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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 10-30-2008, 11:55 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, 03:48 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, 04:03 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!

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Old 11-03-2008, 06:41 PM   #24
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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, 07:17 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, 07:40 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, 03:08 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, 07:35 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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Old 11-05-2008, 11:32 AM   #29
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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?
I think it depends where you are sailing, how far off shore you are and the likely time for rescue services to reach you. If you do offshore passages with up to 10 on board I would have two rafts, one for 4 one for 6 - this gives you flexibility in respect of optimal loading.

If you are only coastal cruising with good local SAR, a liferaft is not essential and the provision is up to you.

However, if you are operating commercially then you must ensure your provision meets the relevant code of practice standard.
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Old 11-21-2008, 04:16 AM   #30
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90% of the time it will only be the wife and myself aboard, but there is always the possibility of a crew of 4 for longer passages (better watch schedules), so we haven't decided whether to purchase a two-person raft or a four-person raft and try to take extra gear (tied-in of course) to make up for the lack of predicted (designed for) weight. Time can sure become compressed in stressful situations, so who knows what kind of time you might really have?

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Old 11-21-2008, 10:27 AM   #31
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90% of the time it will only be the wife and myself aboard, but there is always the possibility of a crew of 4 for longer passages (better watch schedules)
In that case I would suggest that you go for the 4 man option - you are more likely to need it on longer passages, further offshore etc
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Old 04-25-2009, 07:35 AM   #32
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Has it occurred to anybody else that maybe some cruisers don't carry rafts because they know the limitations of the rafts?

Mine is serviced and up to date but I am very dubious about its life saving potential. It is a 4 person raft (smallest available) but I mainly sail on my own. As the footage of the Fastnet Race disaster seems to show, it takes 4 people to keep a 4 man raft from getting semi airborne.

My survival training for Australian merchant certificates ( at AMC Launceston and TAFE/QANTAS Sydney ) has only re-infoced my doubts. I am saving up to buy an inflatable tank internal system.

About the same cost as a raft. Makes sense to me to stay with the food, water and tools. And hopefully patch the boat.

I will however keep the raft, parially because I'm too miserly to throw it out, mainly because it could be the last resort if the boat was on fire.
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Old 04-25-2009, 08:31 AM   #33
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Has it occurred to anybody else that maybe some cruisers don't carry rafts because they know the limitations of the rafts?

As the footage of the Fastnet Race disaster seems to show, it takes 4 people to keep a 4 man raft from getting semi airborne.
The Fastnet disaster occurred some 30 years ago - many improvements have been made to liferafts - more important is to have fully functioning EPIRB :-

Category I

406/121.5 MHZ. Float-free, automatically activated EPIRB. Detectable by satellite anywhere in the world. Recognized by GMDSS.

or

Category II

406/121.5 MHZ. Similar to Category I, except is manually activated. Some models are also water activated.
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Old 04-25-2009, 09:22 AM   #34
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..............Makes sense to me to stay with the food, water and tools. And hopefully patch the boat.

I will however keep the raft, parially because I'm too miserly to throw it out, mainly because it could be the last resort if the boat was on fire.
I agree.

On 29 November 1942, the Blue Star Liner, DUNEDEN STAR, heading for the Middle East and carrying passengers, ran aground on Namibia's Skeleton Coast. The crew sent a distress signal which was received in Walvis Bay. In quite heavy surf some of the crew and the passengers got ashore in one of the ship's boats. The master and others remained on board as, by then, there was too much surf for them to reach safety. The environment was anything but friendly: hot in the day, cold at night, very dry with no habitation for miles.

A tug, the SIR CHARLES ELLIOT, was dispatched by the Admiralty but ran aground before it reached the Dunedin Star. Two of its crew members jumped overboard but were drowned in the cold waters before they could reach the shore.

The S.A. Air Force sent a plane from the Cape of Good Hope with supplies and water for the survivors who had made it to shore. It landed, but got bogged down when trying to take off. A second flight was organised with more supplies. It did not land, merely dropped its supplies. It encountered no problems at the site of the wreck but crashed in the sea on the way back. Three crewmen made it ashore and began their long walk.

A ship called the NERNIA made it to the site, but only managed to pick up 29 survivors from the wreck itself, 63 remaining ashore. A overland relief convoy was organised from Windhoek. They got to within three kilometers of the survivor's beach camp but were forced to walk the rest of the way. On the way back, they also collected the airman who had swum to shore from the bomber that crashed at sea.

By the time they were rescued the "shore party" were in a poor state but those who remained on the wreck had suffered no privations due to lack of fod or water.

The survivors made it back safely some 26 days later, arriving in Windhoek on Christmas Eve.

The people who remained on the ship, although facing the danger that it could break up in a storm, had food and water and shelter. Those ashore had little of any of these things.

