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View Poll Results: Liferafts...Whats your status
Don't own one 16 21.92%
Have one, uncertified...Never taken a course 11 15.07%
Have one, uncertified...Taken a class 2 2.74%
Have one, certified...Never taken a class 21 28.77%
Have one, certified...Taken a class 23 31.51%
Voters: 73. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 10-04-2008, 07:28 PM   #15
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Hi Gary,

Good to have you with us.

Indeed you are a little out of date. Let me explain why.

The concept behind a ship's liferaft is that it will protect you from the elements until help arrives. There is an inflateable sole (floor) and a rooof tomprotect you from cold and sun. There is no sail because you are meant to stay where you are until help arrives so the idea is that you must alert the MRCC in you area. That is the concept of the GMDSS rescue. Old prop driven machines could survive touchdown in the sea due to their lower impact speeds but modern aircraft are not likely stay stay afloat at all never mind the minutes needed to launch the liferafts. In fact they will break up on landing.

I concur with the principals of self-reliance but the survival techniques deployed today are not based upon that. Self survival todayt basically means not ending up in the drink!

Aye // Stephen
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Old 10-04-2008, 10:56 PM   #16
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Stephen.

I agree with you about staying in one place, if someone knows you are in trouble and ifthey know where to find you. All this new this new technology is great if Murphy is not around. Use the modern technology and have a backup.

Good sailing.

Gary
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Old 10-30-2008, 01:06 AM   #17
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I'm with Gary on this one and, if you don't mind me saying so, the concept of 'staying in one place' at sea in a floating object is somewhat unrealistic. In the kind of conditions that will usually be at cause in crew having to step up into their liferaft, it is unlikely that the raft will stay in one place for more than about ten seconds. It's great to think that experienced rescue service personnel will be able to work out where to look for you from your last known position by calculating set and drift etc., but in practice that is not as easy as one might think, especially when storm conditions prevail.

A friend's boat was broken into, in a Spanish marina, a few years ago. One of the things that was stolen was the E.P.I.R.B. (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) a device that many yachtsmen have long considered a sure way of being saved if the ship goes down. The device was activated. It took nearly 14 hours for the device to be tracked down to an apartment about 400 yards from the vessel...

In rough storm-lashed seas, it is unlikely that the device would have been any easier to locate...

Frankly, although we have a liferaft on board, I wouldn't consider it as any kind of life-preserving item in real terms - it's just there because some authority or other insists it should be and whoever is in charge of the insisting has probably never got closer to sailing than playing with a rubber duck in the bathtub, so it's easy for him or her to be certain of it's usefulness...

If we reached the point where we were unable to avoid abandoning the boat, (i.e. we were clinging to the top of the mast and even that was beginning to sink) we would perhaps deploy the liferaft as a secondary vessel but we'd want to use the dinghy to get clear of the boat with, if it were at all possible and take the liferaft along for deployment later, preferably under reasonable conditions.

Having said all that, there is no doubt that you should get training in the use of the liferaft if you do think you might ever end up wanting to use it.

Incidentally, we keep an emergency 'abandon-ship' grab-bag aboard, on the basis that it is better to have one and not need it than to need one and not have it... we once checked out what was stowed in the extremely expensive liferaft aboard and the answer was 'pitifully little of any real use'!
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Old 10-30-2008, 04:18 AM   #18
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I'm with Gary on this one and, if you don't mind me saying so, the concept of 'staying in one place' at sea in a floating object is somewhat unrealistic.
If a dinghy is the alternative to a liferaft , then just how far would one expect to get with a dinghy that has an outboard engine, 5 gallons of gas, paddles, no cover from the elements?
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Old 10-30-2008, 09:46 AM   #19
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In bad sea conditions, you would never stay in a dinghy. Large breaking waves will tumble a dinghy or life raft - the life raft has a roof, a dinghy doesn't!

One word of advice - don't buy the largest liferaft you can afford - get one designed for the number of people that will be in it. If a large raft it is under loaded it will be more unstable, more prone to tumbling etc. As there is no head in a life raft, the last thing you want is to be tumbled all over the place when the raft floor is covered with faeces and urine.

Also go on a sea survival course where you learn how to right the raft after it deploys as they have a habit of opening upside down and there is a right way and a wrong way to try to turn them over.
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Old 10-30-2008, 10:41 AM   #20
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".. if you don't mind me saying so, the concept of 'staying in one place' at sea in a floating object is somewhat unrealistic."

No, I don't mind you saying so. You are wrong but I still don't mind as it is your life you are putting on the line and not mine. In fact, it is very realistic.

"In the kind of conditions that will usually be at cause in crew having to step up into their liferaft, it is unlikely that the raft will stay in one place for more than about ten seconds."

