought of being hundreds of miles from shore wondering if the old Avon would work was not something we wanted to experience.

Rather than just opening the old Avon to retrieve the desalintor, we decided to POP it before disposal as a full gas canister could be extremely dangerous if punctured in a landfill considering the high pressures involved. Life rafts also contain pyrotechnic flares which need to be disposed of safely.

 OK, we also thought it would be cool to see it inflate. We loaded it into a trolley and headed to a corner of the marina car park next to the dumpsters and away from anyone else and pulled the cord. We almost hoped it would fail to launch and further justify our expenditure on the replacement. But no. It popped, inflated perfectly and seemed in excellent condition other than a little mould on the exterior. All the contents inside were totally dry and also appeared perfect. Everything useable was removed and now reside in our ditch bag as a back up to what’s in the new raft.



Deflating the raft and putting it in the dumpster seemed such a waste but we couldn’t help thinking back to our original question. Would you trust your life to a 30 year old life raft?

Deflating before the short trip to the dumpster.

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