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Old 28-05-2015, 10:24   #1
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Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

I read an article recently in which a USCG rescue pilot stated that the average time worldwide from activating an EPIRB until a helicopter is hovering overhead is 270 minutes. We're currently outfitting our boat for cruising the Caribbean, possibly beyond, and our budget isn't unlimited, so we have to carefully consider the value of gear we wish to purchase. A liferaft is probably one of the most expensive pieces of gear you can buy, even before you consider the lifecycle costs of continual recertification. Meanwhile the possibility of it seeing use is extremely low. Now we firmly believe that the most valuable thing we have on board is ourselves, but I'm reluctant to tie up five or six grand in a piece of gear that should never see use. Since we only plan to cruise in tropical or semi-tropical waters and hypothermia isn't really a concern, I think if we ever did need to abandon the boat, we could probably handle four and a half hours in the water. So it seems to me that for about a fifth to a quarter of the cost of a liferaft, we could invest in two really good offshore life jackets, a set of personal locator beacons, and a pair of rescue lasers. With the evolution of EPIRBs and AIS based personal locators and the current state of the international SAR system, does a liferaft make economic sense anymore?
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Old 28-05-2015, 10:46   #2
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

Depends where you cruise. You ain't gonna get rescued in 270 minutes in a lot of the places in the third world. If you stay in range of USCG maybe. Not everyone gets a C-130 sent out for them.
There are better deals than $5-6 K around for a Liferaft. As for ongoing service, even an expired raft is probably going to inflate.
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Old 28-05-2015, 10:48   #3
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

if you’re on one of them fancy “catamaran of cruising size that can self right unaided” or a gunboat 55 they have proven to stay afloat. don’t waste your money on it let Darwin work it out

SAR is like ordering a pizza right? eye rollage
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Old 28-05-2015, 10:51   #4
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

You have a dinghy I would think, use it as your life raft, at least you can steer it, and make it go in a desired direction unlike a life raft, the gear you are speaking of is as well a reasonable choice, just a thought.
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Old 28-05-2015, 10:52   #5
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

4.5 hours in the water is a long time for a best case scenario and spotting a life raft is hard enough, never mind a person floating in the water. Go put on a life jacket and hang out in your pool for that long. It's one of those investments that don't seem prudent until you need it.
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Old 28-05-2015, 11:12   #6
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

I would say, personally, that if you only plan on going as far as the Caribbean then you could probably manage with just your dinghy and some appropriate location devices. Don't underestimate how fast hypothermia can set in though. Water saps heat out of your body very, very quickly. I've had hypothermia here in bermuda when i was working as a diver. I was only in the water for 4 hours and i was wearing a wetsuit. I met an oldtimer who, in his youth, was adrift in a liferaft in the Caribbean Sea for only two days, and even in the raft their primary problem was being cold.
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Old 28-05-2015, 11:13   #7
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

If you are crossing oceans, then I think a liferaft should be considered. For your intended Caribbean part, I don't think a liferaft is warranted. You will mostly be coastal cruising within site of land with a few 1-3 day passages that take you out a bit further, but still close to land. And there will almost always be other boats and commercial shipping along your routes. Weather routing is relatively easy and reliable. If something goes wrong on the boat, you are almost always within 24hrs of some anchorage where you can effect repairs before they get so bad as to sink your boat. Of course, you go over your boat before each passage and make sure it, all components and all systems can take at least 3 days of hard sailing.

Now you are down to rare extreme things that a liferaft may be helpful - catastrophic fire, whale attack, etc. You will have to determine your risk on that.

Crossing oceans is different in the time and distance away from land, as well as the reliability and quality of weather forecasts. If you do decide a liferaft is warranted for ocean crossing, I would put off purchasing one until just before you cross an ocean.

I would never count on just floating in the ocean waiting for a pickup.

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Old 28-05-2015, 11:26   #8
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

I think it's a very personal choice so there isn't one right answer. Mr. cthoops and I have discussed it frequently as we dream about casting off the lines (5 years and 11 months to go). For us, we're going to skip the liferaft in favor of a hard sailing dinghy.


You might want to do a search for Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger's thoughts on why they didn't carry a liferaft. We think their reasons made a lot of sense. Others would disagree, however. I think it comes down to what each person is comfortable with, and there's no wrong answer.
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Old 28-05-2015, 11:34   #9
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

While I agree that for coastal cruising (which is what most cruisers actually do...despite all this talk about "bluewater" ), being well equiped and using the dink (also equipped for this use) as backup is not an unreasonable plan, but I like having options. You just never know what Mother Ocean or fickle boats are going to throw at you. So, we carry a liferaft.

