This weekend has left us wondering about the steps we take to ensure we are boating safely and maximizing our ability to survive should the boat go down. It’s a bit morbid, I know, but I will explain what happened.
We had access to two life rafts which were out of date. The perfect opportunity to test out how they work without spending hundreds of dollars on a survival course (which, by the way, I think would be worth it for anyone keen to make ocean crossings).
The first was a Canadian made 4 person raft. Smaller, more compact, much lighter and easier to lift than the larger 8 man raft.
We gathered around the pool to watch the men pull at the rope that should ordinarily release the pin on the gas bottle and then inflate the raft. Well, first of all, although there is about a meter of rope hanging out, it needed to be pulled about 10 meters before it even got to the pin. After the anticipation of the first pull of the line fell away, we just became more and more concerned by the fact that once we had pulled all we could, nothing happened.
This then required us to dismantle the entire raft. It turns out that the rope became tangled when it was re-packed during a service. No matter how hard we tried, we would never have been able to pull the pin without dismantling the raft. Quite concerning don’t you think?
The next thing we realised was that the 4 person raft did not contain any food or water at all!! So even if you were able to somehow dismantle the raft and inflate it in the middle of the ocean, whilst your boat was sinking, you would have to hope that you were rescued very soon after. That, or you learned how to drink your own pee. I’m not sure how long you can last doing that. Perhaps Bear Grills knows…
Other than that, the raft seemed reasonably well equipped. It also took a lot of effort to flip over!!
We thought we would then have more luck with the French made 8 person raft. How wrong we were.
We pulled and pulled on that rope until we could pull no more. Broke the case open to try and work out what we were doing wrong.
We did nothing wrong. The pin on the gas bottle was not even existent. Whether it got pulled out and didn’t work or was just never there, we will never know.
Needless to say, after pulling the whole raft apart, it never got inflated. It did, however have plenty of food (if you want to call it that) and water, as well as some playing cards… Just in case you got bored out there. Kind of pointless when your raft and it’s contents are likely to end up on the bottom of the ocean.
Another thing we noticed is that all attachments which had been glued on were no longer connected. The glue had failed. Whoops.
Although the life rafts were out of date, the problems they had were not influenced by time at all (except maybe the glue thing, which is minor in the scheme of things).
So I guess the answer is, make sure you have your life raft serviced at a reputable service provider. In the end though, how do you know their reputation is based on fact? If the one line ensuring your safety can easily get tangled, how do you check their work once they’ve done it? It’s not like you can double check it when you receive the raft back, until the day any little mistake they’ve made could be fatal.
Do a survival course, great. But the life raft needs to work in the first place!!
What do you do to maximize your safety whilst at sea??