Mailport October 1, 2000 Issue

Mailport 10/01/00

Life Raft Tests
I have just finished reading your final article on life rafts (July, 2000) and feel compelled to comment on a few issues that I feel unfairly represent our products. I hope you will understand that this letter is not to discredit your articles, but to provide product clarification and constructive criticism.

First, DBC supplied all the life rafts with dummy equipment packs that included equipment that was either expired and/or not working. DBC interpreted the instructions you provided to mean that dummy equipment packs could be used as long as the weight and dimensions were the same. We are surprised that a retraction or statement has not been issued stating this is the reason why the flashlights supplied did not work.

Second, the June issue carried a comparison of coastal life rafts that included the DBC Lifepac. DBC markets this as an inshore life raft where rescue is guaranteed within one to two hours, hence the minimal equipment pack and features offered with this model. The only basis for comparison that we could see from the models highlighted was the single-tube construction (excepting the West Marine Coastal).

In addition, DBC does not understand why a USCG/SOLAS-approved life raft was included in this group, clearly something designed for more than coastal use. If DBC had been consulted on what product we would recommend for coastal use, we would have specified our Swiftsure model, not the Lifepac. The Swiftsure is offered with a few different options depending on how the owner is going to use the raft. If the operator is using it for offshore trips, he can choose the offshore equipment pack and inflatable floor options. DBC also offers customizations that include design features. As far as we know, we are one of the only manufacturers to offer this flexible service.

DBC feels that these important features and points were not covered in any of the articles, giving an unfair impression of our products. Having compared our list of offshore equipment pack items with some of our competitors, we do not understand how our offshore pack could be given a poor rating. I can only assume that the dummy equipment packs we supplied were the basis for the ratings.

Moving on, DBC supplied a deck cradle with the life raft to illustrate that we are the only manufacturer that supplies deck cradles as standard equipment on all life rafts ordered in containers. As the pelican hook provided on this cradle is part of a recent lashing design change, I would appreciate hearing exactly what failed on this unit so we can address any potential problems.

Finally, we feel that the comparison lacked important fabric construction comparisons between the brands. DBC, like many other service stations around the country, is acutely aware of what failures are associated with different brands of life rafts, especially those of questionable fabric quality. Without quality fabric and construction, the best design features can be worthless.

Mark Hansen
DBC Marine Safety Systems
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

We thought we were quite clear in our instructions to all manufacturers regarding the use of dummy or expired items, which were to be limited to pyrotechnics, rations, watermakers and EPIRBs, as well as in our request for only offshore and coastal life rafts. At no time did we solicit or discuss with manufacturers making inshore rafts available. It was only after our tests were completed that it was decided to provide a brief review of inshore models. The DBC brochure supplied to us and to the public at the Miami Boat Show, held after our tests were completed, specifically states that the Lifepac is for “use aboard inshore vessels and coastal recreational boats.” From our point of view, that means DBC is marketing it as a coastal life raft and it is therefore an appropriate frame of reference for the review.

We are sorry that you misinterpreted the issue of the dummy items to be supplied. Thanks for setting the record straight.

The failure of the pelican hook involved the release pin. When pulled, the cloth pull-tab and ring separated from the pin, which remained captured and inaccessible inside the body of the pelican hook, preventing its release. It was necessary to use a Leatherman Tool to remove it.

As for life raft fabrics, a two-page analysis of materials and construction techniques was published in the August 1, 2000, issue. Regrettably, there was not space for this report in an earlier issue.

It was with keen interest that my wife and I read your life raft evaluation. The parameters you laid out for evaluations are as they should be, for as with any technical evaluation it can become infinite in its scope. It is certainly expansive enough to provide your readers with appropriate and sufficient information to make informed decisions about a very important piece of safety equipment.

My wife and I are Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Safety Inspectors. Together, we comprise nearly 60 years of aviation experience. Our duties, among others, is to inspect manufacturing and maintenance facilities of aviation emergency equipment. We are also avid sailors. We have spent the last three years preparing our Beneteau 40CC to do some long-distance cruising. In the course of our preparation, we endeavored to obtain safety equipment of the highest standards. After initial research we concentrated on the Winslow rafts because their products exceed the exacting demands of aviation emergency equipment.

Winslow manufactures marine and aviation emergency equipment. This equipment must be made and maintained to standards prescribed in what is referred to as a Technical Standard Order, TSO. A TSO is established by the FAA to provide the manufacturing and maintenance parameters necessary to assure the highest safety standards demanded in the aviation environment. These standards go well beyond those evaluated by your team. A TSO is all-encompassing and too complex and extensive to describe here. Suffice it to say they establish a very high degree of safety.

