Good news for all on Christmas Eve

Two sailors were rescued this morning in what appears to be a text book case of how the modern search and rescue system works.

  • They activated their EPIRB
  • Fixed wing aircraft located the stricken vessel
  • Helicopters attempted to rescue the pair
  • The final rescue was carried out by a merchant vessel
  • Everyone is safe

In the spirit of overspending at Christmas time, suppliers of marine life saving equipment must also be happy.

  • 6 life rafts were dropped by the search and rescue team, they will need to be replaced
  • The EPIRB used to notify search and rescue will need to be replaced, or at least serviced
  • Boat builders and equipment suppliers will be queuing up to replace the sailboat which appears to be lost

It is nice to have a safe ending to a disaster such as this, even better on Christmas Eve.

If you want to read more, click here for the Yachting World article.

Cold weather and life rafts

It has been quite cold here in the Pacific Northwest. You don’t have to go very far to get in to single digit territory which brings up the question of what conditions a life raft will operate in. As some of us remember from physics, everything else being the same the pressure of a gas will decrease as the temperature decreases. Since life rafts like to have around 2 psi of gas pressure, as it gets colder the amount of gas needed to reach that pressure increases.

Commercial life rafts are designed to work down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Rafts designed for recreational boats tend to have their lowest working temperature much higher, somewhere between plus 10 degrees to plus 40 degrees.


So what happens if your raft isn’t designed for the temperature range where you will be operating? Nothing good! If your raft is able to deploy itself out of its container or valise it will not fully inflate and will take a long time even getting to that point. Worse yet it might not inflate enough inside the container (or valise) to even deploy leaving you swimming in very cold water.

For most vessel operators really cold weather is not an issue. Wintertime is for skiing or trips to the sun, not boating. Still there are some of us who find being on the water in the winter really beautiful and without the crowds that sunshine brings. This group needs to be concerned and choose the right life raft. USCG approved commercial rafts are a great choice but tend to be pretty large to fit on recreational boats. Switlik’s new Offshore Passage Raft and Coastal Passage Raft also provide excellent cold weather inflation since they use high pressure air rather than carbon dioxide as their inflation gas. With high pressure air you get inflation times that do not change much as it gets colder. My guess is this is the raft Santa uses on his sleigh and the really good news is the material it is made out of is tough enough that reindeer hooves should not pose an issue.

Zodiac raft manual

One of the fun parts of servicing life rafts is seeing what comes in different rafts. Over the years a favorite has been the manual out of Zodiac life rafts built for the French market.


First we learn how to kill a seagull with a really graphic drawing. I guess the hat, shirt and pants outfit are required to do this properly. In order to clean up after preparing our meal, Zodiac teaches us how to prepare a bath,

again not what I would expect in a life raft manual. Still it is better to be prepared and this manual is really one of the best I have seen. It is 128 pages long printed on A4 size paper (similar to our letter size) so there is a ton of information for those stuck in a life raft as long as they are able to read French. I wish there was a version in English.

Joe’s post #3

joignyJoe has been a bit under the weather and it’s not the first time in his life.  After some time in a Paris hospital due to an extra hole in his shoulder he ended up in Joigny to recuperate. This picture says it all, he needed to push fluids!


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Let’s all be safe out there

Two articles piqued my curiosity today, one on the sinking of the Bounty, the other about “two rival sailing organizations, each planning to travel from Hampton Roads to the Caribbean”. The common thread is leaving port when the expected weather conditions suggest staying tied Boyka: Undisputed IV film now

The article on the Bounty written by G. Anderson Chase is a good hard look at what did go wrong and what we can learn from the tragedy.  The idea that as a group we are smarter than any one individual but that the captain has to encourage the crew to participate in planning is not new but does go against the tradition of the captain being the boss.

There is also discussion regarding abandoning a vessel and why waiting until you can “step up in to the life raft” might not be the best course of action. Allowing enough time to have an organized, safe evacuation is important- but one does not want to abandon a vessel that is still seaworthy.

