Safety gear is also checked. Flashlight batteries, repair kit glue and seasick pills are replaced annually. Flares and first-aid kits are changed every three years. After either five or six years, drinking water, water-activated light lithium batteries and food, if applicable, are replaced. These items are redundant to ditch bags, but critical inflation mechanisms are also inspected each time and given major service every five or six years.
When repacked, life rafts are folded so creases fall differently, another important reason to service rafts on schedule even when in storage. Vacuum bags are replaced or inspected to avoid moisture intrusion that will quickly ruin a raft.
If caught early, most problems can be repaired and further damage prevented but only within strict parameters. Even on rafts stored indoors, a burst water container or leaky flashlight battery, if left for years, can ruin a raft. Service is expensive, but delaying service can cost more, and going offshore with an unserviced raft may well exact the ultimate price.
Visit Your Life Raft
You're twice as likely to survive an emergency if you know how to use your survival gear. It's a statistic often cited but that can't be verified. It reflects experiences of shipwreck survivors but can't include accounts of those who never came home. But if you doubt the fact, imagine meeting your raft for the first time while swimming in 6-foot seas, in the dark, without your glasses, with your eyes burning from diesel fuel and under the stress of knowing loved ones are also in the water, hopefully nearby. What odds would you give yourself? To increase them, visit your raft when it's serviced or at a boat show and ask questions.