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Discussion Starter #1
In the interest of stopping thread drift in another topic I thought I would start a new thread, and because it is something I am now curious about.

We have never carried a liferaft, and I don't know anyone that does other than people who plan to go offshore. Is this just a localized thing because of the protected waters in my area? Or is it something that people forgo because of the cost, vs the likelyhood they will ever need one?

Bonus question: has anyone ever HAD to use a liferaft, and what were the circumstances surrounding that event?




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I bought one for the 91 Marion Bermuda race... sent it to Offshore Repair and they literally sold it to someone else. I sued in court and won and he was broke and judgement proof. Friend gave me his last year.... but it's in storage (at friend's house).
 

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Old soul
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Have never yet had one. It’s a bit of an ongoing question in our little crew.

Given the rather high failure rates I’ve read about, the high initial cost, and the significant ongoing cost, plus the psychological danger they are said to present, I’m just not convinced it’s worth the cost on our smallish boat.

Of course, if we ever really needed one, I’ll be lamenting my stance :eek:.
 

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Have a 4 man Winslow which is inspected and serviced as per protocol. When buying one make sure smallest, weakest person can lift and deploy it. Make (if you are in the Caribbean) it can be put under lock and key when not set up for passage or weather.
On passage it lives under the helm seat and can be immediately deployed. Takes very little time for a sailboat to sink. Train all crew on ditch bag, epirb , and raft. Useless to have and not be able to use in an emergency.
Worthwhile to take safety at sea at least once even if not a ocean racer. It’s surprising how hard it is to climb into a raft unassisted.
 

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This is a topic of interest to me, but I know very little about it.

What's more interesting, is I don't think anyone else knows much about it either.

Just spent some time searching and was unable to find:
- Any statistics about how often life rafts are deployed in real world situations
- Any statistics about accidents that could have been less severe if a life raft had been available
- Any statistics about accidents where the lack of a life raft had no impact

Quite frankly, I've been unable to find any data at all about real world life raft deployment and how effective they are.

Makes me wonder if life rafts are outdated technology just waiting for some enterprising inventor to come up with something better ... At the least, makes me wonder if anyone really knows if they're an effective tool.
 

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Good topic. I’m curious as well. Any statistics on the time it takes for EPIRB retrieval ? Does sailing in warmer waters with good life preservers and an EPIRB negate the need?

We don't have one, but we are new. I’ve thought about it. I don't really have any room for one on a 28ft boat. On our next larger boat for longer passages, i’d seriously consider one.
 

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Hello,

When i race in the Around Long Island Regatta we carry one. Only because the rules require one.

I do not have one on my boat and i no intentions of getting one. This is because:
-my sailing is in shore (Long Island Sound)
-the water is usually warm
-there are usually plenty of boats in the vicinity
-I almost always wear a pfd and have a hand held vfh on my pfd.

If i planned on doing trips in the ocean i might reconsider.

Barry
 

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This is a topic of interest to me, but I know very little about it.

What's more interesting, is I don't think anyone else knows much about it either.

Just spent some time searching and was unable to find:
- Any statistics about how often life rafts are deployed in real world situations
- Any statistics about accidents that could have been less severe if a life raft had been available
- Any statistics about accidents where the lack of a life raft had no impact

Quite frankly, I've been unable to find any data at all about real world life raft deployment and how effective they are.

Makes me wonder if life rafts are outdated technology just waiting for some enterprising inventor to come up with something better ... At the least, makes me wonder if anyone really knows if they're an effective tool.
Is Alaska they save a lot of lives. A gumby suit will keep you alive for 10-12 hours if you are a healthy afult, but not in a great state. A life raft increases your life-expectancy to days.

But boats dont like to sink straight down and many are covered with lines and snags and sharpe edges. These cause life rafts to fail and many times separate the EPIRB from the raft. So they find the Beacon, but the people are long gone.
 

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We have a 6 person Winslow raft in a dedicated floor locker in the salon. Plus a stocked ditch bag next to it. With our cold water temps, I’m sure it would take longer to locate us, in the event of an emergency, than we’d survive in the water. While I’ve practiced with a raft, I’ve never used one in an emergency. I have been in a dinghy in 2-3 ft snotty seas, which many claim is their alternative, and it was nearly life threatening itself. Certainly not dry.

They are undeniably expensive. I have mine vacuum packed, which should be unpacked, restocked and inspected every three years. Ours stay perfectly dry, so I’ve been known to push that to 4 or 5. A big passage/cruise, usually inspires me to get it done.

Risk is not solely about the odds of a loss. It’s also about the potential cost of a loss, if you lose that bet, which I view as life threatening.

I’d say approx half of my friends around here have a raft aboard, maybe fewer. Even fewer still that are religious about inspections.
 

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Good questions Bill. I’ve been in discussions with long time cruiser Evans Starzinger over at CF. He has done some studies on life rafts, including outright failure rates. I can’t recall (nor quickly find) the specific data, but my recollection is that they were high — on the scale of 30% not even activating. These were in controlled conditions with life rafts apparently properly certified. He also looked at the number of deployment failures, and came to the conclusion a life raft is not a good idea.

I was also recently speaking with a fellow who was involved in a raft re-certification. He too said the rafts he saw had a surprisingly high rate of failure. He is not a fan of rafts.

Add to this fact that there area number of reported incidents of finding the mother ship, damaged but still floating, but with no one left on board and the life raft gone. The crew is never found.

And finally, consider the psychological temptation a raft presents. All hell is breaking loose. Things are very bad on the mother ship. You are exhausted, depressed and likely making very poor choices. Does the life raft start to look like the silver bullet? Instead of focusing on saving the mothership, does your attention shift to the raft? We all know you’re only suppose to step UP into a life raft from your sinking mothership, but is that what really happens? I doubt it… And realize, if the sea state is such that it can take down your mothership, the likelihood that you are any safer in a life raft is, well, doubtful.

