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Old 17-07-2009, 09:34   #1
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When Is a Life Raft Necessary?

How big a trip before you would say you need a life raft?

I don't think hardly anyone in Puget Sound has a life raft. Do most folks sailing out of ports on the Washington, Oregon coasts have them? California? What if you were going to travel up or down the coast? How about if you were port hopping versus 20 miles versus 100 miles offshore?

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Old 17-07-2009, 09:50   #2
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John,
I think that it is a very personal decision as to when you need to have liferaft on board. Going down the WA, OR coast is a serious trip, close in or far out. Have you read Evans S. FAQ on why they do not carry a liferaft, even in the Southern Ocean?Seamanship
Once you decide to carry a raft, there is huge range in costs. You can go high-end and get a new Winslow or Viking and find yourself into it for 5 grand. A few year old used raft can be had for a fairly cheap amount. I got my 2 1/2 year old 6-man Zodiac for $700. But then you have to figure out a good mounting scheme, and then there's the tri-annual inspection, etc.

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Old 17-07-2009, 09:58   #3
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There are no rules or real guidelines. Some yacht racing organizations have raft requirements and most governments require rafts or life boats for commercial vessels.

Some people say if you have a catamaran then you do not need a raft. I tend to disagree because having a raft gives you one more choice. I would not like to not have the ability to step out of 50 degree water and get out of 50 degree air temperatures, especially if it is blowing hard.

I would not venture out very far without one. A large consideration is how long it would take for rescue to get to you. More than a few hours and I would not do it.

Another consideration is water temperature. The tropics are much less of a concern than the higher latitudes. How long would it take for you to get hypothermia in the water that you are in?

What are the anticipated weather conditions? There is a big difference between being in the water in calm conditions versus conditions with high winds.

Another consideration is do you have an EPIRB or satellite phone or both?

That's just my personal opinion, others will have different opinions that are just as valid. There are lots of variables to influence your choice.
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Old 17-07-2009, 10:13   #4
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If it's too far to swim to shore and/or colder than I can stand for an hour, it's life raft time for me. I have a dry suit in my dive gear bag but honestly... a raft would be nicer to have than floating the water head bobbing above the surface 8". The CG would have a substantially larger target to see if you have a raft vs floating around.

In my opinion... if you can't see shore... you need a raft on board. even a small one.
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Old 17-07-2009, 10:44   #5
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When it is too far to swim and cats need rafts because they don't float well when they are burning.
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Old 17-07-2009, 10:51   #6
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I think I would assess the necessity this way.

  • Sea Water Temp
  • Search and Rescue Support
  • Traffic Density
  • VHF Range and local communications standards
  • 24hr Racing or Cruising Mode
  • Ability to quickly launch tender


I would never assess it based on cost since to me that is a foolish statement on the value of your crew’s life
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Old 17-07-2009, 11:11   #7
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Thanks for this advice about when to have a life raft on board.
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Old 17-07-2009, 11:50   #8
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Originally Posted by s/v Moondancer View Post
When it is too far to swim and cats need rafts because they don't float well when they are burning.
It's not always the burning, it's the smoke. (Mono & Multi's )
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Old 17-07-2009, 12:08   #9
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Second all of what's been said above. In most cases, the real killer is Hypothermia. Unless the water is above 70 degrees and really into the 80s, your survival time can be from minutes to just a couple of hours. I had to dive on my prop, fouled by a fishing line, off of Monterey in January, Water temp in the 50s. Within 10 minutes, my hands were so numb I had no feeling. Had to duck my head in the water and see what I was cutting cause I couldn't feel whether it was the line, the rudder or my own hands. Probably spent less than 20 minutes in the water but I was so incapacitated had to have the help of my wife and a winch to get back on board. Curled up in a sleeping bag and violently shivered for more than an hour afterward. Thought I'd never warm up. Funny thing was I didn't really feel cold, just numb, till I got out of the water. Thinking back on it, I was probably only a few minutes from dieing and wasn't even aware of it. So, first reason for a life raft is hypothermia. BTW, don't think just because you are staying within sight of land you couldn't use one. All but one crewmember of a sailboat died in a marina channel in Chicago in early spring last year. Make sure any raft you buy has a double bottom and/or heavy insulation in the bottom. Sitting on a the cold floor of a raft, directly exposed to the surrounding water, will suck the life out of you real quick.

Second reason for a raft is visibility. Looking for a bobbing head in the ocean is literally like looking for the proverbial needle. From the air, even in a slow moving helocopter, you'll be extremely lucky to be seen and rescued. From the deck of a small boat, forget it, and even doubtful from the deck of a large ship. The raft is such a larger, more visible target that it greatly increases the chances of being seen/rescued.

Of course, an EPIRB is a necessity. Without some electronic means to locate you, wasted time in looking can surely be your death.

If it's me alone, I tend to lax on the safety equipment. Figure by the time anyone missed me, I'd be long dead. With a family and other crew aboard, feel it's my responsibility to give them the best chance of survival possible. If you can afford a radar, you can afford a life raft.

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Old 17-07-2009, 13:30   #10
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John,
I think that it is a very personal decision as to when you need to have liferaft on board...
... read Evans S. FAQ on why they do not carry a liferaft, even in the Southern Ocean?Seamanship
And also read the excellent essay Beth & Evans mention:
The Psychology of Security ~ by Bruce Schneier
The Psychology of Security
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Old 17-07-2009, 15:25   #11
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And also read the excellent essay Beth & Evans mention:
The Psychology of Security ~ by Bruce Schneier
The Psychology of Security
EXCELLENT & informative post GM. Well done!
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Old 17-07-2009, 15:30   #12
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How big a trip before you would say you need a life raft?
John
A life raft is manditory on a NZ yacht when you're going BWC (i.e. off to Tonga, Fiji, etc). It's part of your Cat 1 inspection.
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Old 17-07-2009, 15:44   #13
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Maybe I should have gone with a different title. While the advice is good, I doubt that the average weekend cruiser is following it. In Puget Sound people die of hypothermia and we are in a fairly protected, populous area. I stick to my unscientific poll that I believe few people have a life raft in Puget Sound, yet by many of the responses here, by your standards you would be carrying life rafts in Puget Sound.

I'll try a slightly different tack.
In your experience with talking with others, what percentage do you think carry life rafts in your area for a weekend or week long vacation, and what is your cruising ground.

For myself for Puget Sound/San Juans sailing I bought survival suits for the kids, have a sailing dry suit for myself for more than one reason, and always have a dinghy. When I head south out on the coast I'll have a life raft.
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Old 17-07-2009, 16:00   #14
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Originally Posted by cal40john View Post
Maybe I should have gone with a different title. While the advice is good, I doubt that the average weekend cruiser is following it. In Puget Sound people die of hypothermia and we are in a fairly protected, populous area. I stick to my unscientific poll that I believe few people have a life raft in Puget Sound, yet by many of the responses here, by your standards you would be carrying life rafts in Puget Sound.

I'll try a slightly different tack.
In your experience with talking with others, what percentage do you think carry life rafts in your area for a weekend or week long vacation, and what is your cruising ground.

For myself for Puget Sound/San Juans sailing I bought survival suits for the kids, have a sailing dry suit for myself for more than one reason, and always have a dinghy. When I head south out on the coast I'll have a life raft.
In the Puget Sound a dinghy is certainly a reasonable alternative. So is beaching the boat. Neither of these work for offshore. I do not carry liferaft in Puget Sound, but do offshore.

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