Group: Forum Members
We, like you and everyone else are n the same dilemma. It does not seem to matter what you buy you will be in the same situation once you leave your home country--no matter where it is or what you buy.
We have discovered that no one life raft service company can attain and remain certified for every type of raft out there nor can they stock or obtain the spares required to satisfy all mfg. 's requirements. It is just too unrealistic.
We bought a Winslow back in 2000. It is a fine piece of gear. We like it because it is light enough that my wife could launch it alone if needs be. For service in the US they have no peer. As we have discovered--once you leave home and go "out there" you are pretty much left to your own devices.
We have had our raft inspected in Spain, Samoa and Fiji---they were all extremely satisfactory inspections even though there was not the possibility of an "official certificate."
The official certificate os only required if you are a vessel for hire and most times all that is required is proof that it was inspected by a "recognized facility"(for insurance and survey purposes. This has never been an issue so far. We participated in all of the inspections so we could see first hand that the condition and behavior of the unit and also watched as it was re-packed to our satisfaction.
We also have found that communicating with Winslow about this over the years, they have been extremely understanding and supportive in helping us maintain the raft and supplying whatever is necessary to keep it in good order. We buy it from them and take it back with us to give the to service people for installation.
The most important things are 1) to get a GOOD raft 2) for service find the most reputable facility in your area. This may require some advance planning but we have found it a workable arrangement.