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Old 28-07-2003, 15:11   #1
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Life Rafts - Necessary?

I have a 35' (10.7 metre) Tobago, by Fountaine Pajot. It has large volumes of foam under the stern steps and again under the forward single berths ahead of the mast. I feel this makes the boat rather unsinkable. The boat, as purchased, came with a packed 8 person life raft slung into a special cradle behind the cockpit. The liferaft package is a large, heavy box; a significant load on a small cat.

How do you feel about the necessity of the liferaft, for ocean voyaging? My intent is to travel regularly between Canada and the Caribbean. I have heard others say that a factory cat, with it's unsinkability, is its own liferaft.
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Old 29-07-2003, 00:10   #2
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Re: Life Rafts - Necessary?

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Sonosailor once whispered in the wind:
It has large volumes of foam under the stern steps and again under the forward single berths ahead of the mast. I feel this makes the boat rather unsinkable.
Well heck it just may be unsinkable then. I mean if you are sure you feel that way. It might also be fire proof too.

You never know when you'll need to ditch and you'll never never what the reason may be. It seems to me you don't really know if it is unsinkable either.

You don't have to have a life raft but I don't think you've posted enough to convince me. Security is a state of mind.
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Old 29-07-2003, 12:17   #3
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Life Rafts?

The decision to carry (or not) a life raft is a most deeply personal one, with which you and your crew must be unequivocally comfortable. There are a number of rational factors you can consider; but (in the end) you (both/all) must be EMOTIONALLY satisfied with your ultimate decision. This is what makes this an almost impossible question to debate.

Among the factors you might consider:

Your intended cruising itinerary:
Longer offshore passages increase the likelihood of being “caught” by surprise in bad weather, and the likely “time to rescue” in the event of disater.
Shorter inshore & semi-protected passages are easier to plan weather-windows, and you could be forgiven were you to expect rescue within shorter time-frames.

More vessels are lost on “hard” stuff, than on open water. It might be more likely that you require a good dinghy to reach a nearby safe shore; than a life-raft in which to survive a long/difficult time adrift.

Weight & space are valuable commodities aboard.
Is it practical to stow a life-raft on your boat? Depending upon your comfort level with foregoing the life-raft, this may help determine the suitability of the boat for your intended purpose(s). Many small vessels have made successful trans-oceanic passages (w/out rafts). In fact, I think the limiting factor in deciding boat-size (assuming a well found, suitable design) is usually it’s load-carrying ability.

Cost is almost always a factor.
What would you have to do without, in order to purchase & maintain a raft? This boils down to a “value” choice. Which item(s) offer me higher value?

Self-confidence & Overconfidence:
Some sailors have a greater confidence in being able to deal with “anything”, than do others. This may be justified, or not. You could be forgiven for assuming that your very high skill-set will provide a large safety net. I’ve arrogantly done so, to my ultimate disappointment.
Remember that “Murphy’s Law” is ALWAYS in play, and be prepared to accept the consequences. If you cannot accept the unlikely proposition that you may die in a very-unlikely sinking (fire, whatever) - then you NEED a life-raft, or you need to stay ashore. (This sends us back to the emotional comfort level).

I (personally) would not require a life-raft on any boat valued at less than $250,000 - but that’s where MY comfort level lies.

An EPIRB may mitigate the hazards of choosing "wronge".

The original posting suggested rather longish offshore passages, from New Brunswick to the Caribbean, aboard a 35' Catamaran, with lots of internal floatation. I would not consider this vessel anywhere near unsinkable. Nor would I consider a life-raft absolutely essential. I too, would be concerned with the weight & space problems associated with a raft.
In your case, you would have to sell the raft, to achieve an offsetting economic benefit. The selling price will have to be factored in (too low a local value - too low a cost-benefit).

If you are looking for external justification and support, for (either) preconceived conclusion - then please re-examine your arguments. You may not yet be comfortable with that decision.

Remember, always step “UP” into a life-raft.

OMO

Regards,
Gord May
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Old 29-07-2003, 12:23   #4
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Great comments, and this is why I posted. Please, keep them coming.
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Old 30-07-2003, 10:15   #5
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Life Raft

When in doubt check with the Designer/ Manufacturer. Many multihull sailors have cleats, ropes & access on the underside for this contingency. Your choice- would you rather have the relative stability of your inverted yacht including possible later interior access or the finality of taking to a liferaft.
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Old 31-07-2003, 18:50   #6
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Indeed, the Tobago has the cleats and the escape/access hatches on the underside, although I imagine the likelihood of a capsize is low. I have considered using them for fishing on cold days. I was once on a 44' West System cat with a beautiful hatch in the kitchen floor midships. The cook would peel the vegetables directly into the ocean, and enjoy the fish as they fought over the pieces. Not very related to the topic, but interesting, eh?
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Old 21-09-2003, 21:09   #7
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life raft on a cat

