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Old 26-05-2019, 10:45   #1
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Life Raft on Great Lakes?

Something Iíve meant to ask other sailors on our trips on the Great Lakes is whether and what kind of life raft any might carry but never seem to get around to it. We carry a six man offshore affair that is due for service after this sailing season but suspect it is overkill and shipping costs and regular servicing are not cheap. Due to a foolish oversight, we lost our towed inflatable dink in heavy following seas on an overnight passage last season so Iím entertaining the idea of killing two birds with a single stone and freeing up some space in the lazarette by getting a Portland Pudgy and a couple of immersion suits. Iím curious how others are handling the matter?
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Old 01-06-2019, 06:40   #2
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Life Raft on Great Lakes?

We sail the Great Lakes and have a dingy that I consider my life raft. We also have a Garmin Inreach on the boat and a portable VHF so we should be covered. I like to think the big boat will keep us safe without the need for the little boat though but I guess you never know. Where do you sail?
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Old 01-06-2019, 09:15   #3
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

Hello SofiaB and thank you. We sail Lake Michigan for the time being. I kind of gathered that at least some sailors rely on their dinghies for an emergency given the few deck mounted canisters I’ve seen up there though that’s not conclusive, of course. I’m not sure we’d have a life raft had we not purchased it for a trip up the Atlantic seaboard but consider the dink and raft mutually redundant. Also for redundancy, we carry a PLB, EPIRB and a handheld with DSC along with the usual complement of safety gear. I’d rather have too much than not enough but the trouble and expense of maintaining the raft has me seriously thinking of ditching it.
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Old 01-06-2019, 10:54   #4
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

We sailed Superior for over a decade without a life raft. There arenít many who do carry one, even though it is certainly possible to be a long way from help on the Big Lake.

I think itís more a question of your own personal risk tolerance, and your view on life rafts in general. But I do like the Pudgy. If I had a larger mother ship, I might consider such a thing.
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Old 01-06-2019, 12:09   #5
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

I agree with Mike, to include the pudgy.
I also think of the Great Lakes more as inland seas than lakes per say.

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Old 01-06-2019, 12:35   #6
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

In my mind, for a well found boat, the most likely scenario for needing a life raft is a fire onboard. I have seen four boats burn at the dock, or at anchor. Being on a burning boat at sea, (I don't care what anybody says, the great lakes are "at sea") is well worth planning for.

My boat has 6 water-tight compartments and even if two were holed, it would still float. It is hard for me to imagine a scenario where the boat would sink in conditions where a life raft would help. But the idea of a fire... I carry an easily launched life raft.

In the event of a fire you have no choice, you HAVE to leave the big boat, and you have to leave NOW. You can't hang on waiting for rescue. You might not have time to even put on a survival suit. Fires on boats are fast and terrifying things. If you have never seen one, trust me on this.

How long/far can you swim in 45 degree water??? All the fancy electronic gear that make people feel so secure will do a great job--guiding the rescue personnel to your body.

For all passages we store our dinghy deflated and below decks, so it is not an option as a liferaft. If you know you can launch your dinghy in 2 minutes, by hand, well maybe...
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Old 01-06-2019, 13:00   #7
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

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Originally Posted by billknny View Post
In my mind, for a well found boat, the most likely scenario for needing a life raft is a fire onboard. I have seen four boats burn at the dock, or at anchor. Being on a burning boat at sea, (I don't care what anybody says, the great lakes are "at sea") is well worth planning for.



My boat has 6 water-tight compartments and even if two were holed, it would still float. It is hard for me to imagine a scenario where the boat would sink in conditions where a life raft would help. But the idea of a fire... I carry an easily launched life raft.



In the event of a fire you have no choice, you HAVE to leave the big boat, and you have to leave NOW. You can't hang on waiting for rescue. You might not have time to even put on a survival suit. Fires on boats are fast and terrifying things. If you have never seen one, trust me on this.



How long/far can you swim in 45 degree water??? All the fancy electronic gear that make people feel so secure will do a great job--guiding the rescue personnel to your body.



