As part of his preparations for this summer’s Newport Bermuda Race, Long Island sailor Larry Glenn had both his inflatable liferafts serviced. And then he asked the service technician if he could perform a deployment drill for his crew so that they would all be familiar with the process in the event of an emergency. There was something about the drill that did not sit well with Glenn, however.
"It was a very flaky performance," he said. "I then became suspicious of the job he had done servicing my rafts. So I took them to another facility, Sea Safety International in Secaucus, N.J., and they found that one of my rafts had been replaced with an older one and that there was no gas in the canister. My other six-man raft had been replaced with an old sail and some other junk."
Glenn immediately contacted the parent company, Viking Lifesaving Equipment America Inc., in Miami, which revoked the license of the service company, Inflex Corp. of Warwick, R.I. Viking also supplied Glenn with two new rafts.
"This is the first time this sort of thing has happened to us," said Tor Johnsen of Viking. "We have been working closely with everyone who was affected by this problem."
Johnsen said his company urges sailors to take partto witness their rafts being serviced, since uninspected vessel liferaft inspections are not regulated by the Coast Guard or international class societies, as is the case with commercial vessels. For his part, Glenn said he will change service agencies each year and tell technicians of his plan, so they know someone else will be inspecting the rafts next.
US Sailing is examining liferaft servicing fraud in its Fall 2000 meeting to determine public guidelines, according to Safety Committee Chairman Ralph Naranjo.