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Old 13-02-2011, 12:19   #16
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Originally Posted by Hydra View Post
Before buying a liferaft, have a look at one of the same maker and same size, inflated, and try to seat all your crew in it. You will realize how cramped an "not-oversized" raft can be.

Alain
I always assumed the people who certify capacity for liferafts are the same people who certify capacity for lifts in buildings. (where in the world do you get 25 people who weigh 1100kg between them)
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Old 13-02-2011, 12:34   #17
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Raft for 6 people

This picture shows a raft rated for 6 people. There is not much free space remaining.

Alain
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Old 13-02-2011, 13:27   #18
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I think the survival suits are of prime concern. Check them out.

Viking and Switlik are supposed to deliver quality life rafts.

Newer EPIRBs will serve as a double device as many of them have now the Spot-like ability (check out ACR site, but they are not the only ones).

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Old 13-02-2011, 14:22   #19
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When I was with the Can. Coast Guard, I remember Viking supplying liferafts that were specifically designed for arctic waters. As for extra cannister space for sub-suits, the challenge is being able to put on a suit when in the water - not enough time in those cold waters. I recommend a hydrostatic release as well as manual release. When one considers the environment, the ditch-bag should include gear to protect & survive in the middle of nowhere, including a rifle.
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Old 13-02-2011, 15:15   #20
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As you probably already know, EPIRBs have changed the abandon ship calculus. As long as you are not sailing in high southern latitudes, you can reasonably expect that help will reach you within 48 hours of activating an EPIRB. So you don't need a week of water, solar still, fish hooks, etc.

Before any liferaft, I'd purchase a 2nd EPIRB (or PLB). You want to be sure that you have a working EPIRB! Cross reference them in the comments section of the database so that rescuers would understand if two signals go off. And the less expensive PLB's - especially when equipped with GPS - are fine. There will be a high confidence lat/lon fix just a few minutes after activation. The traditional EPIRB's long battery life and buoyancy isn't really important in a liferaft application.

When you look at recent liferaft experience, two things stand out:

1) The rafts don't do much good if you are outside in the water. Look for one with a really good boarding system.

2) Liferaft flipping (either before boarding or after) is very common and very dangerous. Look for big ballast water pockets. Also consider whether the liferaft's design is self-righting (or at least easy to right). Finally, liferaft's get their stability from the weight of the occupants and are designed for a certain load. Two people in a six person raft are far more likely to be flipped and worse, may then not have the weight to right such a large liferaft.

3) I also agree that the storage and release system should balance ease of launch with protection to the liferaft (from corrosion and being torn off by waves). More than one liferaft has been lost because it got away from the crew after launch. That's not to say that the liferaft should be under the spare chain in the v-berth but you want to be able to release it from a somewhat protected spot on the boat. Four and six man liferafts are only about 80lbs. They aren't too hard to heave over the side from a secure spot especially with all the adrenalin available.

4) The little pencil laser rescue flares are a great day/night signal that are especially visible to aircraft (which is your likely rescuer). More effective, last longer, and less expensive than lots of Solas flares. An inexpensive radar reflector is also really important.

5) Be sure to pack a handheld VHF radio with spare batteries since that's how you will communicate in close.

I bought a new Avon Ocean liferaft a couple of years ago for less than $3000US. It's not as heavy duty as some of the most premium brands but considerably less expensive.

Carl
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Old 13-02-2011, 15:40   #21
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Just a thought Nicolas,

but having those survival suits accessible on board to wear during an abandon ship will be very important. Getting into the liferaft will be very wet under the best of circumstances, and cold water exposure could quickly incapacitate a person who might be in the water for even a few minutes.

As has been noted by others, liferafts are small. A six-person liferaft is probably best for four persons at the most; six average adults, will be sitting skin-to-skin, with knees bent, backs against the liferaft. Not comfortable. And a well-stocked abandon ship bag will demand precious more space. Forget packing 6 survival suits into the raft. Getting aboard the raft and trying to put on the suits would be a sizable challenge under any circumstances.

As for choosing a raft, consider where it will be mounted/stored, how much it will weigh, what obstacles might obstruct the launch route and will one person be able to launch it unassisted.

Practical Sailor has done a good job on liferaft "tests" and the various articles remain a good resource about the subject. The reprints are available online and might be a good starting point. Best, would be to attend a commercial liferaft course or even a safety at sea seminar, where participants can experience boarding a liferaft in a pool. It can be an eye opener.

Have a great adventure!

Roger
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Old 13-02-2011, 16:32   #22
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If I was doing this trip I'd have on watch crew wearing these on night watches... if your well inside the iceline.. someone dealing with things ready to go while sleepers get in theirs... unless you chose to live in them..



5020 II Ursuit Immersion Suit

The non insulated Ursuit® 5020 II is designed for hard professional use. It has been chosen by the defence forces, border guards, sea rescue associations, and merchant vessels in several European countries. Especially for open sea conditions it has proved to be by far the best of immersion suits.
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Old 13-02-2011, 16:49   #23
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A cheaper but effective alternative to the immersion suit suggested by Boatman is this:
Guy Cotten TPS Suit (Thermal Protection Suit) [TPS] - £649.99 : WetGear.co.uk

Alain
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Old 13-02-2011, 17:26   #24
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I like that one Hydra... I was looking at commercial heavy duty outfits for over clothing... did'nt think of wetsuit type... eg snug fitting.
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Old 14-02-2011, 12:09   #25
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Boatman,
If you read the description down to the end, you saw that the TPS suit can be worn over fleece underwear.

