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Old 08-10-2008, 12:43   #1
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Dinghy as Liferaft

We are planning a coastal cruise from BC down to Mexico. We won't be in any particular hurry and will mostly harbour hop in fair weather rather than doing the 200 mile offshore approach.

I've heard of people modifying their dinghies to serve as liferafts. What modifications do people make? What are the drawbacks of using the dinghy as a liferaft?

We have a Walker Bay 8ft with the inflatable tubes that we generally store inverted on the foredeck...
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Old 08-10-2008, 13:00   #2
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Probably the biggest item missing is ballast. How comfortable would you be in 20 foot seas and 50 kts of wind in this dink? A dink makes a reasonable back up, but don't confuse it with a purpose built life raft. If you make the decision to not have a liferaft, that's an OK personal decision. Making the decision to carry a liferaft and doing it by renaming your dinghy is silly.

Going down the PNW coast, harbor hopping or not, you are very likely to get at least a night and day of 30kts plus winds with matching seas.

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Old 08-10-2008, 13:00   #3
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Waterdog,

I personally prefer a proper liferaft with cover and water ballasting. It can be deployed in a couple of minutes, ready for use, and is a tested design, not something jury-rigged around a dinghy. Remember, anything you choose will need to keep you upright and protected from the elements in large waves and heavy winds.

Here's some prior discussion on the topic...

Life Raft Alternatives?
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Old 08-10-2008, 15:05   #4
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Waterdog, I would hop over to www.equipped.org and some of the other sites that have actual in-water reviews of life raft testings, and see their comments. A life raft is expected to keep you above the water--even in storms where it will repeatedly be rolled. And preferably, NOT to roll.

A number of folks would, and have, modified dinks instead, as life rafts are damned expensive with a terribly short life and high annual maintenance fees. But part of the question you have to ask yourself, is how quickly, under what conditions, could you get into that dink VERSUS a life raft? And how well would it serve you in 72 hours of the worst possible weather?

If you're comfortable with the answers, by all means, go for it. Just look at the actual reports, from people who been at sea in them, and people who have tested them, to see the ways that life rafts do work--and fail. Very different from a dink.
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Old 08-10-2008, 15:09   #5
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The raft needs certified every year or so to be reliable. It's a dilemma for sure. Additionally they say never to abandon your boat until it sinks beneath your feet. On the trip you describe, at the right time of year, any sinking would likely be more because of hitting a submerged shipping container or freighter, than due to the "ultimate storm". Hitting the freighter will not leave you any time for a raft or dingy. Bottom line is how confident are you in your boat? Bilgepumps? etc. 8 ft is a really small dingy though. 10 ft would be more comfortable. How about renting a raft for the trip as far as San Diego?
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Old 08-10-2008, 15:44   #6
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I'd say you need both. If you have a good dinghy now and don't want to buy a liferaft consider renting for the passage.

For a small amount of money you would have the security of a real liferaft. When the trip is over you send it back.

Its been said but a typical dingy in rough seas and or high wind will not be as safe as a real liferaft. The dinghy will not keep you out of the water.
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Old 08-10-2008, 19:08   #7
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Check out the Portland Pudgy. Its self bailing, can be set w a liferaft canopy, has stowage compartments, is sailable and can easily be rowed or work with an engine. We bought one last year and its super. Some blue water cruisers have them 'just in case'. It has an advantage over a raft because you are not just bobbing around waiting for rescue. You have a good chance at reaching shipping lanes or land.
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Old 08-10-2008, 20:57   #8
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Rent one for the trip. You will not need it but the peace of mind is worth the price. If not a raft at least an EPIRB as you will be mostly coastal. I had a bad time once where we thought it might be necessary to launch the liferaft. None of us mentioned the dink on the foredeck.
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Old 08-10-2008, 21:07   #9
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Imagine throwing a miniature version of a life raft and a dink into a washing machine on the agitation cycle. Which would you rather get into?
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Old 09-10-2008, 11:26   #10
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Thanks for the Feedback!

I appreciate the links to the prior discussion on this topic and the external web links.

It's funny you decide to go inexpensively with the boat you've got and yet the list of "must haves" and "really nice to haves" can quickly add up to $25k. So everything on the list is getting scrutiny. It's nice to have opinions from those who have worked through the same issues.

Thanks!
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Old 09-10-2008, 12:29   #11
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Additionally over my post above: On the trip you describe you will be blown toward land most of the time. On a limited budget, an epirb and a good inflatable dingy might be fine..
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Old 12-10-2008, 08:37   #12
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Life rafts on private not for hire boats do not have to be certified every year nor do they need to be. Every three years is sufficient and if stored in a hard case rather than a soft valise you can probably get by with every five years. Things like Coast Guard approved flares that have shelf dates and batteries for some of the gadgets included are the reason for the increased frequency of repacking life rafts not because they loose the ability to inflate in a year or two. The repacking costs are not prohibitvely expensive if you don't feel the need to repack with the frequency required by the Coast Guard for commercial, passenger carrying ships. I update my abandon ship bag annually for the extra flares and batteries, etc. but opt for only having a certified repack done every five years. I also have an inflatable Zodiac tender which would handle the majoriity of situations most cruisers have to abandon their boat. My observation from my limited Caribbean cruising is that most small boats that are abandoned are due to grounding on a near shore reef or striking something in shallow water not from a violent storm at sea or being run over by a tanker but of course we need to prepare for the worse so I do have a life raft in a cannister and an abandon ship bag and an EPIRB and hand held VHF and I carry a two gallon jug of drinking water strapped to a stantion that I can toss in the raft.
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Old 12-10-2008, 11:49   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alaskadog View Post
Life rafts on private not for hire boats do not have to be certified every year nor do they need to be. Every three years is sufficient and if stored in a hard case rather than a soft valise you can probably get by with every five years.
Bad advice.
Certification period depends on the packing system, and munfacturers statement, but is basically dependent on whether the raft is sealed in a vacuum packed bag or not. Older cannister rafts were not. Newer ones are. To the best of my knowledge, the valise ones are not, but I might be wrong.
Five years is a recipe for disaster - flares only have a 3 year shelf life, as does a lot of the other products in the assesory pack (e.g. seasick drugs).

On top of that there are some countries that will insist on seeing the cerificate of inspection on your liferaft, and flare date (e.g. France).

If you have gone to the expense of having a proper liferaft, treating it with contempt does not make sense.
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Old 12-10-2008, 18:46   #14
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I've tooked into the Pudgie......you can get a liferaft that takes up much less space or rent one.

The Pudgie is overpriced in my opinion for a rotationally moulded dink.
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Old 12-10-2008, 21:16   #15
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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
I would hop over to www.equipped.org and some of the other sites that have actual in-water reviews of life raft testings, and see their comments. A life raft is expected to keep you above the water--even in storms where it will repeatedly be rolled. And preferably, NOT to roll.
Some good reading! Thanks for the link!!!
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