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Old 09-07-2015, 07:57   #1
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Which life raft and where to Stowe?

I have a Tartan 38, 1978 model.
I am wanting to supply my boat with a new life raft that will be in harmony with the way the boat was set up before I bought it, an offshore cruiser. I would like to know what brand you would recommend and how and where to stowe it, if price was not an issue, then I will consider the price after other factors first. I will typically be doing trips to the islands and coastal cruising but everything else, as I said on this boat has been set up for offshore sailing and I would like to keep it that way. I am concerned about a cradle on deck that would, depending on how the boat went down, allow the raft to get caught up in the rigging. I am also concerned about the environment leaving it on deck and cooking the raft over time. On the other hand I'm not sure how well a 6 man raft can be stored in a valise near my cockpit.


I have been considering the Switlik Sar6, I like its toroidal ballast system to keep the raft from capsizing as easily.

All your experience and advice has really helped me and I hope at some point I will gain enough experience to help someone else.
Thanks!
Allan



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Old 09-07-2015, 08:23   #2
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

Howdy!

My suggestion: Post a few photos of the locations you MIGHT put a hard shell or valise raft case on YOUR boat.

Show us YOUR boat.
_______________

Every boat is different. It "depends."
Some have "poopdeck" space. Some have big flat transoms. Some have big pushpits, davits, solar/radar arches, wind vanes, etc. Some have lots of junk on the stern etc. Some boats have large open cockpits etc. Some have sugar scoops, others counter sterns.
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My general preference would be AFT, near the cockpit (rather than under the mast/boom either in front of or behind the mast) and outside of the stanchions (on the transom/stern) if possible.

Simple Suggestion: If the skipper is worried about a dismasting (or recognizes the risk of one), then I would keep the raft AWAY from the base of the mast.
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Old 09-07-2015, 14:33   #3
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

Thanks for your reply!
I will investigate the boat in more detail.
I looked online at an Elliot 6 and a Switlik as well as Wenslow and not sure who has the best overall raft?
Thanks!
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Old 09-07-2015, 15:32   #4
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

Hi again.

I would want a raft for offshore passages. I have never had to use one, but I would want one on my own boat. I don't claim to be an expert in rafts, but I have given it a lot of study and thought. You may take my comments with a splash of saltwater and you should consider the third party testing if you can find it.

______________

There are so many different models out there it can be confusing.

Each has a different set of features, size, requirements, designs, materials, etc.

IF "money is no object" you have more choices.

But…there are other factors to consider as you narrow your search:

1. How does a person in the water enter the raft?
If a crew member cannot get into the raft, it is not doing any good. Some rafts have simple straps (like a rope ladder) that hang (supposed to) in front of the entrance to the raft. However, these have been proven to be VERY difficult to use when a person is in the water and encumbered by a PFD and weather gear">foul weather gear. In short, those little rope ladders are almost useless in real world tests (I have read in raft tests). Cold, exhausted, stressed people in heavy weather and in heavy clothing (and possibly sea boots) cannot pull themselves into rafts easily. Older, weaker, or injured crew may have great difficulty or find it impossible.

Conversely, some rafts have an inflated "boarding platform or ramp" that extends out and allows a person to get some support from the ramp/platform and these are said to make it much easier to enter the raft, because the person has some support to help get up over those two tall tubes (on the offshore models).

My first consideration (feature I expect)?
I would look for the inflatable boarding ramp.


What else?

2. The ballast system
I would look for "weighted" water ballast pockets that hang below the raft. The larger the better. One raft claims it is self righting. I would consider (weigh) that in the selection.

3. Canopy
I would expect the raft to have a canopy and one that can be partially removed in good weather.

4. Recertification Period
Some rafts are supposed to be recertified (repacked) in as little as every 3 years. One raft is now designed with a 5 year period.

5. Color?
I prefer the bright high-visibility yellow. But, if the other features are better, I would go with a International Orange

6. Hard Case or Valise?
I would get a hard shell case and keep the raft on deck (near stern) during passage.

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Good luck with your decision.
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Old 09-07-2015, 16:59   #5
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

