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Old 04 January 2002, 16:43   #1
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Auto Lifejacket Warning!

For anyone that has an auto lifejacket here is a word of warning. I recently accidently set off an auto jacket (dunked in a locker) but instead of the gas going off, the end of the plastic cartridge cover just cracked off. It is a 1996 Halkey-Roberts Corp. firing mechanism. I heard of a warning about some faulty auto cartridges a couple of years ago but I dont think it was this type of fault. Suggest you look for any signs of cracking or ageing of the plastic cartridge/spring cover.
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Old 05 January 2002, 10:29   #2
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Thanks for that Alan ,

Could it have been caused by accidental damage or normal wear and tear or do you think it was caused by an inherant or structural fault?

As I type this I have a mechanism on my desk .

The clear plastic screw down cover is at all times under quite a bit of pressure from the compressed spring. If the cover failed then the spring would just deploy in the wrong direction so the firing pin and the cylinder should remain untouched . Did you check the salt tablet ( like a small polo mint ) to see if it had dissolved after being in the wet locker ?

A manual actuation of these jackets ( ie by the rip cord being pulled causes a little red or green c shaped plastic clip around the firing lever to sheer off . I note that on your picture this clip is missing.


I have 50 lifejackets ( Commodore 1 and Commodore 2 which we also sell ) equipped with this mechanism.

None of our own ones are over three years old but I will get the staff to check them.

With your permission , I will also notify Commodores Irish agent Union Chandlery and see if they know anything about it.

Best wishes ,

Stuart
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Old 06 January 2002, 03:11   #3
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Alan

It looks to me like this has nothing to do with the lifejacket being dunked in water, but could be due to mechanical damage or a faulty component.

As Stuart says, the base of the clear plastic cup is under pressure from the activating spring all the time. Dunking the lifejacket would reduce this pressure, not increase it. However if it has been damaged before hand, then it certainly will stop the life jacket from auto inflating.

The product recall a few years ago only affected the soluable tablets, not the mechanism. I am not aware of any problems since.

Could this lifejacket has been bashed or trodden on some time in its life? That would seem to be the most likely cause.

Whatever caused this problem, it's not common. It does serve as a good reminder to check your kit every time you use it though!

John
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Old 06 January 2002, 14:28   #4
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The tablet had been set off - because the gas bottle was a bit rusty I pulled the manual handle to see if it would work - it did.
Take your point about the possibility of damage - it may have been partly damaged before this, no way of knowing. I've checked my others with this mechanism and they are all ok. The moral of the story is regularly check your lifejackets VERY carefully for any damage! (including the plastic bits).
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Old 06 January 2002, 14:47   #5
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It only takes a few seconds to pull open the velcro and check the firing mechanism each time a life jacket is used.

It's also worth giving it a thorough check every twelve months or so:
  • check the webbing and stitching for any fraying
  • dismantle the inflation system and check that all moving parts move freely, and that the gas bottle isn't corroded
  • fully inflate the bladder by mouth and leave for 24 hours to check for leaks
Another point to remember is that even if the auto mechanism is faulty for any reason, the manual toggle will still inflate the life jacket. New crew members/passengers should be briefed about what to do if they should end up in the water and the lifejacket doesn't immediately inflate!

John
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Old 08 January 2002, 12:58   #6
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Hello everyone, I'll bet that you thought I had gone away for ever! No such luck sorry, here I am again after being up at our house in Scotland for the new year. Yes, I had the boat out a few times, fantastic, clear blue sky, bitter cold, snow covered mountains (more of that later), you ribsters in sunny climes should try sub zero temperature boating sometime!

Okay, now to the point.

After several postings about automatic lifejackets, whilst away I purchased a Fulmar gas operated jacket from Caley Marina in Inverness (plus a few other exciting goodies for chart reading and plotting - well it was Christmas). I excitedly drove the 50 miles back up North, anticipating a great day out in the boat the next day in the freedom of my new life jacket. It was the Monday of New years Eve and Scotland closes down until the following Friday.

When I got back home out came the jacket for me to check out (play with). I eagerly ripped open the velcro to look at the mechanism and familliarise myself with its operation (I'm that kind of guy, fortunately). Strange, I thought, where is the gas bottle? I checked all over the jacket, and guess what? The gas bottle was missing!

A quick phone call to the chandlers (with 2 minutes to go till closing time) confirmed that there should have been a gas bottle set up ready, and profuse appologies. Just take it back on FRIDAY and get it replaced. Dam and blast! Four days untill I could try the thing out!!!

So I went out with the old (well 18 months old) foam jacket.

I went back on the Friday and got the jacket replaced no problen and again profuse appologies. It appears that the one I got was one that had been faulty and was replaced for someone else and somehow instead of being sent away it was mistakenly placed back on display.

It was a good job that I checked it when I got home, just think of the consequences if I had not done so and has gone out with a non operating lifejacket and had fallen in!! Okay, so my WIDOW may well have been able to sue Caley Marina, not much compensation for me however. Just think of the years of fun I would have missed in my boat by being prematurely DEAD (also RibNet would not have had the benefit of all my daft questions any more - still you can't have everything).

YES I know that I should have checked it before I left the shop. But remember I went in as a customer and made it clear to them that I had not used an automatic jacket before. As far as they were concerned how did I know what the gas bottle looked like?

Now let me make this clear. Caley Marina is a great chandlers. They changed the jacket no problem and were genuinely upset at their mistake. They are a very reputable company and I will be happy to use them again and infact I would certainly recomend them and their mail order service to others.

It just goes to show that even such a reputable dealer can make a mistake. So you MUST check your own life saving equipment (see also posts on kill chords) and take responsibility for YOUR OWN safety.

Cheers, happy new year,

Keith Hart

PS, Hey that was a real topical link wasn't it?
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Old 08 January 2002, 17:33   #7
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All this talk is putting me off life jackets!!!! I have both a life jacket and jobe Buoyancy Aid. I think i'll stick to the buoyancy aid!!!!
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Old 09 January 2002, 13:55   #8
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We have a load of manual inflation jackets for the taxi.

A tip to save you a few quid, is to varnish or paint the cylinders to prevent corrosion.

Tip 2, add extra reflective tape.

Toby
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Old 10 January 2002, 09:03   #9
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Tip 3.

Do not forget to weigh the gascylinder on a letter scale. Compare the result with the original spec. All gascylinders can leak!

Greetings to you all!

Olle
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Old 14 January 2002, 10:39   #10
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that's a good idea olle, and will cover 95% of cases. however the weight loss caused by gas leaks can be disguised by weight gain due to varnishing, painting and/or corrosion build-up. In order to guard against this potential life-threatening situation, I submit all my bottles to X-ray mass-spectrography radiographic tests which gives me a printout of the gaseous molecular components. I was doing this daily but I find a weekly test is sufficient.
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