The thing with the Pudgy is it seems like it'd add a lot of windage if kept up on deck and it sounds pretty heavy to man handle around. So it's not all that hot as a life raft. Then as a tender it seems like it'd perform worse than a normal hard dink.
I think the idea is really sound, even the design looks good. But it's sort of one of those imperfect compromises.
Actually since the pudgy is commonly used as your daily tender the crew should be very familiar and practiced with launching the pudgy as compared to a liferaft that nobody has ever practiced launching or boarding. For us, the pudgy is on davits 99% of the time, with it going on deck only for ocean crossings. I have a lifeline gate at the sides where the pudgy resides on deck and a painter attached at all times. I would only need to undo the lifeline gate on the preferred side, slide the pudgy into the water and board. Of course the abandon-ship disaster doesn't always happen in "blue water" so it also could be conveniently located on its davits when disaster strikes.
The pudgy is unsinkable by many definitions. It is double hulled with copious storage between the hulls. It took 1855lbs (in its Coast Guard capacity rating test) to submerge the gunwales due to the double hull's boyancy. If the iterior hull was compromised it has a special fitting for a hand bilge pump for easy dewatering. If the outer hull is compromised below the waterline that is more serious (but less so than on a fabric liferaft or a single hulled rigid dinghy
). If holed he foam between the hulls and the dry interior would still keep you riding pretty high in the water. The inflatable canopy makes it self righting in capsize as well. It would take a sharktopus attack to sink it.
Compromise? You bet. Worse than a regular hard tender? Not really. In tender perfomance it is most like a cross between an inflatable and a hard rowing sailing dink. It does sail and row like a hard dink, but not as well. On the other hand it has much of the stability of an inflatable. Adults can sit on the gunwales and it's pretty stable when boarding which you can't do on a ranger minto.
Back to it's lifeboat functions, while it is small and of fixed capacity, consider what your other options are if you are a typical 2 person crew that sometimes takes another couple aboard:
If you get a USCG inflatable 2 person liferaft it just plain won't fit 4 people But if you get a 4 person raft, then it won't be properly ballasted (the occupants are calculated into the ballast design) and is at risk of capsize frequently. Steve Calahan made this mistake by buying a much "roomier" raft for himself and capsized countless times.
Recently I had the chance to interview Zack Smith of Fiorentino sea anchors about his experience with the pudgy as he designed the sea anchor for it. When I asked how it was sitting in the pudgy in a gale he got this big ship-eating grin and said "It was great! It felt so stable and safe and was like an amusement park ride. I wanted to keep going longer but the 31' trawler I was with was getting pounded and was worried about breaking something and so we had to turn back." This was in a gale west of the Golden Gate. Email Zack Smith and ask him about the pudgy. He's the only person I know that has been in a gale in one. He also knows all about the craft (and really likes it) because he was involved with aspects of its design.
Now compare that with Les Straud's "Survivorman" episode 9 season 1 "lost at sea" where he drifts about in a liferaft. He ended the excercise early because he was so uncomfortable and scared in his raft. Also, the first raft they used deflated before he got in it, and the second one inflated upside down (50% chance) beside the boat.
Finally, the ability to propel the raft can not be over-stated. I've interviewed one person who used his liferaft in anger and he said that the only time he thought he might die was when the container ship was trying to come alongside. He realised that if it didn't all go perfectly he would either be run down, or sucked into the prop. He ended up jumping out of his raft and swimming the last 100yards to the jacob's ladder. Had he been able to row his raft he could have made that excercise much safer.
Steve Calahan lamented that he wrecked so close to africa, but had to drift all the way to south america because he couldn't propel the craft.
The guys in the trimaran off New Zealand thought they were done for after over 100days at sea because they were about to be dashed on the rocks. Others have nearly perished while trying to make landfall on reefs or rocks. Being able to row to a safer landing spot would be a good feature.
You can also row/sail to the ITCZ or twards a squall to catch rain, or towards shipping lanes to increase your chances of being seen.
What about the boat fire or other catastrophy that happens only 1 mile offshore but with a breeze and current blowing you offshore and no way to row that one mile back to land. There have been several fisherman to whom this happened and drifted for months. Imagine the frustration of sitting in your raft, one mile from shore on a coastal day outing knowing that you are drifting further and further away.
I could go on....