Group: Forum Members
Having recently purchased a new life raft, I decided to unpack and examine my old Beaufort Forties (A) four man raft myself. Although all appeared to be in good condition and the inflation cylinder retained pressure, I discovered that the mushroom valves to relieve over pressure on the main tube had both broken, rendering the raft completely useless as the hole they are supposed to seal was now fully open.
These two valves are held closed by springs and the two mushroom ends joined by a 4mm diameter plastic stem. In both cases the snapped area in the stem seems to be less than 3mm, suggesting there was some sort of groove which weakened the valve at this critical point, allowing the spring and inner closing valve to simply fall off inside the tube.
These valves never operate until the raft is used in anger. They fact that they failed of their own accord and could have done so at any time between services suggests a serious design flaw. If you have such a raft be aware that its integrity, and possibly your life, relies on less than 3mm of brittle plastic. Because the critical bit of the valve is inside the tube a service will not reveal how close the shaft might be to failure.
I have tried to contact Beaufort about this, but each time been referred to an extension which did not answer, or reply to my messages. I have no idea for how long this type of valve was in use on their rafts, if it still is and whether this problem has ever been highlighted before.
All I can suggest is that if you have a Beaufort raft that is more than a few years old, buy something else and use it for the children to play in.
Martin Lamport - Sadko.