The DUNEDEN STAR case is a facinating story of human survival and also human relations but here I have used it to illustrate that if there is a chance of staying with your food and water then it would be best to do so.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 04-26-2009, 05:54 AM   #35
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The Fastnet disaster occurred some 30 years ago - many improvements have been made to liferafts - more important is to have fully functioning EPIRB :-

Category I

406/121.5 MHZ. Float-free, automatically activated EPIRB. Detectable by satellite anywhere in the world. Recognized by GMDSS.

or

Category II

406/121.5 MHZ. Similar to Category I, except is manually activated. Some models are also water activated.
Hi, valid comment.

Got the 406 EPIRP.

Some improvements have been made to the rafts, mainly bigger and better water pockets I think.

But still not enough to keep a 4 man raft with one person from getting airborne in 60 kts.

What I was trying to do was to encourage thinking about the alternatives such as the internal inflatable bladder and the fully decked sailing dingy.

The former is, I have been told, acceptable to the authorities in at least some jurisdictions. And I have seen examples of the latter that were not only certified but seemed perfectly able to cross oceans.

My memory might be awry (survived the 60s) but one of the posts referred to "112 days at sea". Didn't they survive in a dingy after their raft disintegrated after a few days?

No one size will fit all, but all the alternatives are worth looking at.

Cheers, Ben
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Old 04-26-2009, 06:50 AM   #36
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But still not enough to keep a 4 man raft with one person from getting airborne in 60 kts.

What I was trying to do was to encourage thinking about the alternatives such as the internal inflatable bladder and the fully decked sailing dingy. .

Cheers, Ben
The point "encourage thinking about the alternatives" well made!

Interesting to know the source of the following :-

1."But still not enough to keep a 4 man raft with one person from getting airborne in 60 kts" How, when and how was this test done ?

2."the internal inflatable bladder"

Where would this be stored ? How would it be activated ? When inflated, what would ensure that it did not block the companion way?

3."the fully decked sailing dingy"

How many people and vital stores can it carry?

When the mother ship is going down, how would the sailing dinghy be launched?
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Old 04-26-2009, 01:26 PM   #37
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The point "encourage thinking about the alternatives" well made!

Interesting to know the source of the following :-

1."But still not enough to keep a 4 man raft with one person from getting airborne in 60 kts" How, when and how was this test done ?

2."the internal inflatable bladder"

Where would this be stored ? How would it be activated ? When inflated, what would ensure that it did not block the companion way?

3."the fully decked sailing dingy"

How many people and vital stores can it carry?

When the mother ship is going down, how would the sailing dinghy be launched?


OK I have at least some part of the answers.

1. No idea about tests, but training providers stress that rafts must be fully loaded.

2. The details are here: http://www.turtlepac.com/yachtdetails.htm

3. I have only seen a couple and then only when used as a tender. I do believe that both were on UK registered yachts in Aus.

As to launching arrangements I have no idea. Both would have been 9-10' and had a removable section of decking.

Never having seen one advertised maybe some UK members might know more.
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Old 06-12-2009, 09:10 PM   #38
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When buying a life raft, you buy the best double bottom round one that you can afford. There are a number of interesting sites comparing all the liferafts out there.

Just remember the following:

1. Be present when your raft is serviced.

2. Pack at least 30 seasick pills for each person into the kit.

3. Pack a hand operated RO pump (these are small and can make a lot of water) into the raft.

4. Pack a 4'-6' power kite - you can keep the raft steady and also sail if no help arrives.

5. Pack a small good quality compass

6. A small enema kit - emergency rehydration with seawater

All of the above will easily fit into the raft before it is stored.

Also remember that the only time you get into a life raft is when you step up and into it from the top of your mast. Your boat has an additional 95% rate of survival when you cannot continue anymore. Most people die from exposure and dehydration - and a life raft is a sure vomit comet.

Lastly you can drink seawater - 450ml per day max and you MUST start this the moment your NORMAL drinking water supply has run out (no rationing) and your body is still hydrated.

Maybe we should start a thread on a life raft survival kit contents.
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Old 07-22-2009, 06:55 PM   #39
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Maybe we should start a thread on a life raft survival kit contents.
Please add what you can to the existing Cruising Wiki's "Safety and Survival" section HERE - see "Liferaft" and "Yacht's Grab Bag".
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Old 11-20-2009, 10:50 AM   #40
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I bought my 1980's vintage 42 ft boat this year. The 4 man liferaft was a canister secured to the deck with stickers from a local inspection company showing a handwritten last inspection date in 2006.

Without opening the canister, it is impossible to tell exactly what the condition the liferaft was in inside. The survey just recommended the liferaft be taken for service.

I took it in for it's service last week. The inspection record inside the canister said it was made in 1995 and checked once in 2001. The seams were all rotted and it basically inflated and then fell apart on the floor. The service crew consigned it to the skip.

It is sad but you just can't trust people to be honest. And this just reinforces the need to do the service.

It would have been a sad and scary day if I had needed the liferaft and I was asking my family to step up into a deflating heap of plasic and rubber.
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