For all passages we store our dinghy deflated and below decks, so it is not an option as a liferaft. If you know you can launch your dinghy in 2 minutes, by hand, well maybe...

Great point about fire. But what is the risk of a fire on a boat at sea? What could start a fire?
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Old 02-06-2019, 04:01   #8
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

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Originally Posted by fxykty View Post
Great point about fire. But what is the risk of a fire on a boat at sea? What could start a fire?

Boat Fires: Primarily DC Electrical, Engine & Fuel
https://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/mag...boat-fires.asp


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Old 02-06-2019, 05:23   #9
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

Nice breakdown of the types of causes of fire on board Gord. But of course itís important to realize fires are still very rare. The USCG stats include various categories of ďfireĒ for all reportable boating events, and while they arenít insignificant, the numbers are still very low.

This is why I say the answer to the OPs question really comes down to risk tolerance, and perhaps capacity of the mothership.
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Old 02-06-2019, 06:01   #10
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

And the USCG chart leaves out the galley. Because galley fires are very rare on most boats compared to cruising boats. I would guess one cruising boat galley fires are pretty high on the list.

I wonder when someoneóin the absence of any supporting dataósays fires are ďvery rareĒ. What they mean? Are fires on cruising boats rarer than house fires? Do they think itís a good idea to have a five extinguisher aboard?

I kind of discount the opinions of someone who doesnít even know how a fire could start in a boat at sea.

Every boater should watch this about boat fires
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Old 02-06-2019, 06:17   #11
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

They are very rare, as in compared to the total dataset of identified causes. Look it up yourself.

My point is not that fires are not real, or not dangerous. Iím answering the OPs question regarding the need for a life raft on the GLs. As with all these questions, it really comes down to risk tolerance, which I always try to ground in real risk assessment based on real ó not perceived ó data.
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Old 02-06-2019, 06:22   #12
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

Thanks to all who have responded so far! I'm feeling a little less irresponsible for thinking of cutting the life raft loose. Having flown professionally in a former life, I fear flame far more than stepping up into a raft but also have an equally healthy concern for cold water. Also, this sailing business is my "thing" and the wife wouldn't have anything to do with it were it not for me so I tend to go a little overboard (yes, poor pun intended) when it comes to matters of safety and comfort. Additionally, I never forget that rescuers may be in the balance based on my decisions, even if the absolute worst should happen and it becomes a recovery. In any event, the Pudgy's ordered 'cause I still need a tender for this season and, surfeit or not, immersion suits are also on their way. Anyone need a life raft?
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Old 02-06-2019, 07:48   #13
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

Sounds like a good choice Durangutan. I really love the Pudgy ó at least of what Iíve read. Theyíre just too big from my little 37-footer. I would have to drag it everywhere, and I hate doing that.

Did you get the sail rig, along with the cover? Love to hear how it you get on with it.
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Old 02-06-2019, 08:38   #14
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Re: Life Raft on Great Lakes?

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Sounds like a good choice Durangutan. I really love the Pudgy — at least of what I’ve read. They’re just too big from my little 37-footer. I would have to drag it everywhere, and I hate doing that.

Did you get the sail rig, along with the cover? Love to hear how it you get on with it.
Thanks Mike! I did not order the sail rig or the exposure cover hence, in part, the exposure suits. Both the sail and cover options are pretty pricey, especially the cover which is almost as much as the boat. I’ve rationalized that it would be advisable offshore but unnecessary for the kind of sailing we do. Our boat’s no larger than yours and it’s a cutter rig with no davits or swim platform so stowage aboard is not an option -not to mention that I can’t stand cluttered decks. This was among the issues giving me pause since we tow our dink and, though due to a stupid and very avoidable mistake, I’ve already lost one. On the other hand, it’s already deployed in an emergency. An added benefit with this setup is that we can drill which we couldn’t practically do with a life raft. I’m happy to report how it’s working out after we’ve gotten a little experience with it.
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