My wife and I did an inspection of Winslow’s facility and researched other manufacturers for comparison. Not long after, we bought our Winslow six-man offshore raft.

Jose Pagan
Aviation Safety Inspector
Via e-mail

Self-starting Diesel
Regarding the article, “Self-starting Diesel,” Page 39, March 2000, I just wanted to remind you that lightning does not have to “hit” an electronic device in order to disable it. A nearby strike can/will electromagnetically induce high currents in short lengths of wire, depending on the orientation of the wire to the electromagnetic radiation caused by the lightning, and the amount of electromagnetic shielding the wire might have.

In the case discussed, the chain over the side of the boat may have done its job, leading the surge of current to the water without catastrophic damage to the boat. However, stray currents induced in the wiring and other conductive materials of the boat may have started the engine and done all the damage reported.

Barrie Atkinson
Via e-mail

Pressure Cookers
The pressure cooker article (May 15) took me back to the last time I used one. I was in Palmas del Mar in December 1985. I do not know if the instructions advise one to lubricate the gasket, but I developed the practice of doing that with a little vegetable oil, the more easily to twist off the lid.

I used to cook a very nice corned beef in an aluminum pot. Guess it was a Presto. Anyway, on that occasion, my wife had installed the lid without lubrication and it proved impossible to remove. I did not give up easily, and I had the assistance of other determined sailors. Finally, I tossed the unopened pot in a dumpster. If I ever get Frances V back in the water, I will buy a new pot. They are great for long cooking dishes like corned beef.

Cliff O’Hearne
Via e-mail

Pressure cookers! Out of the past, into the future. It’s all in my second cookbook The CRUISING K.I.S.S. Cookbook. I point out that this is the most important pot to have onboard.

1. conserves fuel and reduces unwanted heat and fumes belowdecks
2. is a healthful, nutritious way of cooking (preserves vitamins)
3. doubles as an oven when one has none onboard (don’t put the pressure valve on)
4. doubles as steamer, crab and lobster pot, etc.
5. reduces spillage accidents. (The safest pot to use in rough weather)

I have a full chapter on pressure cooking, from A to Z, from appetizers to desserts. The bottom line in selecting a pressure cooker is the person who’s going to use it. They must lift it, open and close it, and think about what fuel they will be using. Most cruisers do not have an electric range.

Too bad you limited your cooking test to potatoes; you should have tried my soup recipes. Most of them are done in 7-30 minutes. My whole chicken recipe cooks in 12 minutes, and corned beef and cabbage along with potatoes and veggies in 25 minutes. Even my baked apples in ZERO minutes. Zero minutes? Yes, the hints are all in the book. The book is five volumes in one, 448 pages, 523 new recipes.

My first encounter as a young girl was with my mom’s aluminum Presto. Then I got my own stainless steel Sears 6 quart, only to find out, when I replaced the gasket, it was a Presto. No problem. This pot was used for 20 years. I sold it for $10. I am presently using a Fagor 6 quart that has a double safety valve. I’m pleased with it.

You galley slaves start looking for one that fits your needs: Lift it, open and close it, and see how easy it feels for you. Remember, it’s a heavy pot before you even put food into it.

You can see my books on our website,, or email me at

Corinne C. Kanter
Via e-mail

I was surprised to see that you made a decision not to review aluminum pressure cookers because of “fears of Alzheimer’s” by one of your testers. Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements on the face of the earth, and is present in lots of stuff that we eat every day. The highest intake rates come from baked goods, which include aluminum in the baking powder that makes them rise. Using aluminum pans is not going to significantly change your intake of aluminum, and it is not clear that the aluminum is the “cause” of Alzheimer’s, but the concentration of aluminum in brain cells may instead be a “result” of the disease.

Ralph Caruso
Chesapeake Bay, Maryland

Cleat Size
In the May 15 PS Advisor’s response to Jim McEntyre regarding cleats for anchoring, you suggested using #10 bolts. Some years ago, I removed all of the deck cleats from a Cal 40, because I wanted to rechrome the cleats and install backing blocks (the original installation used only fender washers). I found most of the 1/4" stainless bolts deformed by years of use. I redrilled the cleats to use 5/16" stainless bolts, which I figured were more than 50% stronger than the 1/4" bolts. I used oak backing blocks, obviously longer bolts and then the fender washers. I seriously doubt that #10 bolts are nearly strong enough.

David M. Blakemore
Via e-mail

We doubt it, too. Our use of #10 machine screws was for illustration purposes only and was not a recommendation. 5/16" would be a much safer size.

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