I had Givens Rafts on two different boats. By far, the best raft designed. Unfortunately, the company came to an unglamorous end, with very few people in the US willing to service them, and the existing ones becoming of age. Both were mounted in a cradle, one on the fordeck and one on the seahood. Both baked in the sun for many years, and that took it's toll on them. I spent a lot of time when at the helm, imagining how I would launch them in many different scenarios. If I do purchase a new raft for coastal cruising and the Caribbean Islands, it will probably be a Revere Coastal Commander 6 man. Cost effective, vacuum packed and has 3 year service intervals. I would go to a valise and when making a passage, it would be at the base of the companionway ladder. My thinking, and again, my opinion, so armchair sailors be aware I have cruising experience over quite a few years, is, with the advent of EPIRBS, PLB's, Satphones, and at times, SSB reception, help is usually close by, so a coastal, two tube, with canopy should be a viable raft. Most likely, except for the less prudent sailor, the trip will be only a couple of days, and fairly accurate weather can be predicted. Valise, because it can be stowed, or off the boat when not needed. It is also lighter, so easier to launch from any strategic location on the boat. I would be willing to take responsibility for that choice. If I were to cross an Ocean, where help could be days away, and of a duration of a much longer time, so weather is a larger issue, I would reconsider, and look into an offshore or a SOLAS raft.
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Old 09-07-2015, 17:12   #6
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

I always think I know what I might do until I listen to the voice of experience. These threads to me are not just idle conversation but the way to preserve lives!
Great input!
Thanks !!


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Old 09-07-2015, 17:51   #7
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

I've never been in an at-sea emergency that warranted abandoning ship; the closest I've ever come is flooding caused by a broken seacock on my Columbia Sabre. We had about three feet of water in the cabin before I'd identified the source of flooding and got the flooding stopped by packing the broken seacock with a wedge, and then bailed the water.

The flooding was pretty rapid, maybe five minutes total. Another five minutes and we would have sunk, but we were in protected water and close enough to shore that it wasn't a risk-to-life situation. Off-shore it would have been truly scary. It ingrained in my mind how fast these situations occur and how little time there is for preparation.

The experience has left me with some requirements for where I will put an offshore life-raft.

Most accidents and weather at sea may wreck/dismast a boat, but as we've seen with a number of the recent abandonments, the boat doesn't actually sink just because the captain has called for rescue. It's my opinion that a boat in any condition except turtled, that isn't sinking or burning, is better protection than a life-raft while awaiting rescue. So for me, that means that the life-raft is only going to be used when the boat is definitely sinking, burning, or has turned turtle and isn't going to right.

This means that keeping it in the cabin is a non-starter. During flooding or swamping that would sink a keel-boat, it will be very hard to move a raft out on deck--especially because by the time you've made the decision to abandon, the cabin will already be full of water. If you turn turtle, it will happen suddenly and make the raft impossible to get out. If in a fire, the cabin will be completely inaccessible.

Keeping it on the bow or at the mast foot is also not ideal. People will be in the cabin or in the cockpit during heavy weather, so the raft needs to be close to them. In a fire, you may have to cross through the burning area to get to it. For me, this means that the cockpit is really the only place to put it.

It also needs to be accessible if the boat turns turtle, and as far as possible from damage if the boat burns.

To me, this puts the life raft outboard of the stern pulpits or aft arch in a custom SS tube holder made for it. It's not pretty, but that's going to be the most accessible place for it in the widest array of abandon-ship disasters, and it won't take up any useful space anywhere on the boat. It would be able to float out on its own in a sinking or be strapped in for heavy weather. Using SS clamp-style tube flanges, one could construct a removable frame for when the raft needn't be carried, such as in protected bay sailing.

My boat has a locker made to fit life-rafts at the stern, but it requires you to either open a locker hatch or open the drop-transom in order to access it, and there's no possibility of it floating off on its own. For those reasons, I'll go with a custom holder as described when I outfit the boat for off-shore.
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Old 10-07-2015, 23:43   #8
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

To MSTREBE:

Good post!
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Old 11-07-2015, 00:35   #9
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

I recently went with a winslow offshore plus. Lots of more qualified opinions here, but in my case it was the best well made raft that was light weight and also happened to fit well in my planned storage area in the lazarette next to the ditch bag.

I looked long and hard at winslow's heavier global iso racing raft with better options like the boarding platform that steadyhand makes a good case for, but in the end I got the best raft that I considered the best fit for my boat.
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Old 11-07-2015, 02:15   #10
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

I'd suggest you get something that is ISO 9650-1 rated as these are specifically geared towards "extended offshore sailing, racing yachts and coded boats".

The 9650-1 rating means it has good thermal insulation, a minimum of 24hr survival pack, SOLAS rated lights and reflective strips and heavy duty ballast pockets. They are designed to cope with the worst conditions.