In a liferaft there is a sea anchor. Use it. Sure you will not remain in exactly the same place, not even for 10 seconds, but it will reduce your drift.

"It's great to think that experienced rescue service personnel will be able to work out where to look for you from your last known position by calculating set and drift etc., but in practice that is not as easy as one might think, especially when storm conditions prevail."

Yes, it is great isn't it? In fact, unexperienced personnel could do this too as it is done by a very advanced computer program.

Someone once said that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice but that in practice there is. Well, in this case that is wrong as the software takes account of the prevailing weather conditions, storm or otherwise to work out your position and area on uncertainty.

"One of the things that was stolen was the E.P.I.R.B. (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) a device that many yachtsmen have long considered a sure way of being saved if the ship goes down. The device was activated. It took nearly 14 hours for the device to be tracked down to an apartment about 400 yards from the vessel... "

When did this happen? The EPIRBs of today, operating on the GMDSS system are different beasts from the EPIRBS of the 80's which were simply radio beacons opereating on 121.5 MHz, the aircraft distress frequency. Modern units operating on 406 MHz with GPS locate a beacon with a precision of 100 meters, anywhere in the world, and send a serial number for identification (max 4 minutes). The GPS system permits stationary, wide-view geosynchronous communications satellites to enhance the doppler position received by low Earth orbit satellites.

So sure, finding the appartment could be difficult but maritime SAR is not dimensioned to send a SAR helicopter through a living room window but to find that beacon at sea.

"In rough storm-lashed seas, it is unlikely that the device would have been any easier to locate..."

Well, the aircrew or boat crew would get a bumpier ride but that is the only difference.

"it's just there because some authority or other insists it should be and whoever is in charge of the insisting has probably never got closer to sailing than playing with a rubber duck in the bathtub, so it's easy for him or her to be certain of it's usefulness..."

The people who decide these things are the national delegates at the IMO. They may or may not have had rubber ducks as children. They may even have them yet. Who knows? Nor may they have any sailing experience whatsoever. Not that it matters. What matters is that they have a vast experience of maritime search and rescue; and this they do. Your flippant comment underpins your lack of knowledge in this field.

"but we'd want to use the dinghy to get clear of the boat with, if it were at all possible and take the liferaft along for deployment later, preferably under reasonable conditions."

Ever tried getting into a dinghy in moderate sea conditions never mind a storm? Forget it! I have launched on numerous occasions RIB:s from ships specially equipped for this and so I can well imagine what climbing into a dinghy might be like and, believe me, you will mostly likely be tipped out of the dinghy. Also, ever tried sitting in a dinghy all day in a cold and wet condition or under a blazing tropical sun? Not a good idea.

"... we once checked out what was stowed in the extremely expensive liferaft aboard and the answer was 'pitifully little of any real use'! "

In an emergency situation we all want more than what the raft contains but how much can it contain and still be easily launched? How much space will it take on board and how much are you prepared to pay for it? All issues together with the fact that for commercial shipping there is a convention which states specifications for ship's liferafts and their content. This is the SOLAS convention but it is not applicable to pleasure craft. Also, in an emergency, I think you will find everything on the SOLAS contents specification to be useful.

Let me also point out that, in this field, I have quite a lot of experience. Twenty odd years as a coast guard officer, much of that at sea and commanding cutters also means that I have pulled one or two people out of the "drink". In fact, I forget how many people I have had the pleasure to help although quite a few of the incidents are etched into my memory. Incidentally, none of those we assisted ever asked about rubber ducks.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 10-30-2008, 10:55 AM   #21
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"... we once checked out what was stowed in the extremely expensive liferaft aboard and the answer was 'pitifully little of any real use'! "
Forgot to say that when you have your life raft serviced, you can specify what you want packed in it - yes, you will have to pay but it can be customised (within reason) to your requirements. Add the emergency grab bag and you are improving your chances all the time.

No safety equipment is perfect but anything that improves your chances of survival and rescue should be carried if possible

As a professional delivery skipper, you wouldn't catch me making any significant passage without a life raft or without an EPIRB, I am responsible for the lives my crew and I take that seriously. My crew members are always briefed on emergency procedures and specific duties allocated to each to ensure, as far as possible, that a safe and effective evacuation can be carried out should the need arise. It hasn't happened yet but when it does I'll be as ready as is possible.
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Old 11-02-2008, 02:48 PM   #22
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"Frankly, although we have a liferaft on board, I wouldn't consider it as any kind of life-preserving item in real terms - it's just there because some authority or other insists it should be...."



Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea, by Stephen Callahan


117 Days Adrift (World of Cruising), by Maurice & Maralyn Bailey

66 Days Adrift, by William Butler

The above are three books of personal survival in a life raft after the authors' sailboats sank. If no other, read Stephen Callahan's book.

