It seems that Kirk Ezell and his shipmate on a delivery voyage woke up Christmas day with water ankle deep in the sailboat and rising rapidly, some 200 miles south of Jamaica. The boat was sinking and abandoning ship was their priority now. They apparently had a life raft on board, a good start, and launched it, tossing all their survival gear in the raft. You’ve heard the expression, “look before you leap?” How about, look before you toss all your survival gear in a raft whose floor has disappeared!
In the end, their 406 EBIRB distress alert resulted in a Coast Guard C-130 being dispatched. They were dropped a Switlik POD-8 life raft by the Coast Guard and were picked up by a merchant vessel diverted by the Coast Guard aircraft. Lucky guys.
Here’s the question. Why the heck don’t people get their life rafts serviced? They invest all that money for a life saving device, and then won’t get it serviced so it’ll work when their life depends upon it. When I talk to manufacturers, they all have the same sad story. They and their service centers see only a small percentage of the rafts that they should be seeing for service. Perhaps they should send out a rabbit’s foot to every life raft owner with the message that they hope this will be of assistance if they ever need their life raft, because that’s essentially what they are depending upon–luck!
For these guys, better lucky than smart, for sure. It doesn’t matter whether its your own boat or you’re crewing for someone else. Make sure the survival gear has been serviced and is good to go. You couldn’t pay me enough to deliver a boat for someone who didn’t keep their survival gear serviced. At this point we don’t know if this life raft belonged to the boat or to Ezell. Either way, a failed floor tells us it either wasn’t serviced or was serviced fraudulently. It’s not worth your life to try and save a few bucks by having your life raft serviced by a “gypsy” who hasn’t the training, tools, or ethics to do it right.
Beyond that, make sure you know what to do in an emergency and think your way through it, don’t just react.