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Old 31-05-2017, 09:50   #1
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Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

Are liferafts really a rational expenditure for safety's sake, considering the actual statistical risks?

According to US Coast Guard statistics, in 2016 there were 56 deaths on boats from 26 to 40 feet long, and half of these deaths are actually due to drowning. (Link, See page 13) The greatest danger to boaters are inattentive fellow boaters and alcohol, not sinking or drowning.

This has consistently been the case for many years, so basically about 2 people every year drown on a boat the size of my boat (35 feet).

Now compared that to fact that on average 1 person a day drowns in a bathtub in the US.

Logically, bathtubs should have liferafts.

Some would argue that the value of human life cannot be measured by expenditure alone, and so even if it saves only 1 life, then the expense is worth it. In other words, as the argument goes, this is something that should not be subject to a cost-benefit analysis, that there is something else that should be considered, something special that trumps the cost-benefit anaylsis. I call this the fear-premium. All the more reason why bathtubs should have life rafts then, since they're far more likely to be needed, daily.

Seriously though, considering that the money that goes towards a life raft -- and it is a fairly expensive bit of kit -- could instead be spent on other safety gear that is far more likely to be used to avoid injuries or death (such as improved electronics...

(more at Sailing Whimsy: Are life rafts really a rational expense? but the gist of my point is here )
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Old 31-05-2017, 10:21   #2
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

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Originally Posted by Cyrus Safdari View Post
Now compared that to fact that on average 1 person a day drowns in a bathtub in the US.

Logically, bathtubs should have liferafts.
Well, no. In any given day, how many people take a bath vs how many sail offshore where a liferaft would be carried?
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Old 31-05-2017, 10:36   #3
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

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Originally Posted by Cyrus Safdari View Post
Seriously though, considering that the money that goes towards a life raft -- and it is a fairly expensive bit of kit -- could instead be spent on other safety gear that is far more likely to be used to avoid injuries or death (such as improved electronics...

A commonly considered factor is about how far away help might be, and how long it might take to find you. (Open ocean vs. coastal vs. inland rivers or lakes, etc.) Maybe it's a "distance premium."

Another might be how close are the sharks. "Proximity premium"?



As you say, sometimes those premiums override the balance sheet. Can you add a boatload of safety equipment to reduce chances of a sinking? Maybe. Can you guarantee not sinking? Maybe not. (Can improved electronics help you avoid an underwater container? Or a playful whale?) Do you want to be without a life raft in the open ocean, say 200 NM from shore somewhere? The $$$ (or whatever your preferred currency might be) maybe become less important...

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Old 31-05-2017, 10:38   #4
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

Personally, I'd stay on the mothership until I had to step up onto our Highfield dinghy with the liferaft in tow as an absolute last resort. If we didn't already have the liferaft, I'd be OK with the other three.

1. Mothership
2. Dinghy
3. Liferaft
4. Survival suits (2)
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Old 31-05-2017, 10:40   #5
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

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...even if it saves only 1 life, then the expense is worth it.
I'm sure that on a strictly statistical, cost/benefit analysis, liferafts do not make sense. On the other hand, the point is not "even if it saves only 1 life." The point is, if that 1 life it saves is YOURS, you will most DEFINITELY consider the expense to be worth it!
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Old 31-05-2017, 10:43   #6
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

I think the difference is between safety equipment and emergency equipment. Safety equipement is gear you use every day. Lifejackets, harnesses, guard rails, decent torches etc.

Emergency equipment may be the only thing standing between you and your god. Not the best time to think. 'I wish I hadn't saved a few pennies by not buying a liferaft'

What do you propose to do if you catch fire?
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Old 31-05-2017, 11:07   #7
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

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Well, no. In any given day, how many people take a bath vs how many sail offshore where a liferaft would be carried?
This is of course very true and of course I was being facetious when I raised the idea of bathtub liferafts however

- according to the "even if it saves one life" standard, it doesn't matter. Even if it saves one life then you should do it, regardless of either statistical chance, as long as it can potentially save 1 life. How far can this be taken?

- we could similarly say, the fact that driving entails far more deaths than sailing does not prove that sailing is a comparatively safer mode of transport, since many more people drive than sail. However i doubt anyone would say that. We do recognize that regardless of how many people do it, driving is inherently more dangerous than sailing

- it could also be that the reason why only 2 people drown every year is because they didn't deploy a liferaft as they should have, who knows. Maybe the life rafts saved 100 people who used them and the 2 that drowned just didn't have or use them

But even among the risks only to boaters, drowning is still way down there, relatively speaking -- and then consider the added security that could have been obtained had the $4K spent on the liferaft been spent on something else safety related.

