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Old 01-06-2012, 23:17   #61
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Ok, I admit that keaping a dingy/raft outfitted full time is looney, but if your on passage, or you in a storm, or not at anchor when you'll need to be taxiing or some such, then you you should keep it outfitted if its your backup boat. Also I haven't put to much thought into storage or engine mounting. But I haven't got a boat OR dingy yet, but, I will figure it out when I do.

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Old 01-06-2012, 23:42   #62
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Re: A dingy as a lifeboat/life raft

Originally Posted by downunder View Post
well considered post.
Thank you.

A house is but a boat so poorly built and so firmly run aground no one would think to try and refloat it.
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:44   #63
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Re: A Dingy as a Lifeboat/Life Raft

Originally Posted by Andrew Troup View Post

I think you're sailing pretty close to the permitted ad hominem
tolerance on this forum when you label a dissenting view from your own as sermonising.

People who do this only find out they've made the "wrong choice" when it's too late. The purpose of this thread (I thought) was to air issues which might help people decide what choice to make under various circumstances.

The question here is: how reliable are liferafts -- for which there is no simple answer -- however it may be possible to get a better appreciation of which units are most reliable under which circumstances.

An interesting twist in the case of liferafts, perhaps partly because individuals are becoming more assertively 'truthy': there have been recent cases where crew have forced the issue by inflating a liferaft in direct contravention of their skipper's clear directions, on a vessel with no prospect whatsoever of sinking.

Their notion that a liferaft represents some sort of automatic sanctuary, or cocoon, offering safety and comfort in a storm-tossed ocean, is wishful thinking of epic proportions.
Dear Andrew,

Ad 1) You are right, I apologise. The way I structured my post does sound like I were talking ad personam, while my intention was to address an issue, not a particular person. A lesson to me and I will try to learn this lesson well.

Ad 2) I will disagree. I do not think we can label our choices a posteriori. I think the wrong decision is to go without a liferaft when conditions dictate to have one. Buying and having a liferaft cannot be labeled a wrong decision, even if in a particular case the raft later fails to deploy or if/when people die in result of abandoning ship and going into this raft. Having a liferaft, in a situation that dictates having one, CANNOT (IMHO) be a wrong decision.

Ad 3) I believe liferafts are highly reliable. I have only seen one not deploying while I have seen at least a dozen deploying OK. I believe (correct me if I am wrong on this) liferafts are manufactured at least to the standards a plain inflatable dinghy is manufactured. Our dinghy here is a Bombard that spent 9 years now on the deck, most of the time in tropical sun (covered though). It is still usable. I believe then that a liferaft from any serious manufacturer will have life of at least ten years.

Ad 4) If the crew act contrary to skipper's instructions, this is a crew-skipper issue, not a have-or-not-have liferat issue. Such things happened before liferafts too - see Bligh whom the crew sent away in what then was a liferaft. That crew resolved 'to stay with the ship' though, which, anecdotally, turned out to be a seriously WRONG decision.


I do hope I expressed my bile emotions in a non-offensive way this time. It is clear, to me, that we are actually both meaning the best interest of our ships and crews, much as we elect to differently justify our equipment choices and non-choices.

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Old 02-06-2012, 08:43   #64
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Re: A Dingy as a Lifeboat/Life Raft

Lots of good thoughtful posts. A few rants.

As a coastal cruiser with a catamaran, my personal reasoning for relying on an inflatable tender:

* Sinking. Very nearly impossible with my boat. 2 crash bulkheads in each bow, one in each in the stern, no ballast. Perhaps impossible, as it has never happened with this model.

* Collision. If it's enough to cause sinking, I'm probably dead, run over by a container ship.

* Capsize. Very unlikely, but if that occurred I wouldn't be leaving the boat. That 's where the supplies are, it much easier to find, and it will float for months. I can still launch the tender.

* Fire. Nothing would launch faster than the dingy.

