Reviewing this thread (full disclosure - I'm not a bluewater sailor, at least not yet), it appears that other than a packed life-raft that needs regular inspection and repacking, and may or may not work when needed, there are 4 potential double-duty dink-cum-life-raft options:
1 - Steve Callahan's FRIB, though it appears from the links above that it is not now in production;
2 - a Portland Pudgy with life raft options, new at least $5K and up to $10K depending on options (sailing kit, electric, solar, etc.) selected;
3 - a regular hard dink, or possibly a kayak/s; or
4 - an inflatable or RIB dink.
Clearly, items 3 & 4 are short term options at best, even surmising the addition of a (presumably custom) cover.
Interesting that you would say that. I think the exact opposite. My issue with pre-packaged liferafts is that they're flimsy and only designed for short term use. They often fail while in use, whereas our trusty tenders, be they hard dinks or hypalon/PVC inflatables give us years of service in the face of abuse (at least by me)
I got over a decade of use/abuse out of my PVC Sevylar inflatable and it spent YEARS at at time (it had antifouling) in the water.
Calahan's liferaft was trying to sink for the majority of the 76 days. His HEROIC measures kept it afloat.
Dougal Robertson's raft DID sink and they were only alive to write "survive the savage sea" because all 6 of them spent the rest of their time in the rigid dink.
In the more recently published "66 days adrift" their raft nearly sank a couple times.
Then there are the accounts of people watching their rafts get serviced and they fail to inflate. There are also the rafts that DID sink with their occupants. These folks don't get to write books...
I argue that our regular tenders, with some kind of shelter, and a ditch bag, are superior to the packaged raft. The main reason is that if your raft sinks, you die. PERIOD. Your tender will inflate, will last for hundreds of days adrift (years/decades actually).
Besides longevity your tender also has the advantage of being able to be maneuvered by oar or sail. My colleague who is the only one I personally know who has used a liferaft in blue water says the only part where he thought he was going to die was when the freighter was maneuvering to meet his raft. He realized that if the ship maneuvered wrong, the raft would be run over, or sucked into the prop. He actually jumped from the raft and swam to the Jacob's ladder because the approach wasn't looking good. This wouldn't be as much of a problem with a set of oars to help...
The only advantages I can see of the packaged rafts are that they are possibly easier to launch, and might fair better (than a regular tender) in a huge storm. Fairing better in a storm, however, only applies if you spend the big bucks on an "offshore" model with lots of ballast bags. As for the advantage of being easier to launch, your tender, you will have practiced launching, whereas most haven't actually practiced launching and boarding their raft.
The big storm is also NOT the only reason you'd be abandoning ship. The reasons I can think of to abandon are:
2: Sinking by collision with debris.
3: Sinking by collision with whale.
4: Sinking by collision with ship.
5: Huge storm.
I really think that in case #5 you're probably screwed anyway. See also Fastnet force 10 and the 1998 sydney to hobart. People didn't fair all that well in the rafts, but wouldn't have done better in their tenders.
In case 1-4 there is no huge storm, and no need for your ballast bags, and all that. What percentage of our time do we spend in storms anyway? Lyn and larry pardey, who sail full time and go off the beaten track say they're in gale or above conditions 3% of the times by their logs. The tradewind sailors that pick their windows sometimes never see a real storm.
So, I would like to ask again if everyone really thinks that the flimsy $8,000 raft that may or may not inflate, and is only superior 3% of the time, and can't be maneuvered, is really the better choice?