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Old 28-03-2008, 17:38   #1
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Life Raft Alternatives?

The other thread on life rafts did not want to talk about dinghies as rafts. After reading Adrift and some of the Pardey's books, I have often thought about life raft alternatives. Though the 406 EPIRB makes lengthy stays on life rafts less likely, the idea of having some control over my destiny appeals to me. I consider some ideas, like fenders lashed to dinghies such as Fatty Knees inadequate (Pardey book). There are two life raft alternatives that I am aware of that I would consider, the Tinker Traveller and the Portland Pudgy. I find them interesting because they have auto inflating canopies, and in the case of the Tinker auto inflation of the boat. The 1994 life raft study seemed to give the Tinker a reasonable grade. Things that caught my eye were, rightable from inside the boat was a good point, really only suitable for two was a bad point (for me anyway). The Pudgy has the minimum floor space required for 4 (16^2') and the canopy is attached on the outside edge maximising space, so it has a little more room than the Traveller. The Pudgy seems to incorporate a lot of details with the idea of being a life raft alternative built in.


1994 Life Raft Test

traveller boats from henshaw Ltd

Portland Pudgy multifunction dinghy--the fun boat that could save your life!

Anybody have other life raft alternatives?

Anybody want to give reasons why they would never consider an alternative?

John
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Old 28-03-2008, 19:41   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cal40john View Post
Anybody want to give reasons why they would never consider an alternative?
John

Read this testimonial First:
AMS - Testimonial

Then some real tests done:
AMS - Givens Life Raft Testing

and remember the following 3 words:

First word: Survival

Second Word: Capsize

Third Word: Hurricane

Would you really want to Tinker around with the survival of those who trusted you?
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Old 28-03-2008, 21:14   #3
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The liferaft in-water tests that I have read are all pretty unanmious about the need for, and vlaue of, water ballast and other means of preventing capsizes in a storm. No "dinghy" is going to compete with that.

So if you need a life raft in a storm, you need a life raft. If your boat sinks in clamer wx and you just need a ride, the dink would seem like the better way to go.

I couldn't find any web reference to the Tinker still being sold in the US, but the 1994 test mentions a price around $5500 ?! I'd have to wonder how much that has soared to by now, and whether you couldn't buy a conventional life raft plus dink at that price.
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Old 02-04-2008, 21:41   #4
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Quote:
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Anybody have other life raft alternatives?
Survival suits may be considered as an alternative in Pacific International Yacht Association races.

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Originally Posted by cal40john View Post
Anybody want to give reasons why they would never consider an alternative?
Survival suits take longer to "deploy", and do have survival gear (food, water, etc..)

Jack
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Old 03-04-2008, 07:36   #5
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There used to be a system of inflatable bladder deployed INSIDE the yacht cal;ed Yachtsaver. You can't sink! (it may be hard to get around inside, but it is another approach to survival.

I thought that another approach to keeping a yacht afloat would be to have an long inflatable bladder which was attached to the hull at or below the toe rail both sides to keep the boat from sinking.
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Old 03-04-2008, 07:52   #6
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Big typo

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Survival suits may be considered as an alternative in Pacific International Yacht Association races.



Survival suits take longer to "deploy", and do NOT have survival gear (food, water, etc..)

Jack
I neglected to include the word NOT in my post. Kinda changes the meaning
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Old 03-04-2008, 18:57   #7
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I just measured the water ballast pockets on my Plastimo life raft. There are 4 and they hold about 2 cu ft of water each. 120 pounds per side, or 480 pounds of ballast.

If you hang 8 water jugs of 6 gallons each over the sides of a dingy/inflatable you will get the about same results.
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Old 03-04-2008, 19:42   #8
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I just measured the water ballast pockets on my Plastimo life raft. There are 4 and they hold about 2 cu ft of water each. 120 pounds per side, or 480 pounds of ballast.

If you hang 8 water jugs of 6 gallons each over the sides of a dingy/inflatable you will get the about same results.

Next time your boat is sinking and / or on fire, be sure to take a video of you finding eight water jugs of 6 gallons each, filling them, tying them onto the dinghy with eight lengths of rope that you found, to 8 appropriately located hard points on the dinghy.

Frankly, if you don't want to carry a liferaft, or you can't afford to carry a liferaft, then don't. Its ok. Your decision, etc. But please do not kid yourselves that anything other than a liferaft is going to fulfil the role of a liferaft.