The second article by Mike Hixenbaugh talks about two groups heading to the Caribbean. Again bad weather was forecast and one group left early to get ahead of it. The other waited until their scheduled departure time and ended up in the middle of some nasty conditions giving the Coast Guard plenty of practice rescuing people.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why organizers keep putting people in harms way. I also can’t figure out why those on board the vessels can’t make their own decision that the conditions are unsafe. Do we all want to have the Coast Guard dictate to us when we can use our boats? They have started doing just that, the recent America’s Cup regatta is a good example. We need to use good common sense so as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say “let’s all be safe out there”.

I will be reading these articles again to see what more I can learn, with winter upon us there is time to think about what happened and improve on our safety procedures.

Sinking off of Florida

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a friend whose brother was going to take a small boat from Miami to Bimini Island. He did not have an EPIRB and I was asked if we rented them. Since I don’t rent EPIRB’s I offered to loan my own PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), something I normally don’t do but it seemed right.

To make a long story short (here is the long story) the boat sank and the two occupants found themselves in the water. The PLB did its job and got the Coast Guard on site to make a helicopter rescue and the pair are now back on dry land enjoying the Ft. Lauderdale boat show.

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

We all learned from this disaster. The NOAA web site allowed me to change all the registration information when the PLB left my shop so the emergency calls went to the right people, not mine. The change was simple and only took a minute, registering your beacon online is the way to go. I also learned to be a bit more careful when loaning equipment and provide the proper accessories for the application. My beacon lives in my Camelback for bike riding. I cut the lanyard short and don’t have the flotation pouch installed (and hope I never need it when bike riding) just to make it a bit lighter and not get tangled up in everything.

Teaching the prospective user the proper operation is also importing. While I provided a demonstration I did not make the extra step to force the user to demonstrate his knowledge. We all learn differently, some by watching, some by reading and others by doing. I allowed for watching but not reading or doing.

Shakespeare said “all’s well that ends well” and I guess that applies here but with a little more thought the ending might have been a bit better.

New Products October 2013

We have two new products on our web site.

The first is a 90′ rope bag for use with a life ring.  It is made from rugged Cordura fabric and has 90 feet of 3/8″ yellow poly stowed inside. The Cordura bag protects the rope from UV deterioration (other than the end which protrudes and is attached to your life ring). The other end of the rope is spliced to the black polyester webbing at the top of the bag.

This bag provides a simple and neat way to stow a life line and since we produce it in house the price is very attractive.


Since we were busy with our sewing machine we have also produced a storage bag for our 5:1 lifting tackle. This is something customers have been asking for and we have used the same rugged Cordura fabric to protect the tackle and its orange color makes it easy to locate. With a flat bottom this bag will sit upright when loaded with the 5:1 lifting tackle. The draw string closure with cord lock keeps everything in place until you need it. We have used a cord lock that is all plastic- no parts to rust, since this type of gear tends to be stowed in damp locations.spesifikasi android



Boaters ask me if they should purchase an EPIRB or PLB. In the past I have gone through the technical differences between the two beacons without highlighting the one important difference. Then I received an email from an individual who I had loaned my personal PLB and actually had to use it when his boat sank. His message said that at 10:30 the boat sank and they turned the beacon on. At 11:00 they remembered to ‘pull the antenna out which they had forgotten about’. The USCG did not receive notification of their distress until after the antenna had been deployed. At 12:00 they saw the Coast Guard helicopter that had been deployed to rescue them. The great news is they survived the ordeal but as with most disasters there are things we can learn.

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

The main thing I learned is the most important difference between and EPIRB’s and PLB’s. With an EPIRB when you put it in the water (after taking it out of its bracket) it starts transmitting. There are no other steps and the antenna is already deployed.


When we get in high stress situations it is easy to forget things. The military trains its troops until actions become second nature but we don’t have the time or patience to do that for all of our safety equipment. Simplicity becomes the key and in this case and EPIRB would have shaved 30 minutes off of the rescue time. If this sinking had happened in cold water, 30 minutes could be the difference between life and death.

From now on when a boating customer asks if they should purchase an EPIRB or PLB, my answer is going to be an EPIRB.

Where was this taken?- Joe’s post #2

German-24While in Europe Joe ended up in the possession of some film taken by a German. This is one of the images and looking at the others on the film strips it was taken somewhere in North Africa. You can see the  port on the left hand side of the picture so I assume we are looking East. Does anyone know where this was taken?


German-25Maybe this will help.

We really don’t know, any help would be appreciated.