* Reliability. I'm not interested in stories about the condition of another's dingy; that's rather like saying cars are unreliable because I might by a 30-year old beater. A person with a poorly maintained dingy would also have a poorly maintained liferaft. My dingy is very sound and is certainly built more strongly that the typical liferaft.

* Survival storms. I'm a coastal sailor; why would I do that? I never see anything more than a thunderstorm or a blustery day. But I do have a small (4-foot) sea anchor and I'm betting that would make her pretty stable, with the crew lying on the floor.

* Rescue. With an inflatable tender, I grab the jerry can of spare gas from the stern locker and motor up to 75 miles. I never go more than 20 miles out.

* Supplies. Yes, I do keep some things in the tender, under the seat: water, VHF, some food, flashlight, horn, paddles, PFDs (non-inflatable and they STAY in there). We often explore wetlands much further than we can row back, so we are prepared. And it would be simple to load a dingy on davits on a cat with more in a minute.

* Exposure. If I sailed far offshore in cold waters that would make a difference. I WOULD have a life raft. I do carry a wet suit in the winter.

Crossing an ocean? I would fabricate an inflatable tender that would accept a real cover (like the Clam), have a ditch bag including a sea anchor, and would consider that superior to something in a canister. It wouldn't be cheaper, it would be better. The needs of a monohull sailor are different, as the type of dingy and the manner in which it is carried is different, and the rapid sinking scenario is different. I would consider a different answer if my boat or sailing area were different.
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Old 02-06-2012, 10:42   #65
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Re: A dingy as a lifeboat/life raft

I respect the views of fellow sailors and will be the first to admit I do not know it all or even most of it... but please if you are going to make statements like "things fail all the time", be ready to back it up...

It is only being responsible, especially to the people who don't know better due to inexperience or lack of trainning might take your opinions seriously.

With that said:

Some of you are falsly believing that a dinghy is a stable platform in high winds and seas, which most are not... They were designed to get you from point A to B at speed, not sit and float in the heavy seas. I have personally witnessed dighies turtling or flying off the water in winds as light as 30 knots.

In contrast, a SOLAS Off-Shore Life Raft is designed to be stable in rough seas (Ballast Bags) and provide shelter from the elements.

Yes, true SOLAS life rafts are very expensive, but they are built to last and with proper servicing should last and be ready for deployement for years.

The best way to learn about safety at sea is to take classes, have a plan and practice it... When was the last time you talked to your crew about safety procedures or had them try on you emergency gear, like imersion suits.

An STCW class is one way to learn the basics of marine safety... Fire Fighting, Survival Crafts and Survival Equipment are taught and practiced with. Once you are in a simulated fire or have to board a life raft wearing an imersion suit, you will gain a whole new respect for it.

Several people have made made references to statistical data that life rafts fail more than they work... That is absolutely wrong, with the the disclaimer, IF THEY ARE PROPERLY MAINTAINED.

Mr. Evans was quoted earlier and I believe he is an experienced sailor and author, but his comments on life rafts seem to reflect his own bias...

He examples the test done by cruisers in NZ, which could be used to say that only 25% of the twenty life rafts tested properly worked.

He does state if the rafts were SOLAS Rafts and/or the owners properly maintained there rafts as perscibed by manufactors recommendations (Most of which stated service ever year, with few exclusions). Since he stated most rafts had been serviced in the last two years I suspect not.

Mr. Evans also makes mention that that the life rafts on the Costa Concordia failed... I have no idea where he got his information, but the Concordia launched over ten inflatable life rafts (Not four), three of which properly inflated, but subsequently caught on the topsides, due to the extreme abgle of the ship and were unable to be used.

Mr. Evans claims many people were killed or injured as a result of abandoning their vessels and/or boarding Life Rafts during a Hobart Race....

If he is refering to the 1998 Hobart Race, that was huge weather sytem causing 70 knot (hurricane force) winds, huge seas and even snow in the sumertime of Austrailia.

