30 May 2018
While we were in Athens our life raft needed servicing. It gets a service every three years and had last been done in Burnham a year before we left. We had been keen to understand more about this vital, potentially lifesaving bit of kit so we had watched it being inflated and got familiar with what was inside. It was good to know…. just in case!
So knowing the service was due we found a Viking life raft service centre outside Piraeus and made arrangements to visit them. What seemed like a bit of a chore turned into a really fun day out.
We hired a car to get the (very heavy) life raft to Technava’s service centre on an industrial park outside Piraeus. The staff there were so brilliantly welcoming – just about everyone asked us if we wanted a cup of coffee while we waited. They were really happy for us to see the life raft inflated. For four persons, it does seem awfully small if you were stuck in there for any time!
The staff were keen to show us where all the liferaft’s equipment was – pump, torch, bailer, knife etc. There is even a fishing kit in there although if we are as successful at fishing from the liferaft as we are from Pintail then we will definitely starve! We watched them replace all the things that had expired – spare batteries, seasickness tablets, flares etc. They were keen to introduce us to something new since last time. Previously our kit had contained glue to seal up any holes in the rubber tubes. Viking had since replaced the glue with a natty new plastic and rubber seal that clamps together. We had a thorough demonstration of how they work.
We had a look through the plastic sheets of instructions for signals and surviving in a liferaft and were shown how to use the mirror device in the kit for signalling to ships and airplanes. All incredibly useful stuff when the reality is that we’ll be in panic mode and forget everything we know.
We couldn’t help thinking that as customers we were a bit of a novelty. Most of their work is from commercial and naval ships and we’re sure they don’t all come down to watch their liferafts get serviced. It was incredible to see the enormous 101 person liferaft get inflated and repacked into its canister. We chatted to the staff about what emergency kits go inside them. Apparently it all depends on the flag of the ship but includes emergency water and rations. We even got to try some of the sugary ration biscuit.
We left the staff to carefully repack our liferaft without distraction and headed towards Corinth before returning to collect it. We wanted to see the canal from land before we take Pintail through soon on our way back out to the Ionian. It is an incredible, if a bit vertiginous, sight looking down from the bridge at its sheer walls and it seems so narrow. We can’t wait to go through.
We took the old road back towards Piraeus to pick up the liferaft and on our way came across the wreck of MS Mediterranean Sky which sank after being laid up in 2003. We couldn’t help noticing that her lifeboats were still in place.
We collected Pintail’s liferaft on our way back happy in the knowledge that should we need it everything is in working order. We know a bit more about what’s inside but hope that we don’t have to see it again for another three years…