You just had your life raft serviced, now it is your responsibility to make sure that the hydrostatic release unit (HRU) is properly installed. It is amazing how many times I see or hear of improper installations. Sometimes it is even the Coast Guard inspector giving improper advise.
If you don’t hook the HRU up properly, your life raft WILL NOT function properly!
Most HRU’s sold in the United States are manufactured by C.M. Hammar. They have a slick tool to teach proper HRU installation. It is a movie and I am not sure that all computers will be able to run it but it is worth checking out.
One of our customers, Capt. Michael Baker, gave me a copy of his book, Courage, Faith and Culture covering three fisherman’s 87 ordeal in the Central Pacific. The book showed that two things are really important when faced with a survival situation:
The will to live.
Customers often ask, “how long can I survive in this life raft”? The answer depends on your desire to survive. In this book you see three men who never gave up their will to survive, helped by their strong faith.
Roitam, the owner-skipper of the skiff involved in this tale provided firm, fair leadership. There were times when I am sure it was not popular but without leadership I am sure the outcome would have been much different.
The trio also used common sense, keeping gear properly stowed and rescuing objects they found floating that would prove to be useful in the future. The one thing missing from their gear was and EPIRB (or PLB) which would have shortened their ordeal significantly.
Is the book a page turner? No, but it did keep me reading wanting to find out what the next day would bring. It does bring plenty of useful survival advise and is worth reading if you are heading offshore. Amazon stocks the book but it is only available in print. You can also order directly from the author.
Sometimes it takes more than manpower to get a life raft in to its cradle. Here the crew of the Steamer Virginia V are installing their two 100 person IBA’s in to their cradles. Each unit weighs 720 pounds but the Grove made quick work of the project. To top everything, the sun was out in Seattle!
If you are not sure how to hook everything up once you have placed the raft in to the cradle, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can send instructions for many common installations or just talk you through what needs to be done. Proper installation is the key to having your raft work.
Do you need new lashings for your life raft? Our Straps to Go division can build what ever you need. The lashing in the picture above is constructed using 2″ black polyester webbing and high quality stainless steel hardware. The split ring on the snap shackle is welded so it can’t come apart when you pull hard on the orange web. Stitching is of a contrasting color so it is easy for the vessel operator to check its soundness. This lashing is fully adjustable so it can be fitted onboard without the need of tools or a sewing machine. If you need a new lashing give Rollie a call at (253) 627-6000.
I get calls all the time from customers who need to get the battery in their EPIRB replaced. When they learn the price the general reaction is shock, how can a battery cost so much? Can’t I run down to the battery store and get the cells to make my own? Why can’t I replace my own? Here are the answers.
Why do they cost so much?
First you are not buying a single battery cell but a battery pack consisting of a number of cells. They are connected in a way to prevent short circuits and often the battery pack contains additional electronic components. Part of the EPIRB’s approval is the battery pack, a third party can not decide to produce a battery pack for a beacon without going through the approval process. Needless to say that is not practical so the only source of battery packs is directly from the original manufacturer. There is not a large market for replacement batteries so production runs are small so that the end user gets a fresh battery. Finally lithium cells are expensive to begin with and there are not many suppliers that the beacon manufacturers can choose from.
Can I make my own battery pack?
I guess so, but will it work?
Why can’t I replace my own?
It depends on the model beacon you own. Ocean Signal and some Kannad models have user replaceable batteries (SOLAS class vessels are required to have an approved facility replace batteries in any model) so if you own one of these you can buy the proper battery pack and do your own installation. What you don’t get is testing the unit for power output, signal and water-tightness. You would also be responsible for proper disposal of the old lithium battery, you can’t just throw it away since it is hazardous material. Disposal protocols vary from state to state and sometimes even within specific cities within a state.
Reading the Tacoma newspaper this morning there was an article titled “Why do so many die in ferry accidents?”. Yesterday I received a link from a trade association I belong to for a USA Today article about out of water survival craft. The gist of the USA Today article is that our government had passed a law requiring that passenger carrying vessels provide survival craft that will allow victims to get out of the water, thus increasing their chance of survival.
Like everything else the government implements, there is a cost to industry for this added level of safety and industry has pushed back. Their argument is that there are not the statistics showing that the cost would really save any lives.
Many passenger carrying vessels have “life floats” like the image above. They allow one to hang on to something but don’t get you out of the water. Inflatable Buoyant Apparatuses, IBA’s, currently provide the best combination of capacity, weight and cost.
Victims can get out of the water and stay together for easier rescue. IBA’s work well with evacuation systems so everyone can get off the vessel in a hurry. In the overall scheme of things they are not overly expensive but not working for a company with passenger carrying vessels I can not comment on how the added expense would impact their bottom line.
The U.S. Coast Guard 17th District in Alaska created a voluntary program that allows a vessel operator to advertise that they carry additional safety equipment, above and beyond what is required. The vessel can obtain a rating of 1 to 5 stars, thus it is called the 5-Star Safety Program, where 1 star is granted just for complying with the existing regulations. With the 5-Star Program a vessel owner has an incentive to carry more and better safety equipment since they can use the rating as a sales tool. Granted this program only works because of competition between vessels for passengers. If you were operating a vessel in an area with no competition you might decide there are better ways to get additional business (passengers) and as a business person you have to look at the effectiveness of your investments.