With that said, if the crews abandon their still floating vessels and cut away the life rafts, they made a deadly mistake. You should never leave your floating vessel, until it sinks, which is why a knife is always mounted by the life raft painter.

A semi-submerged or still floating vessel provides a bigger target than a Life Raft for searchers. Obivously, if there are other hazardous conditions present, such as fire, you would cut away.

Someone mentioned Latitude 38 May article on Liferafts... Sol of Sol's Inflatables in Alameda, CA is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced persons in the business...

I learned most of what I know about life raft's from Sol, long before I started attending USCG approved Survival Craft Courses. ... The article clearly reminds people to do service on your rafts... Sol will also be the first one to point out the huge differences in construction between "Cheaper" rafts and more "Expensive" SOLAS type rafts...

With that said, if you can afford it, buy the top of the line SOLAS raft for your type of cruising.... If you can't afford it, buy what you can and hope for the best!

I also wanted to address the below quote:

Originally Posted by Adelie View Post

Fire will give you some time. Your assumption about fire is a very dangerous and will get you and your crew killed... Marine fires are deadly and will burn most recreational boats to the water line in ten minutes or less... Heat and hazardous chemical smoke will fill the cabin and downwind areas in minutes.

Winds and waves: Calm, moderate, heavy

In calm wind and waves, either lifeboat or liferaft will be equally easy to deploy. It is seldom that I have seen a dinghy in immediate launch readiness... Most area secured with rachets or other lines... Also most recreational dinghies are two person deployments, which assumes everyone is healthy and not injured or incapacitated. On Motor Vessels, many require hydrolic or electric cranes, which will probably not be working in an emergency.

In moderate conditions, I could see the liferaft having a slight advantage in speed and ease of use. See Above

In heavy conditions I see it going back to being a tossup. Does the wind send the liferaft flying, do the waves break its painter so it can drift away? Does the liferaft puncture on the mothership? Is it so rough you can't get into it? Is it so rough the dinghy keeps swamping? How do you get into the dinghy? There is no tossup in heavy seas, yes, murphys law could strike, but a properly built (SOLAS) liferaft is designed to be boarded by jumping butt first into it... SOLAS Off-Shore Liferaft will have more durablity and stability than a dighy. More than likly in high winds, a dinghy will got flying, where a SOLAS Off Shore raft will remain, due to water ballist.

Dinghies have a longevity advantage. Life expectancy of a raft can be measured in days or weeks generally. With some weather luck, you could go months on a dinghy. SOLAS Off Shore Rafts will hold up better than a normal dinghy in long term, off shore conditions. The dinghy passengers will be exposed to the elements and will probably be swamped or capsized on a regular basis, in moderate or greater seas .

My plan is to prep the dinghy ahead of time, take survival suits and go over the side tied to the dinghy while wearing the gumby suit. I have no idea of your athletic ability, but what you are describing is dificult in a swimming pool and absolutely scary in te real world. A "GUMBY" suit or more technically, "Imersion Suits" are incrediblity difficult to put on and to swim in. If you jump from the vessel and all the air is not removed from the suit, you will be forced on your back and not be able to go vertical in the water, since the air will collect around your shoulders. Also in heavy winds tying yourself to the dinghy could be extremely dangerous, since more than likely it will turtle or try to fly off, depending on its weight.

I think the odd generally favor the dinghy but in some situations the liferaft has an advantage. In the end if you have the money get both, if not live with it, and if you are marginal for the money, decide whether upgrading the boat to make it less sinkable is the better risk. It all depends on which risks scare you more. My only addition to this is if you are single handing... If you have crew on board you are making decisions that could potential impact there lives as well...
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Old 02-06-2012, 10:55   #66
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Re: A Dingy as a Lifeboat/Life Raft