Next time you are in conditions of, say, sustained winds above 30 knots, with seas of mean significant wave height above 3m / 10' (which means there wil be some peak-to-trough waves coming through above 5m / 16' ) just have a think about launching your dinghy, let alone boarding it, keeping it upright and afloat. 30knots/3m waves is unpleasant, but neither uncommon nor fierce; we had a gust at 96 knots here 2 nights ago. Imagine the same exercise in 50knots / 6m seas. 60 knots /8m seas. Now imagine it is dark. Boats do not, in general, sink in flat water with light breeze.

Liferafts have their faults (I should know; I design 'em for a living), but if you need a liferaft, you need a liferaft, not a dinghy with some jerry jugs tied to it.

If you want to know what the requirements are for the design of a SOLAS liferaft, a good place to start is Life-Saving Appliance Code; IMO resolution MSC.48(66)

Likewise, an introduction to the testing requirements for a SOLAS approved liferafts can be found in Testing & Evaluation of Life-Saving Appliances; IMO resolution MSC.81(70)

Both of the above can be purchased in a handy book ISBN 92-801-5143-6
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Old 03-04-2008, 19:56   #9
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Death rafts in the 1998 Hobart race didnt work to well,
capsizes, bottoms coming out etc etc

EQUIPPED TO SURVIVE (tm) 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race - NSW State Coroner's Inquest - Testimony and Evidence



This site Life Rafts: Information and Much More from Answers.com

says that
Quote:

Launching and boarding in bad weather presents problems
There is no guarantee that a life raft will work properly when you need it or that it will stay afloat long enough for you to be rescued.Well-documented yachting disasters have raised serious questions about the value of life rafts in really bad sea conditions. Seven lives were lost during the storm that hit the Fastnet Race off England in 1979 in incidents “directly attributed to the failure of the life raft,” according to the official board of inquiry. In a sobering footnote, the board added: “The yachts these seven people abandoned were subsequently found afloat and towed to harbor.” Nineteen years later, when a fierce storm fell on the fleet in the Sydney–Hobart Race of 1998, the life rafts performed no better.
I would like to think they (the manufacturers) may have learned something and made some changes to make them better now

Dave
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Old 03-04-2008, 21:29   #10
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At the risk of sounding whiny, frankly, you get what you pay for.

Everyone wants a liferaft. They want it to be "cheap" (i.e. less than $5,000), they want it to be, by definition, more seaworthy than thier yacht (which may have cost them over $1,000,000), they want it to be as small as possible, as light as possible, and they want it to be, essentially, maintenance free, even though it will generally sit in an open air / salt water environment (how much time / money do you spend maintaining your yacht, again?).

Liferafts are not just designed off the top of one's head. They are designed in accordance with regulations, using approved materials, with, in general, pretty stringent QA systems in place (we have ISO9001 / 9002, for example). The rules and regulations governing the design & manufacture of liferafts are generated by IMO - the same organisation that generate the rules for design and manufacture of commercial vessels. I don't make up the rules, I look at the book and it says that the water pockets have to be so many pints capacity per person, or the floor material has to have such and such a peel strength / tensile strength etc. DNV surveyors can (and do) turn up here at just about any time to spot check our propduction. We get regularly audited by DNV, Germanische Lloyd, JASANZ etc.

So, when you buy a liferaft, that liferaft has been designed and built in accordance with the regulations. Sure, we could design and build "better" liferafts, but last time I checked, we weren't a charity. You see "better" has a direct corellation with "more expensive", and it has been our experience that people want better, but don't want more expensive. You want to drive a ferarri, but you want to pay for a ford... it just don't work like that.

Listen, if any of you good people want a 6man liferaft that is guaranteed to work in the conditions experienced in the '98 Sydney Hobart, I can do that for you - I'm actually pretty good at my job, and the company that employs me is pretty good at building this stuff too. Nevertheless, you woud probably want to slip me a million bucks for the R&D, prototyping and approval process, and I should warn you that the liferaft container might be as big a 44 gallon drum, will weight 600 lbs and cost somewhere between $50,000 and $1000,000 oh, and the annual service will be $5,000.

Geeze, I don't see to many of you lining up to hand me the money.

Look at what you can buy for the cost of your liferaft... A decent HF radio, or a good new 3blade feathering prop, half a radar, maybe a cheap autopilot. Hell, you couldn't replace your mainsail for the cost of a new liferaft (and how does your mainsail stand up in hurricane conditions? ... Oh, thats right, it doesn't, you stow it below and put up a trilsail or go bare poles). The bottom line is that if you pay $5000 for a liferaft, you get $5000 worth of liferaft.