As for where to store it that all depends on where you have space. Mine is sadly stuck in the cockpit locker as that is the only place available. We have a 6 man valise one so it's not practicable to mount it anywhere externally. I don't like having it in the locker as it's a PITA to get it out.

I'm actually considering dropping down to a 4 man unit as we're not likely to have more than 4 persons on board ever plus we can use the dink as an emergency raft. Also we are not likely to do ocean crossings. I'd like to mount it on the stern rail but will need to fabricate a custom bracket which does at least give the opportunity to make it look as pretty as possible but it would also mean moving the stern light to fit it. I would avoid mounting anything off the sides as you can guarantee they'll snag up on something sometime. The only other space is on the topsides but I agree that's not great as there's a risk of snagging up in the boom/mast/rigging plus you then have to get the raft back to the cockpit.

Main thing to consider is ease of access whilst staying as dry as possible and that you always step UP into a liferaft.

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Old 11-07-2015, 04:36   #11
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

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Originally Posted by kas_1611 View Post
I'd suggest you get something that is ISO 9650-1 rated as these are specifically geared towards "extended offshore sailing, racing yachts and coded boats".

The 9650-1 rating means it has good thermal insulation, a minimum of 24hr survival pack, SOLAS rated lights and reflective strips and heavy duty ballast pockets. They are designed to cope with the worst conditions.

As for where to store it that all depends on where you have space. Mine is sadly stuck in the cockpit locker as that is the only place available. We have a 6 man valise one so it's not practicable to mount it anywhere externally. I don't like having it in the locker as it's a PITA to get it out.

I'm actually considering dropping down to a 4 man unit as we're not likely to have more than 4 persons on board ever plus we can use the dink as an emergency raft. Also we are not likely to do ocean crossings. I'd like to mount it on the stern rail but will need to fabricate a custom bracket which does at least give the opportunity to make it look as pretty as possible but it would also mean moving the stern light to fit it. I would avoid mounting anything off the sides as you can guarantee they'll snag up on something sometime. The only other space is on the topsides but I agree that's not great as there's a risk of snagging up in the boom/mast/rigging plus you then have to get the raft back to the cockpit.

Main thing to consider is ease of access whilst staying as dry as possible and that you always step UP into a liferaft.

Keiron
How do you 'step up into a liferaft'?

Once it's in the water, no matter what make or design, it's always going to be lower than your boat. What do you mean by this?
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Old 11-07-2015, 05:05   #12
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

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How do you 'step up into a liferaft'?

Once it's in the water, no matter what make or design, it's always going to be lower than your boat. What do you mean by this?
It means that you don't enter the life raft until the very last moment. Effectively when you boat is under the surface of the water so the act of climbing into your life raft is going upwards.

Every sea survival course I've been on has said the same thing. Don't leave your vessel until you absolutely have to and certainly not while your vessel is above the surface.
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Old 11-07-2015, 05:15   #13
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

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Originally Posted by kas_1611 View Post
It means that you don't enter the life raft until the very last moment. Effectively when you boat is under the surface of the water so the act of climbing into your life raft is going upwards.

Every sea survival course I've been on has said the same thing. Don't leave your vessel until you absolutely have to and certainly not while your vessel is above the surface.
Lol, how many do you go on

I really don't think the intention is that you literally wait until it sinks before abandoning ship. The saying refers to the point that way too many people abandon ship into rafts when their ship was in fact their safest option.
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Old 11-07-2015, 05:35   #14
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

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Lol, how many do you go on

I really don't think the intention is that you literally wait until it sinks before abandoning ship. The saying refers to the point that way too many people abandon ship into rafts when their ship was in fact their safest option.
1 every 4 years for work

That is it exactly, by making people think of stepping up instead of jumping down delays the abandonment until as late as possible.

That said if my arse is on fire I'm diving over the guardrails

Probably the most important thing about abandoning a vessel is to stay as dry as possible. When you are wet you lose body heat 10x faster so hypothermia becomes the biggest danger. We have Thermal Protection Aids in our grab bag which are big orange silver lined suits that make you look like a tellytubby but are designed to keep you warm and dry.
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Old 11-07-2015, 16:10   #15
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Re: Which life raft and where to Stowe?

I singlehand so a 4 person raft was my choice. I don't really have deck space for a canister without it being just aft of the mast. I did not want to be traipsing forward in a storm so I went with a valise which I keep belowdecks. My other primary consideration was weight. I wanted something I could manhandle easily at my age.
In a perfect world I'd have a canister mounted on the aft deck easily available to the cockpit for deployment.
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