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.