Sorry if that was all a bit of a rant, but we liferaft designers are not evil, stupid nor callous (well, this one isn't, but he does get tired of hearing about how shonky his industry is, when it is actually quite strictly regulated and monitored).
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Old 03-04-2008, 21:36   #11
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Oh, and for the record, the sinking of the ferry Estonia in the Baltic had a more significant effect on regulations governing liferaft design than did the '98 Hobart or the '79 Fastnet, although these, too, did promulgate changes.
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Old 03-04-2008, 21:48   #12
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Weyalan-
"but we liferaft designers are not evil, stupid nor callous "
I don't think anyone accused anyone of that. Nor, for that matter, would one have to be any of those things in order to build an inferior or insufficient product--even if it was recognized as the best in the world at that time and met all standards.
Were Cadillac or Rolls Royce evil/bad/etc. products made by evil men in the 1950's or 60's? Arguably not, they were recognized as among the world's finest motorcars, but you couldn't buy seat belts in them at all. Or crumple zones. Or scads of the safety equipment that we consider mandatory, simple, and incredibly effective today.

When Zodiac-US told me that their rafts were literally CONDEMNED at ten years because of French government policy, apparently based on the fact that glued up rafts simply come apart after ten years...I was shocked. No one ever bothered to tell me that welded rafts were more durable than glued ones, or that half the world's raft and boat designers had apparently failed to look into the durability of their glues.

Were tailors evil or stupid when they used buttons for trouser flies? No, they just hadn't come across the concept of "zipper" yet. (And one could argue the zipper is the evil invention too[g].)

I think most of us just feel that a life raft is expensive enough so that it damn well ought to be able to work for 30-60 days, and sit patiently on the shelf and wait, with a better shelf life than tinned beans. The fellow who figures out the paradigm shift to a life raft with a reliable shelf life and operating life, is gonna make a nice dollar. There simply HAS TO be a better way. To build them, and to inspect them. Like the "burp cap" that pops up to tell you when bottled foods have produced gas and are unsafe to eat--before you ever open the bottle (canning jar).
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Old 03-04-2008, 22:16   #13
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Sorry, my above post came over a little more bitter / whiny than I intended. I take all of your points on board. Liferafts do improve. In the time I have been in the industry, I have seem many distinct improvements. In my own small way, I like to think I have helped. I designed the first approved 100 person inflatable liferaft that was automatically self-righting.

I have been sitting here today looking at preliminary designs & calculations for a new liferaft that will incorporate several innovations not previously seen, some of which result from new materials being available, some of which are just good ideas being implemented.

One of the problems in our industry is that it is actually quite difficult to implement small, incremental improvements. Once a product is approved, any change, even if obviously beneficial can necessitate all manner of re-testing & re-certification, at the discretion of the approving authority (USCG or Transport Canada, or AMSA, etc) but at the manufacturer's expense. If the approving authority chooses, they have the power to insist that you go through the entire testing procedure, costing tens of thousand or, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, for a relatively small an innocuous improvement. I'm not suggesting this always happens, but the costs associated with re-testign and reapproval are such that it is often not in the manufacturer's best financial interests to introduce improvements; sad though that is.

As a designer, I sometimes have to "save up" these potential improvements and introduce them into a new product that is going to have to go through the gamut of approval testing anyway. This is one of the resons why actual improvements sometimes lag behind innovations
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Old 04-04-2008, 01:46   #14
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Wyland, I am really glad that you piped up and put things in perspective about Liferafts and priorities. You could offer a lot to this discussion.

As a Master Mariner, some of the solutions I hear being discussed by yachtsmen make me cringe, but at the same time it is healthy to talk this through.

Of all the Liferafts presently being sold that I studied, the Givens was the only one whose patented design gave a stable platform in a small package, that proved themselves in Survival Seas.

They are very well accepted in the commercial small boat market (Fishboats / Tugs etc and I have always put them on vessels I was involved in)

The politics between Givens and the big Manufacturers was really intense in the 80s when he refused to sell his patent and I think they eventually wore him out.

From your professional perspective, what do you think about the Givens Liferaft as a small boat solution and how could it be improved upon?

Nick
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Old 04-04-2008, 13:12   #15
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[quote=Weyalan;149355]Next time your boat is sinking and / or on fire, be sure to take a video of you finding eight water jugs of 6 gallons each, filling them, tying them onto the dinghy with eight lengths of rope that you found, to 8 appropriately located hard points on the dinghy.

Frankly, if you don't want to carry a liferaft, or you can't afford to carry a liferaft, then don't. Its ok. Your decision, etc. But please do not kid yourselves that anything other than a liferaft is going to fulfil the role of a liferaft.

I was kidding about hanging water jugs. Lighten up!
If I didn't have a liferaft how did I measure the water ballast pockets on my Plastimo?
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