Note that it isn't breathable at all. I fear that the insulation provided by the underwear might be progressively reduced by moisture.

Alain
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Old 14-02-2011, 12:47   #26
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Boatman,
If you read the description down to the end, you saw that the TPS suit can be worn over fleece underwear.

Note that it isn't breathable at all. I fear that the insulation provided by the underwear might be progressively reduced by moisture.

Alain
That's the point. The are not meant to be breathable (although breathable ones may exist). The idea is to minimize heat loss and provide longest possible survival in cold water (or water/ice).

Sure thing - you jump in completely dressed up - often just the way you are when the accident happens. Time allowing, the typical hi-tech underwear (e.g. HH Lifa series), mid-layer (e.g. Polartec fleeces) will be the way to go - probably with as much super duper thick fleece as you can grab - socks, bibs, jackets and vests and hoods.

If in a liferaft / on icefloe ventilation of the suit is no problem, but lack of warm layers under the suit will lead to hypothermia sooner.

Mustang makes good cold water and ice suits (esp. the yellow 'ice' models). Cheap and decent suits can be had from Lalizas:

Products :: Immersion Suits
Welcome to LALIZAS S.A., Immersion suit manufacturer

There are many other makes on the market.

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Old 14-02-2011, 13:07   #27
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I was thinking about breathability because of Boatman's remark about having watch crew permanently dressed in non-insulated immersion suits: if it's cold on deck, they would need "vapour barrier" clothing under the thermal clothes, to prevent moisture from degrading insulation.

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Old 14-02-2011, 13:50   #28
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I was thinking about breathability because of Boatman's remark about having watch crew permanently dressed in non-insulated immersion suits: if it's cold on deck, they would need "vapour barrier" clothing under the thermal clothes, to prevent moisture from degrading insulation.

Alain
OK.

I think on watch the normal dress code works fine. Probably quality Goretex best (Musto HPX, etc.) if it is wet. Good wind protection is important too (we use Windstopper hoodies and chest-high bibs).

In any case it makes a lot of sense to have top notch weather gear">foul weather gear in the Polar regions.

b.
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Old 14-02-2011, 14:41   #29
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Agree that survival suits must be available to use before a liferaft is deployed - when in danger one of the first things to do is climb into the suits. Order suits with gloves, not mittens, so that useful work can be done while wearing them. Also get them with a harness installed.

The standard for life rafts is 4 square feet per person (i.e. 2 feet by 2 feet). Typical 4 man rafts are 4' x 4' inside, which is a really small area. I made the mistake of getting a 6 man raft (4' x 6'), which is certainly too big to be stable for one or two survivors. I think the important thing is to accept that being in a raft will be crowded, sickening and dangerous; don't buy a Cadillac raft and plan for surviving 72 days and writing a book - plan on getting rescued quickly. Better still, plan on handling any emergency so you don't lose the boat in the first place.

Agree that EPIRBs and waterproof VHFs are a requirement - flares are not that useful. Sad to say few ships keep a good visual watch anymore, and there are many stories of survivors firing off all of the flares without passing ships noticing. A mayday call on 16 has a lot better chance of being heard. Better still, get a handheld VHF with DSC: a DSC distress call will almost certainly trigger an alarm on the bridge.

As for the raft itself, consider the material used for the construction. Older designs are made from neoprene rubber, which is to be avoided. Neoprene is soft and suffers from chafe, is very heavy, and is not as airtight as others. It is, however, very easy to repair with a little glue. Butyl rubber is is lighter, more durable, more airtight, and can also be repaired with glue. Modern urethane rafts are lighter still, and very durable and airtight. But repair requires "welding" (melting the pieces together). Twenty years ago not everyone could repair this material although I suspect this is no longer the case.

I bought a Lifeguard butyl raft 15 years ago. Virtually every repacker commented about its quality, which surprised me as it was relatively inexpensive. The important point is that it is an absolute requirement to repack regularly, according to the manufacturer's schedule, in order to maintain the quality - and warranty. I met one boat that had a raft from a well-known French manufacturer; they didn't repack it for the first 5 years and when they took it in they found the seams had failed and it wouldn't hold air. It was condemned and destroyed. Needless to say, as a result of their failure to maintain, the warranty was not valid. Which is better than finding out when the raft is needed...

If a boat doesn't have a specific locker for a liferaft then I think an on-deck canister in a cradle is the best approach. It is still possible to get water intrusion into a canister so keeping it covered when not underway would be wise (and some day I will wise up ). A hydrostatic release is a nice option, but like the raft it will require expensive regular maintenance or replacement.
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Old 14-02-2011, 17:44   #30
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If budget limited, I would rather use 1 EPIRB and a sat phone.

There are many things that can go wrong other than abandonship. Being able to sat someone for specific help / advice would be a huge asset.

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