Monday, 4 June 2012

Lifejacket servicing..

Not mine, picture from here...
other lifejackets are available
A couple of weeks ago I took my life in my hands and serviced my elderly and venerable life jackets...

I'd originally been given four of them  by my sister (who at the time was working for a marine brokerage company) when I first got "Papillon", and very thankful I was; basically they were surplus to the brokerage's requirements being too old for them to continue using them, but they were damn useful to me...

I decided to start with two of them - the one's I use most..

They are Remploy Commodore II manual inflatable life jackets...  no longer made (hence non-picture!)

Label in the sleeve of the vest says they were made in March 1997 - I suspect that this is the first time they've been serviced...

Funnily enough one of the main things that had stopped me from doing the servicing before was a concern that I wouldn't be able to fold them up again once I had completed (!) the service..  foolish...  but in the end the nagging in the back of my head that they just wouldn't work in an actual emergency overcame all and I did them..

For anyone coming along after me, the following provides a view of what I found/did etc., oh, and it was of course much easier than I thought!


1/. On mine, like most jackets, the inner bladders are retained in place, and protected, by an outer cover - blue - with a zip fastening...  the idea being that the zip comes undone if you pull the toggle (that's the "manual" bit as other life jackets can be automatic). Undo the zip, unroll/unfold the inner bladder (making a rough mental note of how they are folded)

2/. Two things should be apparent - first a gas cannister (looks like a mini gas bottle) on one side which will be attached to some kind of trigger mechanism.

In mine the the activation system for the gas cannister is one of these:
Halkey Roberts - model 840
The string on the left is attached to a metal arm that is set into the side of the unit - there is a spike set into the bottom of the arm - the other end of the string goes to the yellow ball that sits outside the jacket, and which you pull to activate the inflation. As you pull it, the top of the arm comes out of the top of the unit, and the entire arm swivels on a central fixing, pushing the bottom of the arm - and the pin - into the end of the bottle setting it off...

The red semi circle indicates the safety pin is out - the safety pin is a green plastic "drawing pin" with a head that sits inside the semi circle - the pin stops you accidentally pulling down the trigger, but doesn't stop you doing it in earnest!

Top view of the Halkey Roberts
Trigger on the right - gas bottle screws into that hole - in the centre of the hole is the spike on the bottom of the trigger arm - recessed here as the trigger is in the up position..
Unscrew the gas bottles and have a look at them..

On mine they looked like this - not good - the white stuff is salt calcification, you can also see rust..  not bad for 15 years though...

There is some writing on the bottles - I couldn't make mine out, but a visit to the chandlery was enough to show me that these were 38gm bottles (they come in various sizes depending on size of jacket, and make of jacket/trigger mechanism)

I did some searching on the web, but in the end I bought two new one's for at just over a tenner each from the Marine Superstore at Port Solent - they were competitive and I prefer to support an actual shop where I can..

Weigh them before you put them in the life jacket, make a note of the weight as when you service them next time you'll need to weigh the bottle to make sure it's the same (and therefore not losing gas)

3/. The other thing you should see (on the other side of the bladder) is a tube used for manual blowing up...  blow the jacket up, and then leave it fully inflated for 24 hours. If it's still inflated after 24 hours the bladders good.

4/. 24 hours later - de-inflate the life jacket (a PITA as you have to get all the air out!) and screw in your new gas cylinder - re-insert the safety/drawing pin. Re-fold, and re-zip - jobs a good 'un, once you've made a note of the servicing date and the cylinder weight on each jacket..

Job well done..  one nag removed from the back of the brain when little'un comes sailing with me..


Just for fun by the way, for the second jacket, rather than blow it up by mouth I decided to trigger the gas bottle - I wanted little'un to see it as much as me as I had no idea how it would look/feel...  despite being as corroded the bottle worked fine, the jacket inflated to full, nothing earth shattering, no bangs etc. Just a clear "pop" as the bottle is pierced and then the air going into the jacket..I was surprised how constricting the jacket was when it was on and fully inflated though...

1 comment:

  1. Always worth doing.. I was on a boat yesterday and the skipper went for an unplanned swim. His Jacket inflated ok, we had to circle him several times until we'd got together some kit to fish him out; by the time he was back on board, 5 mins max, the bladder had started to deflate. Once back ashore he manually inflated it again and it definitely had a leek. Would have been a worry had he been on his own.