I think you should talk to the designer/builder to get an idea of where the waterline would be in a flooded state. Would it float high enough to be habitable or with it's decks awash. Although lightning strikes, hitting debris, a failed underwater fitting, or tearing out the bottom on a reef are more likely to happen you always have the very small chance of capsize in multihulls. Would your boat prove habitable in a capsize situation.
In some instances the improper use of a liferaft could be dangerous on a multihull. It might be tempting to board a liferaft thinking you can tie off the raft on a long painter and keep access to the mothership. The raft will not stay tethered to a stationary object like a flooded or capsized cat for long if conditions are rough. Now you have lost your food, water, and chance to repair and pump out your boat. Believe me this has happened before.
That said, you have the raft why not keep it on board. Trade it for a smaller lighter one and get rid of the heavy box and keep it in a soft case if weight is an issue. There is always the chance of fire or a fuel explosion could make the boat untenable. If I had to shell out $3,000 for a raft I might think twice about it because the chances of it being useful are rather small in a boat with proper positive flotation.

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Old 27-11-2006, 13:02   #8
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After "that " Hobart race it was decreed that part of the reason the liferafts failed to perform as promised was that they were less than full. The raft derives some of its stability from the weight of human cargo. You have an 8 man raft, do you sail with a crew of 8? Interesting question for all cruisers who put their faith in a raft but typically sail 2 handed.
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Old 27-11-2006, 13:28   #9
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8 man life-raft

I haven't read all the posts here so excuse me if I'm repeating anyone.

But, I personally would keep a life raft but down size to, at least, a 4 man. An 8 man seems quit big unless you actually plan to carry that many people. The cost of a 4 man is cheap insurance compared to the alterative. And a collision or fire makes any boat sinkable......................._-/)
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Old 27-11-2006, 14:18   #10
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size of the raft is not only about how many people will be on the raft, but also about the weather likely to be experienced, and the legth of time you might be in the raft. A 4 man raft is a very tight fit for 4 people, thus maximising the stability from weight distribution. However, if you have to live in the raft for several days, this will cause considerable problems (think sardine) and if this is happening in a very hot climate, it will cause immense problems quite quickly.
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Old 27-11-2006, 15:44   #11
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"Unsinkable" is a theory. I'd suggest finding out exactly how much buoyancy you have in the boat and comparing that with the actual weight of the boat as you'd be sailing. Get the numbers from the builder and check them against the actual weight of your boat. "Large volumes of foam" is not exactly confidence inspiring measured against the large volumes of stuff that get loaded onto a typcal cruising boat.

"Endless Summer," my boat, is unsinkable until we get several tons over the designed maximum displacement. I don't carry a life raft. Fire is the big danger and we deal with this by having many fire extinguishers and a top notch elecrical system. Electrical problems are a frequent cause of fire.

Gordon raises a number of intersting points, but I think that maintenance is a bit under weighted. I met a fellow who repacks liferafts professionally, and he said that it is quite common for him to service rafts which wouldn't have worked either because of neglect or because they were repacked incorrectly. Maintaining a raft is going to be a significant yearly expense and it may be difficult to find a qualified person to repack it.

If going without a raft causes you to overhaul the electrical system and install a fresh set of extinguishers, that might not be such a bad thing. Life rafts are complex bits of technology that have to sit around doing nothing for years and then suddenly work flawlessly. The track record for this type of technology isn't great. As a general principle, I'd rather put the effort making things that work everyday work really well.

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Old 27-11-2006, 17:31   #12
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I have upset more than a few people voicing my opinion on this before. I will not have either a life raft nor an EPIRB on my vessel. The rational (borrowed from Tanya Albei) is that with neither item onboard, one is not as likely to venture out ... when the weather is questionable. I will grant that on any given day circumstances can surprise even the most savy of weather forecasters ... still ... this seem's to me to be the smart way to go about it.
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Old 27-11-2006, 20:02   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wahoo Sails
I will not have either a life raft nor an EPIRB on my vessel. The rational (borrowed from Tanya Albei) is that with neither item onboard, one is not as likely to venture out ... when the weather is questionable.
Do you take others with you? It is their safety that you should be concerned about. I do believe Sonosailor is planning off shore adventures. Day trips usually don't justify a raft or EPIRB but to undermind safety is unjustifable.
Not upset but concerned..........................._/)
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Old 27-11-2006, 20:06   #14
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Do you take others with you? It is their safety that you should be concerned about.
When the captain is no longer responsible for the crew, what worthy crew would go?
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Old 27-11-2006, 21:12   #15
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I have yet to be convinced a liferaft is the best way to improve safety ( 150,000 miles offshore), I think there are better alternatives.
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