Just think, nobody forced them to carry a liferaft, but clearly it saved their lives. The family whose boat was sunk by a freighter on their way to New Zealand had only a dinghy, and only the wife survived, barely. Her husband and daughter succumbed very quickly to harsh weather and exposure. I suggest that you rethink your survival tactics.

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Old 11-02-2008, 03:03 PM   #23
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I'm certainly no expert, but...

I was once required to pay for and complete a course entitled "Elements of Shipboard Safety"as a pre-condition of qualifying for my first Master Class V license in Australia. I found the practical parts of the course (jumping into the sea in a survival suit, towing fellow crew members around the vessel, launching life raft and jumping in after it, righting it, etc) very educational and certainly worth the money and effort. And I'm surprised this isn't required to qualify for a license in the USA.

I've always taken the atitude that my boat is my life raft and therefore replace all hose clamps periodically, service all seacocks regularly and replace critical items whenever I feel it necessary. Every thru-hull on our vessel has a proper sized wooden plug lightly attached to the corresponding hose with a wooden mallet within reach of of the plugs. I also carefully double-check my charts before any passage to best steer clear of potential harm. And much more...

Since I now have added a 5 yo son to the crew and elevated sense of responsibility - I've installed a six person Givens Life Raft (the best in my opinion) with proper automatic release mechanisms... which give my wife and myself a degree of added comfort whenever we head out to sea. I personally witnessed the servicing of it recently and added a new GPIRB and better fishing lures to the kit as well as the smallest can of varnish... because every boat owner knows that the moment you open the can and dip a brush into the varnish - it will soon start to rain... and we can thus collect the rainwater for tipping the odds into our favour for survival.

But I'm going to do everything within my power and scope of knowledge to prevent the need to ever use the life raft.

One thing is for certain - having a life raft on board greatly adds to the comfort level of us who are aboard and to those who care about us while we're out here enjoying ourselves on the high seas.

To Life!

Kirk
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Old 11-03-2008, 05:41 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by MMNETSEA View Post
If a dinghy is the alternative to a liferaft , then just how far would one expect to get with a dinghy that has an outboard engine, 5 gallons of gas, paddles, no cover from the elements?
Actually, although reading everything everyone has said has helped me to change my mind about using a dinghy, I hadn't actually considered taking outboard and gas along!
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Old 11-03-2008, 06:17 PM   #25
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In bad sea conditions, you would never stay in a dinghy. Large breaking waves will tumble a dinghy or life raft - the life raft has a roof, a dinghy doesn't!

One word of advice - don't buy the largest liferaft you can afford - get one designed for the number of people that will be in it. If a large raft it is under loaded it will be more unstable, more prone to tumbling etc. As there is no head in a life raft, the last thing you want is to be tumbled all over the place when the raft floor is covered with faeces and urine.

Also go on a sea survival course where you learn how to right the raft after it deploys as they have a habit of opening upside down and there is a right way and a wrong way to try to turn them over.
You are absolutely right - truth is we hope never to have to leave our theoretically unsinkable boat but a dinghy would probably be a lousy means of doing so.

What does one do on a boat that is sometimes sailed single-handed, sometimes has two people aboard and occasionally carries up to ten people on a voyage? We were instructed that we must have the liferaft that would take the maximum number of people who could need to get into it. This means it is much too big for when there are just the two of us, one of the reasons we have always thought we would try to use the dinghy and take the liferaft along to deploy when things calmed down a little or at least when we were away from the sinking scene...

Your suggestion of attending a course is a very good idea because, apart from any other consideration, one is always a lot calmer when one is handling something familiar in a crisis - the idea of trying to figure out how to use a liferaft for the first time when all hell has broken loose is terrifying!
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Old 11-03-2008, 06:40 PM   #26
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I wish I had your faith in computer programs, Nausikaa/Stephen, after half a lifetime of using them...

The incident with the EPIRB happened in 2004

Sorry if I sounded flippant. Having heard myself described as 'an expert' in various things during the course of my life, despite the fact that you could have driven a destroyer through the holes in my knowledge, I find it hard to have much faith in 'experts'. However, I'm sure you're right.

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Ever tried getting into a dinghy in moderate sea conditions never mind a storm? Forget it! I have launched on numerous occasions RIB:s from ships specially equipped for this and so I can well imagine what climbing into a dinghy might be like and, believe me, you will mostly likely be tipped out of the dinghy. Also, ever tried sitting in a dinghy all day in a cold and wet condition or under a blazing tropical sun? Not a good idea.
You are, again, absolutely right although we would not be planning to get down into the dinghy, on the basis that the only way we would leave the boat at all is if the unsinkable qualities with which she is reported to be endowed turned out to be non-existent, in which case we would be stepping across into the dinghy... however, I am convinced that this would be impossible in most circumstances... I did say we would want to take the life raft with us and deploy it afterwards... incidentally, I have lived aboard a schooner at sea continuously since 1996 (not my first floating home either and not in a marina or a port) so, yes, I do quite a lot of getting into and out of dinghies in the course of the average year...

