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post #1 of 44 Old 07-04-2008 Thread Starter
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Liferaft Poll

Moderators shut me down if this has been done before. I did a search and couldn't find one.

I was just wondering how many offshore cruisers out there have a liferaft onboard.

I'm trying to make a decision on whether to buy one or not and would like opinions.


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post #2 of 44 Old 07-04-2008
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Absolutely, I have a BFA Pacific Offshore 6-man liferaft on my Westerly 26 which I sail out of Rhode Island. It's a valise model as I have no room for a cannister on deck. Personally I would not go offshore without one as bad things can happen quickly offshore and bobbing about in the water for days amongst large hungry predators doesn't appeal to me.

I got it from LRSE in Portsmouth RI, it was on unused on consignment (and so the price was good) they did the service / repacking on it and I am very happy with them. It does not have much emergency supplies built in (and I don't think many do), so I assembled my own ditch bag including handheld VHF, Datrex rations, spare strobe, knife, batteries, etc etc etc. I also have an EPIRB which I think is essential.

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post #3 of 44 Old 07-04-2008
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Ditto...Zodiac 6 man. Would never go offshore without a raft.

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post #4 of 44 Old 07-05-2008
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There are two schools of thought on Liferafts from what I've seen.

There are those who think they are a necessity and one must be carried. Some of the people in this school of thought are monohull sailors and their main concern is the boat sinking out from under them. Others are multihull sailors whose main concern is the boat burning or something similar—rather than sinking—since most multihulls are close to unsinkable.

There are those who would prefer to make the mothership as seaworthy as possible and not carry one. Their reasoning is usually that a liferaft is very fragile, difficult to spot and carrying one would make you far more likely to "step off" the mothership without fully exploring what could be done to save her and yourself. Look at all of the "abandoned" boats that wind up being found months later, happily afloat. In many cases, the crew that left them simply disappeared with the liferaft.

A couple other thoughts on liferafts—don't get one that is too big. The people in the liferaft are generally a design consideration and if your raft is too big, you won't have the proper ballast (people) for the raft's design to function well. Second, REMEMBER, you should always STEP UP INTO A LIFERAFT.

Personally, I'm of the second school of thought.

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post #5 of 44 Old 07-05-2008
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We have an 8 man AVON on Island Breeze.

Some things to consider, we just recently found out: older models, like ours, are supposed to be checked each year. I've personally watched the procedure, and here is what happens: The unit is unpacked and visually inspected while laying on the floor. The CO2 bottle is removed, emptied and tested the same way they check dive tanks. Meanwhile, all of the survival gear is removed from the raft. There is precious little in them, by the way.

Once everything is out of the raft, it's hooked up to a standard air compressor and filled. The rig at the shop left a pressure gauge hooked up when the air line was disconnected.

The raft is left inflated and the pressure checked, in this case, on three consecutive days. We were lucky, the old Avon did fine, not even a pinhole.

With that test completed, the survival packet is replaced, new batteries are installed in the light(s) and the whole thing is repacked.

The cost? A skosh over $1000 bucks, and we provided some of the stuff we wanted packed in the onboard survival kit. These included a 4 AA cell dive light and some space blankets. I also took a hard look at the fishing kit, first aid kit, etc, and added a few little items. The key word is 'little' There is just no room inside the cannister to add things. I really would have liked to put in a very small EPIRB, but there simply isn't room.

One last note on this: If you're chartering your boat or using it in any kind of commercial endeavor, you can not add, change, or modify what is inside that life raft's survival kit. Period. You can't even change out alkaline batteries for lithium batteries, which have a better endurance and shelf life. Keep that in mind.

Now, then. Here's the interesting part. The new lift rafts are packaged in a large, thick walled vacuum bag, and only have to be inspected every three years. So, over a period of three years, with an Avon like ours, you'll plan on spending 3 grand having it inspected yearly. The new life rafts are about 3 grand, but they don't have to be inspected as often, and according to the shop, are basically a disposable item. Most shops don't have the equipment necessary to bag and vaccum the raft after inspection, regardless of what they say. My guess is that if the unit was properly bagged by the factory to begin with, you could safely use it for five or maybe even ten years if it was in a hard case, kept inside when the boat wasn't underway, etc.

I am not advocating this, I just mention it in passing.

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S/V Island Breeze
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post #6 of 44 Old 07-05-2008
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Major grain of salt as my blue water is all arm chair and my boat is its own life raft (positive flotation). Anyway, while I understand the convenience of the fold away solutions, there are 3 concerns I would have with them. First is that you don't have any experience with it. The first time you will try it is in an emergency situation and then you will have to hope it works properly and you know what to do. The second is that they are inflatable and therefore deflatable as well. I know they have multiple air compartments and it probably is fine. the third one is along the lines of what SD refered to - I think it might force your hand to make a decision at an early point in the process of evaluating your options in an emergency. "Force" is probably too strong a word - you wouldn't really have to get on it, but I think you know what I mean. Again - big grain of salt - just considerations that you may dismiss with solid reasoning. One other that can be a pro or con - their small size means they could always or never be right at hand depending on where it ends up stowed.

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post #7 of 44 Old 07-05-2008
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We sail Paloma mostly offshore and have both an Achilles 9.6 sport boat and a valise-packed life 6-man life raft that we lash down on the foredeck between the cabin trunk and the anchor locker. Don't leave home without them.

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post #8 of 44 Old 07-05-2008
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I replaced my BFA Offshore with a new Avon this Winter. The BFA was recalled because of an overinflator valve failure. Didn't get the notice untill after a 1500 mile passage. When we took the raft in for the recall it had significantly deteriorated in the Tropical sun. The raft, 5-6 years old, was trash. It is stored on the stern pulpit in a cannister, ready to instantly deploy. I guess lazzarette storage would have kept it from rotting but it was too heavy to lift easily from storage to launch.
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post #9 of 44 Old 07-05-2008
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Bought a valise model last year but it was heavey and took up a lot of space. We now have a Portand Pudgy that is self bailing, has a small outboard, oars and has a sail stowed in one of six compartments. It seats 4 adults [tightly] but the best part is you can sail to land or shipping lanes as oppossed to sitting like a bobber. It does have a life raft canopy but we didn't get that. This is our dingy and lifeboat if needed.

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post #10 of 44 Old 07-05-2008
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Expanding foam

The comment about life-rafts being deflatable got me wondering (the good old vin rouge does that. ) How about a system that injects expanding foam as the raft inflates. This can harden giving a non deflatable, rigid structure.

Obviously, this would need some serious engineering and would make deployment a once only affair (disposability, the anchor of the consumer economy ) but it could work.
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