So it is complicated. Wish my dad was still around, pick his PhD brains
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Old 31-05-2017, 11:12   #8
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

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Can you add a boatload of safety equipment to reduce chances of a sinking? Maybe. Can you guarantee not sinking? Maybe not. (Can improved electronics help you avoid an underwater container? Or a playful whale?) Do you want to be without a life raft in the open ocean, say 200 NM from shore somewhere?
Yes these are just additional fear provoking scenarios. Thank you! lol

But regardless of how it happens, whales , fires etc, there are still on average only 2 drownings per month on boats. Is spending $4k on that risk worth it, regardless of the precise details, especially when that money could be used for other gear that would provide an incrementally better improvement in safety. What if there's a fire? Well, what if that money used for the liferaft was used to install automatic fire suppression instead?

Pounds of safety/per dollar.

I suppose one can depreciate the cost of the raft and say that over the course of the life of the raft, say 10 years, at 2 people dead per yea versus the cost of the raft/10 years, then it would be worth it.
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Old 31-05-2017, 11:23   #9
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

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2 people every year

CORRECTION
I mean to say 2 people every month sorry
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Old 31-05-2017, 11:37   #10
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

Just to bring up a different point. My understanding is most drownings far from shore are caused by accidentally falling from the boat. Whether single handing or alone on watch. In those situations, a life raft won't help you. Tether and Jack lines are a bigger priority.
That all said, I will have a life raft. Keeping my crew, and especially wife, alive is a responsibility I take very seriously.
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Old 31-05-2017, 11:44   #11
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

The following is offered in a friendly tone of voice:

As I see it, your argument is flawed.

Reason: You are focused on the small number of drownings.

Why is that wrong focus?
1. Because not all deaths at sea are due to drowning.
2. because the life raft serves its purpose when people are NOT drowned, which is something your posted statistics fail to acknowledge or cover.
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Old 31-05-2017, 11:46   #12
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

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...
That all said, I will have a life raft. Keeping my crew, and especially wife, alive is a responsibility I take very seriously.

Responsibility for others is a big consideration I think.

If Im single handing, choose to go without a liferaft, and die as a result then...my life - my call (though others are still affected).

If Im responsible for others aboard then its a different situation entirely.
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Old 31-05-2017, 11:46   #13
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

Your analysis assumes that no lives are currently saved by life rafts, which is easily falsified by example. The statistic you need to start with is "how many life rafts are deployed in a year?" Which might be a proxy for how many lives are/can be saved.

A completely separate question would be , "Is there a better model for survival craft than expensive inflatables plus high periodic service charges? e.g. Portland pudgy or "fortifying" some other dinghy that you carry anyway.

Or for coastal cruising, maybe a survival suit plus PLB is more cost effective?
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Old 31-05-2017, 12:15   #14
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

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Your analysis assumes that no lives are currently saved by life rafts, which is easily falsified by example. The statistic you need to start with is "how many life rafts are deployed in a year?" Which might be a proxy for how many lives are/can be saved.

A completely separate question would be , "Is there a better model for survival craft than expensive inflatables plus high periodic service charges? e.g. Portland pudgy or "fortifying" some other dinghy that you carry anyway.

Or for coastal cruising, maybe a survival suit plus PLB is more cost effective?
Yes all true
PLUS one could ask "Could the same money buy me more security or safety if spent on something else other than liferafts" and that was my main point, but you're right it would be interesting to see how many people who would have otherwise drowned were saved by liferafts
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Old 31-05-2017, 12:18   #15
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Re: Are liferafts really a rational expenditure

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Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
The following is offered in a friendly tone of voice:

As I see it, your argument is flawed.

Reason: You are focused on the small number of drownings.

Why is that wrong focus?
1. Because not all deaths at sea are due to drowning.
2. because the life raft serves its purpose when people are NOT drowned, which is something your posted statistics fail to acknowledge or cover.

We're all friends here no problem, we're just chitchatting, I bought the liferaft already so...

True but the liferaft can pretty much only save you from drowning, that's why I stuck with drownings. The rest of the stuff that can kill you on a boat are either extremely unlikely or something that the liferaft could not protect against anyway.
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