Mailport April 2013 Issue

Mailport: April 2013

Life Rafts

The problem you wrote about in “Life Rafts, Pride, and Prejudice” (PS, February 2013) is not unique. We had our Switlik SAR-6 serviced in Australia in 2009.

Photo courtesy of Steve Sharp

A life raft inspection found that this safety pin and tag—designed to prevent accidental inflation when the raft’s not in use—had never been removed from reader Steve Sharp’s life raft. The raft had been in service for more than two years with the tag still attached.

Two years later, back in the USA after crossing the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic—and experiencing weather so severe that, at one point, we had to go to the aid of a fellow sailor whose boat had been crippled by the heavy seas in a storm—we had the raft inspected at River Services in Thunderbolt, Ga., a firm that encourages raft owners to be present when the raft is inspected. When our raft’s case was opened, all work stopped while the manager called for witnesses and took pictures. A safety pin in the gas bottle, designed to prevent accidental inflation of the raft when not aboard ship, had been left in place. The raft would not have inflated had we deployed it!  Since the raft was in a hard case, held shut by metal bands, there was no way we could have discovered this problem without unpacking the raft.

We have decided that we must always be present when our life raft is inspected and packed, and we will hunt around until we find a company that will allow us to be there as the job is done. We may not be able to spot every potential problem, but by being there, we can make sure that the agent goes through the checklist thoroughly and that the raft is packed carefully.

As a footnote to this incident, the Australian company responded forthrightly with profuse apologies.  They informed us that they have recently implemented a procedure where two certified inspectors must be present when a raft is packed and sealed, and a copy of the signed checklist goes to the customer.

Steve Sharp
Key of D, Custom Crowther cat
Reno, Nev.

Next: Teak Guard

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