From a recent TV programme of the UK Navy intercepting drug runners in the carribean.
Multiple rounds on heavy machine guns, bofors gun etc failed to sink the big ribs that the runners favour. An unsinkable (foam filled double skin) dinghy is a great start.
Adding a waterproof cover to it, secured as well as the main boats canopy, makes it much more use able and reduces the chance of swamping. Clipping an Orange sheet over that and it becomes a liferaft that won't perish and is unlikely to sink.
Add a small sail and bolt (mould in) the emergency/back up nav and roll out solar panel, two weeks of water and hard rations, and you've got something that will keep you alive for six weeks and can be navigated to any nearby land if there's a bit of breeze.
Yes, it's big, it needs to be designed in, but is also your dink.
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Old 02-06-2012, 15:56   #67
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Re: A Dingy as a Lifeboat/Life Raft

Thank you for coming back with a gracious and well reasoned and lucid post.

Ad 2) I will disagree. I do not think we can label our choices a posteriori. I think the wrong decision is to go without a liferaft when conditions dictate to have one. Buying and having a liferaft cannot be labeled a wrong decision, even if in a particular case the raft later fails to deploy or if/when people die in result of abandoning ship and going into this raft. Having a liferaft, in a situation that dictates having one, CANNOT (IMHO) be a wrong decision.

OK: Now I see where we boarded different trains of thought.

My interpretation of your original proposition "How can adding a liferaft make a vessel less safe" was in the context of the thread topic: "Dinghy or Liferaft?"

Accordingly I assumed that the "before" condition of your hypothetical vessel included a satisfactory* dinghy-based alternative.
Otherwise, it seemed to me the proposition you advanced would have been a 'no brainer', which would not advance the discussion.
By 'no brainer', I mean that adding a liferaft is a considerable safety improvement for any sinkable vessel with no viable alternative for evacuation, and that should be clear even to an infant.

I hope you can rethink my subsequent comments in the light of this misunderstanding, as I have yours.

It should follow that my "wrong choice" comment referred to choosing to evacuate using the liferaft option rather than the 'adapted dinghy' option, only to have the liferaft fail. (I'll put together a list of historical failure modes for another post.)

I intentionally avoided spelling out the dinghy option because I didn't want to rule out other alternative choices, such as staying on board a boat reliably set up for unsinkability, which I personally would prefer to evacuating, in most circumstances. However most boats do not offer this option.

I now understand why you would think I was reasoning a posteriori, as you mistakenly thought I was referring to the choice to have a liferaft on board. I hope you will now re-think the point I was making: feel free to demolish it, once you understand what I was actually saying.

* When I say "satisfactory", I'm referring to a dinghy which has been designed or modified to provide the same essential services as a liferaft (including, if necessary, self inflation). Bear in mind however that dinghies provide options liferafts do not.
In this connection, you refer in your point 4 to Captain Bligh's little predicament: imagine for a moment he'd been offered the option of a SOLAS life raft, and accepted it (It's a safe bet he was not that stupid: the mutineers would then have had the history to themselves, and their 'staying with the ship' would have been a complete winner!)

You say he was sent away in "what was then a liferaft". I don't see how his boat could be construed as being closer to a liferaft than a dinghy.

It therefore seems to me that you think I am arguing to replace a liferaft with nothing at all ... or I don't know, perhaps a bible?
I assure you I would NEVER go offshore without a liferaft

I'll address your other points when I get another spare moment or three. Thanks again for advancing the discussion.
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Old 02-06-2012, 17:34   #68
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Re: A Dingy as a Lifeboat/Life Raft

No experience either way, but I'm very interested in the choices. Here's a post from the Alberg 30 list that gives me some food for thought. For those who don't know Survivorman is an excellent show, it's like an actual real version of the Bear Gryll's nonsense. Les Stroud actually lives through each situation, for the land based ones he carries all the cameras, and does everything alone. The documentary on how he shoots these situations is fascinating as well, the hardware techniques and tools required to survive and film in those situations.

