Valise liferafts are vulnerable to punctures - and more from the raft debate


More on liferafts, following the story of the Italian sailors who spent nine days in an appallingly equipped raft ?

Alistair Hackett, general manager of Ocean Safety writes: ‘This illustrates the two key things that are so important regarding liferafts – namely how important it is to get your liferaft serviced and to take the opportunity while your raft is serviced to have a look at it and its contents.

‘People have to understand the reasons for getting the raft serviced. It is not just to make sure that the raft will inflate if needed – albeit that this is fundamental! The service includes checking all the contents of the pack for their expiry date and ensuring they are packed correctly inside the raft. This is especially important if the raft is in a valise rather than a hard container.

‘Liferafts in valises are far more prone to damage than rafts in containers, they tend to be moved around on yachts a lot and because they tend to be marginally lighter than container rafts they tend to get used on performance yachts, often being removed depending on the category of racing. Every time the raft is moved there is the risk that either the vacuum bag that the raft is in will get punctured or a part of the raft might get trapped by the cylinder, causing damage.

‘Of the valise rafts that Ocean Safety service from performance yachts, up to 30% are damaged in such a way as to cause punctures to the raft. Currently both the RORC and ISAF are considering this problem with a view to possibly changing the rules with regard to when valise rafts can be used.’

And this from YW Editor Andrew Bray: ‘Reading your blog reminds me of the one (and only) time I was in a liferaft – not a pleasant experience, on exercise 5 miles south of Plymouth in F5-6 and nasty seas for 4 hours.

‘The liferaft floor had a leak so we were sitting in several inches of water. Dug out the bag of goodies, found the repair kit. The instructions read “First of all thoroughly dry area to be repaired…” ‘