Pic: Trying out our liferaft for size
At the weekend we took a trip with our liferaft down to Ocean Safety in Southampton who were running an open day. Here we could leave our raft for servicing but before that we would be able to open, inflate it and familiarise ourselves with it so that in the unfortunate event we have to abandon ship we have an idea of what to expect from it.
In normal use the raft remains inside it's plastic canister in a cradle on the back deck and would never be opened apart from during servicing or in an emergency.
The day started with us cursing ourselves for forgetting to take the raft off the boat before we'd come out of the water and trying to lower the very heavy thing off the boat.
At Southampton we were met by friendly staff and shown around the facility before being directed to a service technician. We watched as the liferaft was unpacked and each part was described for us. First the painter and hydrostatic valve were removed (we would be inflating in a controlled manner using an electric pump rather than by the gas cylinder that would be fired in an emergency) and the tape removed from the liferaft box to reveal the raft itself.
The raft is supposed to be within a vacuum sealed plastic bag but we were very disappointed to see what looked like moisture inside ours. On closer inspection we found squares of gaffer tape covering up small holes in the bag! The gaffer tape had peeled off and let water in. ADEC Marine who had carried out our last service had put these pieces of gaffer tape on rather than using a new bag as they should have done. Suffice to say, given that we'd paid over 400 for our last service, we weren't very happy with them.
Pic: Gaffer tape covering holes in a supposedly vacuum sealed bag
Luckily there didn't seem to be any damage caused by the moisture, just a bit of mould that would be dried and cleaned off as part of our current service. More of an annoyance than anything but glad it had been found before any damage had been caused to a potentially life saving bit of kit.
Then onto the inflation and a chance to get inside. We have a Plastimo Offshore Plus 6 man raft so it was very spacious for just 2 of us. Within the raft are several survival packs that we were taken through; there are items such as flares, a bailer, paddle, fishing line, emergency food rations, first aid kit and water. Oh, and a pair of my prescription glasses that I had packed in last time. The liferaft has a flashing light, ladders to aid climbing into it, a covered canopy so that we can seal ourselves inside, has a built in water catcher for catching rain and drogues that we can trail to stabilise the raft in heavy seas. We took a look at the underside of the raft where there are weighted sea anchors and discussed how we might try and right it if the raft did end up the wrong way round.
So, a very useful trip to have the opportunity to get to know our liferaft - although we're hoping we never have to put it into practice!