"A few years ago when I did a gig leading the support crew for the TV
show called 'Survivorman' in the episode which involved the show's star
being cast adrift for a week, we approached 'a major manufacturer of
liferafts to use one of their four man outfits. The 'major
manufacturer' early on eagerly agreed, but at the last minute recanted
and refused to send us a raft, even if we paid full retail for one.
They said the issue was the length of the test - five days which they
thought was unfairly long.

By the time they came clean and told us they were not in fact sending
the liferaft (we went through several weeks of excuses during which they
blamed the airline, shipping companies, customs, etc) the film crew and
I were already in Belize and filming was about to start in a matter of
Thinking swiftly, I suggested to the show's star and producer that we
lease a raft from a yacht in port, there were several in port. I
that aside from getting us a raft, this would increase the veracity of
the episode by use of a 'real' raft of a real yacht which was intending
to use it in an emergency. Les Stroud of Suvivorman is, I am proud to
say, very serious about the integrity of his episodes.

We obtained two rafts, the deal being that at the end of the week we'd
for the repack of the one we used. The first was off a yacht in a
circumnavigation and over three years past it's repack date. It had
been in
it's canister on the yacht's coach roof for several years. We set up
cameras, chucked it into the drink and pulled the lanyard. Out it
popped, it inflated, then fell to pieces. The glue had totally perished
and it ended up as sheets of hypalon randomly floating or sinking. You
should have seen the face of the guy who owned it and for whom it was
his parachute. He graciously thanked us for exploding his false sense
of security and ordered a new raft on his own. I won't name the maker
because this raft had been abused and I wouldn't want to infer any blame
on the manufacturer.

The second raft was a Plastimo, also from a yacht on a long voyage, and
also with a stale repack date but in this case less than two years. It
had also been stored on deck in a hard canister.

Into the drink it went, we yanked the lanyard as the cameras rolled, and
it inflated properly. It was this raft Stroud used for his week adrift
(while I stooged to windward in a chartered ketch standing ready to take
action if things turned really bad for him.)

This raft was fairly good and survived the test, but had four problems.
First, the zipper in the canopy was very fragile and I broke it while
exiting - which meant that Les couldn't properly close it all week. We
talk so I reckon that's a testament to his powers of forgiveness. Not
being able to close the canopy caused him fairly severe hardship.

The second issue was that there was a leak in the floor of the raft that
he couldn't find. This meant that he had to bail water out every half
hour or so or he'd rapidly find himself waist deep in a water.

The third issue was that there was several minute air leaks in the
In addition to the bailing Les had to pump constantly. When he fell
asleep he'd wake up 'standing' in a half collapsed raft full of

The fourth issue had to do with the raft's survival kit. Everything
advertised was there....but for some reason there was twice as much food
as expected...but the extra food was IN PLACE OF THE WATER. There was
no drinking water. Imagine that.

What saved Stroud was this: we outfitted him with all the gear I
reckoned a sailor with normal forethought might have in a fast abandon
ship situation.
He had a jug of fresh water in a 'crash bag' of gear that I modeled
after the one I used to carry when I did a yacht delivery at sea when I
was younger. (contents: gallon of water, flashlight, Swiss army knife,
fishing kit, old foul weather jacket, mirror, rope) We also allowed him
an old 10'
Zodiac inflatable dink with a wooden transom and floorboards I bought
for a few hundred bucks from a friend in our sailing club in Midland.
The old beat up Zodiac performed flawlessly.

Les fell into a routine of sleeping in the open dinghy at night, but had
to get out of the sun during the day so he went into the life raft where
he had to pump and bail all day.
It was hard work, and not so nice at
night when
the weather was rough which it was twice in the week. There was a
on night and for a while I thought we'd lost him - not a pleasant few
hours for either of us during which we searched looking for his strobe
while saying on the VHF 'do you see us/me?' alternatively to each other.