So, what can we do? Voting with ones wallet always works especially if there are options and one carries better safety equipment. Write to Congress if that is your thing. Most importantly be aware of what equipment the vessel has to offer. Take a minute, look around and figure out what you (and your family) would do if there was an accident. They ask us to do just that every time we board a commercial aircraft and while many don’t listen after the hundredth time they have heard the announcement, most of what is said has become ingrained in our memory and hopefully would pop to the front if needed.
Plan for a disaster, that is something we teach and it is a good, free start.
Browsing around on the web I have run in to several articles regarding parachute cord. You can make bracelets with it or use it as a survival item. Just in case you are in need of some cord, or the components to make a bracelet, we have them.
We only sell commercial grade parachute cord which is not designed for use in parachutes. Parachute cord is often referred to as 550 cord, denoting its theoretical breaking strength. That is for the mil-spec version which is really designed for parachute use.
Parachute cord gets its strength from the parallel strands of nylon in the center of the cord.
They are covered by tightly woven nylon which protects them from chafe. Being made from nylon, parachute cord is very stretchy (good for adsorbing shock when the parachute opens) and offers pretty good UV resistance. Nylon does adsorb water and it tends to shrink after being wet which will make it a bit stiffer.
Oh, the first picture? Joe took that during a training jump in Europe. From what he has told me being a paratrooper was not a pleasant experience. Something about having someone shooting at you while being airsick. We have to thank Joe and others from the “greatest generation” for having the courage to do what they had to do.
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While at the 2014 Seattle Boat Show a customer brought to my attention a potential issue with the rope on the LifeSling product.
His concern was regarding the knot that is used to form the loop. He feels that if the stitching holding the tail to the line that attaches to the vessel comes undone, that the knot would slip. With the stitching in place everything is safe.
After the show I tied the knot, which is a strange one at best, and attempted to see if it would slip. I pulled in every possible direction and with every combination of ends possible and the knot seemed to hold.
All of my pulling was done without having the tail seized to the main line that goes to the vessel. While I was not able to get the knot to slip I was not exerting as much force as a user might while recovering a victim from the water. After my desk gets emptied from the aftermath of the show I might try this again with more force.
What should you do? At a minimum I suggest that you inspect your LifeSling to ensure that the stitching holding the tail to the main line is in good shape. If not the safe course of action would be to replace the unit. LifeSling’s are not that expensive and are an excellent piece of life saving equipment. While you could redo the stitching, most likely at that point there are other issues with the unit.
Boat US just published an article in their Seaworthy magazine titled “Emergency Signalling Options”. While the majority of the article provides good information there are several discrepancies in the EPIRB and PLB sections (the only sections I am technically knowledgeable enough to comment on).
First to the ‘pros’ of EPIRBs:
I agree with what Boat US says.
‘Cons’ of EPIRBs:
Boat US states that “EPIRBs can not be taken from vessel to vessel. They must be registered to a specific vessel, so you can’t legitimately use one unit for multiple vessels”. With the online registration process you can change the vessel information for a beacon as long as it is done 24 hours prior to sailing. While this is not something you can or should do on a daily basis plenty of vessel operators do move from vessel to vessel and change the registration information.
The cost figures stated are inflated. I sell the GME brand and the least expensive Category 2 model is $449.00 and the most expensive Category 1 unit with GPS is $765.00.
Boat US implies that PLBs are a Crew Overboard location device. The vast majority of vessels do not have the capability to receive the 121.5 MHz homing beacon that a PLB transmits. If you are considering to use a PLB in this manner you must deal with your onboard equipment. There are better devices such as the Kannad R-10 AIS Survivor Recovery System which utilize electronics you probably already own.
‘Cons’ of PLBs:
Boat US says “not only do they suffer from the same limited-data constraints of the EPIRB, they actually transmit even less data, since they don’t include vessel information.” Sorry to say this is flat out incorrect. EPIRBs do not transmit vessel information, ELTs (the aircraft version) do not transmit aircraft information, and PLBs do not transmit personal information. What they all transmit is a set of unique identifying information. In the United States that is the Country Code and a serial number. When a signal is received, SAR staff know which countries data base contains the full data and turn to that for their information. When one registers an EPIRB or PLB there is a field for “additional information”, so with a PLB it is possible to enter the data about your vessel should you so desire.
Boat US missed the biggest ‘con’ regarding PLBs in marine use. They are not required to float! Some units do but they are not the tiny form factor ones popular in most stores. Others come with a flotation pouch and some require you to purchase a device to keep the PLB afloat. Even the ones that float, will not float with the antenna out of the water like an EPIRB will.
The statement that “they have half the guaranteed battery life” is misleading. There is no guarantee on how long either device will work. There are standards the units must be designed to and tested against. For and EPIRB it is transmitting for a minimum of 48 hours at -20 degrees, PLBs must transmit for 24 hours at the same cold temperature. Depending on the age of the battery pack and the operating temperature you will see major differences from the design standard.
EPIRBs and PLBs are the correct choice for your primary life saving package. Even if you buy a new PLB rather than having the battery replaced the cost works out to $3.56 per month. A top end EPIRB works out to $13.41 per month and that includes replacing the hydrostatic release every two years. It is pretty inexpensive insurance for a system that has been proven to save lives.