My hat is off to you as a hero of the sea, sir - I hold coastguard officers in the highest regard as should everyone. The fact that I would never dream of asking you to risk life and limb for me or mine, since I like to think we would only get into trouble through our own fault, which we always try to avoid (so far, so good in almost 50 years of sailing) does not mean that I don't appreciate the willingness you have to do so for those who might want to live by the sword but are not so keen to die by it, so to speak...
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Old 11-04-2008, 02:08 AM   #27
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When I was working for my last company in shore-based procurement for oil-rig support vessels and anchor-handlers, we had fun and games with liferafts and they cost us a fortune to service and keep certified. We'd have a whole heap of spare rafts being transported around Australia to cover other ship's rafts while being serviced - it was an absolute nightmare to try to keep on top of!

Each ship would have about four x 16 man rafts and they needed certifying to SOLAS requirements every year. (20 ships x 4 or 5 rafts + half a dozen spares or so = headache!)

What we found the servicing companies would do (no names) is fill the raft with items barely within the use by date - ie, they'd have just 12 months date on them, so that when it came to be serviced next year they'd be able to charge us again. On occasion, items would be changed out needlessly!

We had to stipulate they gave us a list of everything in the raft at time of service and the use by date, and everything they replaced and the new use by date. Also we had to make sure that when they replaced supplies, the new items had the longest possible date on them. Some servicing companies looked at us as a cash-cow to be milked and just took advantage. They'd also be extremely quick to condemn a raft.

It was getting to the point where it was sometimes cheaper to just buy more new rafts than keep getting them serviced as they got older. When we had a ship dry-dock in Singapore we'd always buy a few extra rafts there and bring them back to Aus...

So, I just wanted to let people know that it's good to see for yourself what's going into your raft and make sure they don't replace items with the shortest dated items on their shelves. Also having said that while some companes were a little suspect, some were really top notch.
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Old 11-04-2008, 06:35 AM   #28
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So, I just wanted to let people know that it's good to see for yourself what's going into your raft and make sure they don't replace items with the shortest dated items on their shelves. Also having said that while some companes were a little suspect, some were really top notch.
Good advice JohnyxO. It remimndes of the days before I joined the Coast Guard and was second mate on a ferry which was capable of carrying 2200 passengers. We were forever shuffling liferafts around as almost every week a new batch was sent ashore for certification. I am sure we could have been cheated by the company respopnsible as we just did not have the time to spend at the service depot and check the contents of the rafts ourselves. Later, when I moved on to the Coast Guard, we, as standard pracice, used to inflate our rafts which were due for service and traing boarding them and spending some time in them. Since then I have had a very good understanding of the protection offered by liferafts, particularly against the cold. I would sugest to anyone about to service their raft to get in tough with the service company and arrange for you to test the raft in the water. It is a sobering experience, especially in winter.

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My hat is off to you as a hero of the sea, sir - I hold coastguard officers in the highest regard as should everyone. The fact that I would never dream of asking you to risk life and limb for me or mine, since I like to think we would only get into trouble through our own fault, which we always try to avoid (so far, so good in almost 50 years of sailing) does not mean that I don't appreciate the willingness you have to do so for those who might want to live by the sword but are not so keen to die by it, so to speak...
Thanks for the kind words but I must immediately admit to not being at sea with the Coast Guard any longer. Although still a coast guard officer I am on secondment abroad and spending most of my time behind a desk now. I understand and apreciate your sentiment of not asking anyone else to risk life and limb for you but the fact remains that SAR organisations all over the globe have an obligation to loook for and rescue people in distress. It does not matter if you want to be rescued or not the Coast Guard or lifeboat institutions launch and come to your rescue.

Regarding the computer program, no matter how good it is it is still only a program. The benefit of it is that it takes into account a lot of variables which a stressed rescue leader might otherwise forget but having said that it is remarkably good at putting the SAR unit in the right area but, in nearly all cases, once in that area the unit(s) have to start a search pattern unless they have an EPIRB or other beacon to "home" in on.

I understand everyone's reluctance to spend lots of cash on lifesaving kit which we all hope will never be used but the day you do need it you will be grateful for it. Just don't sell yourselves short and buy sub-standard equipment and keep the kit up to date.

Aye // Stephen
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