However, my plan A for most coastal cruising is actually the dink. If I am a few miles off the coast I would rather hop in the dink and motor there than bob about and assume rescue.

You might also read Steve Callahan's perspective on life rafts etc...he has real world experience that hopefully none of us will ever match.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Callahan
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Old 28-05-2015, 11:44   #10
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by robertsapp View Post
I read an article recently in which a USCG rescue pilot stated that the average time worldwide from activating an EPIRB until a helicopter is hovering overhead is 270 minutes. We're currently outfitting our boat for cruising the Caribbean, possibly beyond, and our budget isn't unlimited..
More salient to you is "the average time until a helicopter is hovering overhead" in the Caribbean or beyond. I can assure you it's more than 270 minutes. Further, you might want to think about the distribution of response times about a mean ("average") of 270 minutes. You might want to prepare for the possibility that you'll be on the long side of that distribution/curve. Forget about yourself. But. Think about those that will be dependent upon you/your judgement. Then ask the question...
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Old 28-05-2015, 12:02   #11
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

Like anything else in the world, it's a calculated risk. Will you have the time to get a life raft out and deploy it? (e.g. the Cheeki Rafkki (sp?)) will you be able to physcally deploy and board it in a heavy storm?

If you are dead set against a life raft, you might want to have a plan to use your dingy in an emergency. The Portland Pudgy is, with the right options, designed for this. Though it too is about 6k without a sail.
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Old 28-05-2015, 12:29   #12
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

No one has mentioned the biggest issue with being in the water as oppoesd to being in a liferaft-hypothermia. Even in relatively warm water, 70-80 degrees, hypothermia is an issue. The effects of hypothermia begin once your core body temperature gets below about 96 degrees. In the 90-95 degree range, the effects are debilitating. Even in close to 80 degree water, mild hypothermia begins in 1-2 hours, and moderate hypothermia sets in in 2-8 hours. If you have been fully immersed for the 270 minutes, assuming the best in rescue time, i.e. 4 1/2 hours, it is reasonably likely you will not be able to aid in your own rescue. Being in a liferaft can be the difference between life and death, even with a fairly quick rescue. Naturally, the colder the water temps. the more quickly hypothermia affect you.
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Old 28-05-2015, 12:32   #13
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

A $4k-$6k liferaft may not be specifically indicated... but outline what a general abandoning situation in unfavorable conditions requires, in the short term:

- something that is relatively easily and rapidly deployable.
- something that can float and contain all persons who might be on board.
- something that provides some degree of environmental shelter appropriate to the cruising grounds - ideally getting bodies out of the water entirely.
- something that increases the visual footprint on the ocean for rescuers to see.
- something that affords at least a minimally viable platform on which to provide first aid, enable signal deployment (flares, epirbs, dyes, flags, etc).
- something to provide emotional and psychological support to those in shock from the situation

...and this is all only short term. For longer term you need a lot more stuff and space.

To me, this is either a really well equipped and properly rigged dinghy (tough to do and still be rapidly deployable, without spending way more than a commercially available liferaft already); and/or a good liferaft.

I have a dinghy anyway, so I make sure it is rigged well and has a good supply bag nearby that we can grab if we need to. We also now have a good, offshore, in date liferaft.

I used to only go the dinghy route - before kids, when I was younger and tougher and so were my sailing companions. And before a couple of close calls and longer cold water swims.

Now I have 3 kids, and we're not so tough anymore.

I'd feel pretty stupid looking at my wife, kids and guest(s) as we sank, saying "...sorry folks, bought this great boat that is now sinking... but couldn't afford a liferaft. so half of you will have to swim and the others can get in the dinghy... I'm sure a helo will be along soon..."

YMMV!
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Old 28-05-2015, 12:38   #14
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Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

We carry a Winslow 4 person offshore raft. Used to have a Givens but it was too heavy and needed annual servicing.
The Winslow I can lift with one hand and my lady handles it easily with two hands. Cost was around $3K usd and service schedule is 3 yrs

It's about the size of a parachute

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Old 28-05-2015, 13:02   #15
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Re: Does A Liferaft Still Make Sense? (or Cents?)

I remain astonished how much Americans pay for liferafts. Try this for an example:

https://www.jimmygreen.co.uk/item/68...shore-liferaft

How will a C130 find you at night time in the Carrib? a heat seeking camera looking for just a head sticking out of the water or a liferaft lit with a torch shining like a beacon.

If money is the issue then a well maintained small rib could be an alternative but it would need to be permanently inflated and rigged ready to go in an instant, fires can spread quick.

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