So, what was the first life raft maker's issue? As I said at the top,
after finally admitting they wouldn't lend or even sell us a four man
raft, they said they didn't like the fact that the survival test was
going to be five
days long and on television. Their vice president told us that no
should expect to be adrift that long, given modern electronic signaling
devices. That of course is utterly preposterous - I've spoken with
various of their people at marine trade shows several times since the
shooting of that episode; the employees I spoke to were horrified and
apologetic - and I think those reactions are entirely appropriate.

When we finally picked Stroud up, his hands and feet were swollen and
like big padded mitts. He was exhausted - he said this was from the
constant jostling. He said the stress of being in a constantly jiggling
soft world was terrible and that the week adrift was one of the most
difficult experiences he'd undergone. I took in this information
silently - for me the five days was at that moment a fresh memory of
sailing around in a magnificently outfitted and provisioned 54' ketch
with two companions and a cook. I kept my mouth shut."
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Old 02-06-2012, 18:23   #69
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Re: A Dingy as a Lifeboat/Life Raft

And for those of us who have elected to use their definitely inflated inflatables rather than possibly inflatable liferafts:

Switlik - ISPLR Single Person Life Raft

How cool is this?

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Old 02-06-2012, 18:34   #70
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Re: A Dingy as a Lifeboat/Life Raft

At only $800+ each -- what a steal!

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Old 02-06-2012, 19:08   #71
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Re: A Dingy as a Lifeboat/Life Raft

Here's an interesting, and seemingly quite balanced and impartial, comparison between good examples from the two camps

PS that 1 man raft looks very intriguing ! certainly solves the capsizing issue in undermanned rafts, for instance....
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Old 02-06-2012, 21:17   #72
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I like the looks if that little raft, might be a good idea to put two or three of those little packages in the lifeBOAT. Redundancy is a good thing.
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Old 03-06-2012, 23:13   #73
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To those of you who think an inflatable dinghy will save you, I hope you don't abandon ship due to weather.

I'm a former Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska commercial fisherman. I've spent many days staring at 35-50 foot breakers, with 25-30 foot waves coming from two other directions. I tried to imagine what would happen if we lost power and steerage. I tried to imagine the best survival devices.

There is no way in hell an inflatable could remain upright, and there is no possible way for occupants to hold on. Imagine literally free-falling off a 20-foot vertical face on a breaking 50-footer, and ending up in a deep conical shaped trough formed by waves from other directions-- only to be lifted 50 feet again and dropped into an entirely different geometrical nightmare. Riding a bucking bronco in a washing machine would be far easier.

I have never been in a liferaft. But from the conditions I experienced, I want to be fully enclosed in an inflatable raft with a low center of gravity. It will tumble, so I want to be in a floating hamster ball. Steerage? Get real. Comfort? Hah! It's about surviving the storm until the Coast Guard can become airborne and track the epirb. They'll find me in the big round orange mess.

Tenders are great for a whale strike on a calm day. Life rafts are for the washing machine conditions that sink your boat and will separate you from your tender instantaneously.
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Old 04-06-2012, 00:02   #74
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Re: A Dingy as a Lifeboat/Life Raft

Originally Posted by Jbaffoh View Post
To those of you who think an inflatable dinghy will save you, I hope you don't abandon ship due to weather.

I'm a former Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska commercial fisherman. I've spent many days staring at 35-50 foot breakers, with 25-30 foot waves coming from two other directions. I tried to imagine what would happen if we lost power and steerage. I tried to imagine the best survival devices.
Many parts of the world never see this sort of weather.
I sure as hell never plan on being in one that does
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Old 04-06-2012, 00:15   #75
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Originally Posted by cat man do
Many parts of the world never see this sort of weather.
I sure as hell never plan on being in one that does
We routinely had hurricane force winds, but not hurricanes. Hurricanes are worse. Typhoons are similar. I worked in hell, but the named storms plague paradise.

For coastal cruising where your voyages don't extend beyond the forecasts available at your departure, a dinghy is probably fine. If you're crossing oceans, **** can happen that you might have never imagined.

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