Frankly, this item hadn’t even made it onto our pre-pacific-crossing list, but about 2 weeks ago some friends of ours on Anna swung by our boat and asked if we wanted to share the cab ride charge, and go in together. They had done some pretty comprehensive research and had discovered that if we went to Guayaquil we could have the inspection done for around $400. A few days later, they came up with another facility located in Manta, 3.5 hours closer, and $160 cheaper, coming in at $240. These days, the swiftly approaching departure date is coupled with a pileup of expenses…..fees for the Galapagos, getting our anchoring fees paid for, and the inevitable provisioning, not to mention the stuff we still have to do…..long stay visa application for French Polynesia, Autografo for staying in the Galapagos for 3 months, and of course, all that provisioning. This “to-do” was an expense that we weren’t thrilled to contemplate, but if we were going to get into trouble heading across the Pacific, I could imagine being really pissed off we had neglected to verify our raft was going to inflate (and STAY inflated). We gave a thumb’s up, and again sorrowfully reassessed our bank account.
A few hiccups with scheduling, (is there EVER a time in Latin America that people actually keep appointments?!?!) we arrived at the “blowup” facility and proceeded to watch as our rafts were inflated and the items for survival where strewn around the floor.
|So that's what it looks like....better to get acquainted here than in a bad situation|
|Reflective tape is a good idea|
Seemed like a paltry few to keep us alive until help could arrive.
|Doesn't really look like much....yikes|
|High-quality, non-rusting, paddles|
I had a brief discussion with one of the technicians when he inquired as to whether I wanted to add any survival food to the bag. I patted my midsection and told him that I had food hanging around my hips that would ensure a month of survival (okay, maybe two) and that he shouldn’t worry about it. Food poisoning, illness, and now liferaft survival are all personal weight-loss strategies we choose to employ here on Sundancer.
The first time we had our raft certified we dropped it off at the location, left and returned a few weeks later, when we were handed a bill. This time, I felt that for my own piece of mind, it might be prudent to actually see what the thing looked like and what exactly was included in the enclosed ditch bag. This ended up being a great strategy in more ways than one. As Ron had stayed at home with the boat, I was faced with deciding what to replace and what to keep as-is. In order to get an official certification in the states, every single item that has an expiration date on it must be replaced. As a certificate only lasts one year, the chances of us finding another facility in the south Pacific was going to be nil….(and we wouldn’t have done it every year anyway) so the point of getting officially certified was also ridiculous. What that meant was that I didn’t need to replace out-of-date water (really? Does water expire?) or sea-sickness pills (neither of us gets sea sick, and even if we did, it’s another weight-loss opportunity) or a first-aid kit (another one is included in the other ditch bag on the boat). As the flares that were included were only expired by a few months, I decided that I would pay to replace one parachute flare, and one handheld flare, and take two of the expired ones out to place in our on-board ditch bag. As the costs of these flares were similar to the cost of flares in North America, added to our $240 inspection charge was another ~$90, which brought the total cost to $326. BARGAIN!!!!
Now is when I give a high-marks recommendation for Avon. Our liferaft is an Avon, and has a nifty weather-proof case, enabling us to store the whole thing above decks. Even with blistering heat over the last 4 years, El Salvador, Panama…..Sea of Cortez (also known as Hades, as in “hotter than…”) our raft inflated, and most importantly stayed inflated for several hours. Now, these kudos are not just because it’s an Avon, but because the tag inside the raft had its manufacturer’s age as having been made in 1986!!!!! Aside from a bit of mold, and few black marks caused by some moisture on the case’s seal, it was still perfect.
So this blog post is a real-world success story for a marine supplier (this doesn’t happen all that often) and for Set-Mabas in Ecuador. Thanks to both of these companies for providing us with a bit of reassurance that should something unthinkable happen during our south Pacific adventures, we might actually pull through. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’ll also give a thumbs-up to our tireless and faithful Vagabond, the mighty sailing vessel Sundancer; without her none of this would be possible.