I don’t have any definite answer to any of these questions. I know if I ever really needed one, I’d be happy to have the option. But I also question the cost-benefit side, and I seriously wonder about the psychological dangers these magic rubber boats may present to me.
 

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Strong supporter for people to have inspected rafts of high quality. Once you are outside a bay or off the shelf immersion usually means death from hypothermia rather than drowning given most folks have PDFs. Seems to be an inverse relationship between latitude and resources of SAR so being in the tropics likely doesn’t increase chance of survival.
Sailboats sink in a few minutes. Fire means death if you don’t immediately evacuate or control it even on a multi. Exposure or being washed off kills sailors on inverted multis.
On protocol varies depending upon how many are aboard but little from locale. If two the raft, ditch bag are placed unemcombered in the cockpit. Due to set up raft the pull string is already attached. Our epirb is in a bracket accessible in the cockpit. This takes 10-15 seconds. Then this person calls for help. If no response helps the other but returns to call for help as situation allows.
The other person deals with the emergency. Our boat has a collision bulkhead and integral tanks. First check the bilge. Make sure both pumps are running and discern direction from where ingress is coming. There’s a ball valve between collision bulkhead and accommodations. It is left open. Check if ingress is from there. If so close valve. Next check each through hull. Last open floor boards. Decide can you control leak or do you need to abandon ship. Knowing on the boat (even if flooded but floating) is safer than the raft.
Same beginning for fire except all extinguishers are collected and placed at the disposal of the person fighting the fire. We follow requirements so there’s always one handy but people often not realize multiple ones may be required.
Our thinking is you step off the boat up to the raft. That means the boat is awash. It’s the last resort. So you want everything set up for deployment. Then everyone can focus on saving the ship and the souls aboard.
 

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Will note you can’t work the boat in a Gumby suit. So when in northern or near high lat carry cold water immersion working suit like the oil workers wear. Recently flipped over to the one Mustang offers as its considerably less expensive than the commercial suits. Still hands and feet aren’t covered. But I wear my dubarrys and winter gloves. Warm as toast. Integral flotation and harness. Lots of pockets. Zips off easily for those trips to the head. A win all around.
 

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Misspoke it a stearns exposure suit and harness is attached after market. Best one I had was from imhoff.
 

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I've been thinking about this for a while ...

It's always safer to stay _on_ the boat if possible. I can only see 2 reasons to abandon: 1 uncontrollable fire, 2 boat sinks (not "sinking", but SINKS)

Fire is a tough one. We all need to have extinguishers, but most of us have a lot of flammable stuff on board as well. It's not unrealistic to figure that we can't have enough extinguishing power to guarantee that we can put out any possible fire. So we do as much as we can.

But preventing sinking is a different story. There's so much out there about how to properly maintain thru-hulls and what to do if a seacock fails, etc. Additionally, we have lots of talk about different techniques for stopping leaks caused by collisions and other hull damage.

But what about a "life raft" for the boat itself? Instead of abandoning ship for a smaller rubber ship, why not use the same inflatable capacity to keep the mothership afloat? How much volume in compressed air and emergency bladders would it take to create enough buoyancy to guarantee that your ship can't sink? For my 15000 pound Tartan, it would take 2000 gallons of air to keep her afloat. That's approximately 4 standard sized scuba tanks. Add in the size of the collapsed bladders and you'd have a system that would probably be 2x the size of a typical life raft, but capable of keeping the entire boat afloat no matter how bad the leak.

Practical? I have no idea. I'm tempted to say that it's not because otherwise someone would have done it.
 

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I don't have a liferaft.

I do have a good hypalon RIB which is stored inverted on the foredeck on passage.

If I had a choice I would always plan to get into the RIB rather than a liferaft. The failure rate on liferafts is pretty scary.

There is only one situation where the liferaft might win out and that would be where the boat sinks in seconds without warning and I did not have enough time to free the lashings and launch the RIB. Mind you there is a recent incident of the East coast of the USA where a cruising boat was just about awash and the decision was made to abandon ship and get into the liferaft. They deployed the liferaft and watched in horror as the attachment points peeled off and the liferaft blew away.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
My brother in law was on board the Winston Churchill when she went down in the Bass Straight during the '92(?) Sydney-Hobart yacht race. It is a harrowing story indeed, and there is no doubt that all hands would have been lost were it not for the liferafts. The classic wood yacht went down very quickly after she came down hard off a massive wave and sprung some planks. (At least that's the theory). While the rafts did save lives, they did not perform well in the extreme conditions, in fact I believe that incident lead to a number of changes in liferaft design.

Of course that is an extreme situation, that I am likely never going to find myself in. Some would say that none of those yachts should have been out in those conditions, and most cruisers wouldn't have done so.

I cant imagine what would cause a well found cruising yacht to sink quickly aside from extreme weather. Certainly a through hull failure should not do it. It would take a long time to sink a 40ft boat with a 1" hole.
We once hit a large log at over 7kts on a 30ft boat and it barely scratched her, let alone holed her. We also hit a rock at speed on that same boat, and while that DID cause her to take on some water because the back of the keel cracked the hull at the root, it was completely manageable and we were able to finish the race.
The only situation I could see needing to abandon ship on short notice would be fire, so I think it is better to focus on preventing fire, and being able to fight fire rather than being able to abandon ship into a raft. If the fire cannot be controlled then I see no reason the dinghy would not serve as a liferaft.

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We carry a Revere Elite 4-man Ocean raft, together with a "Bail-Out Bag" in our starboard stern locker whenever we travel outside the limits of Tampa Bay and within during the winter months when the water is very cold. It is the heaviest raft my (much) better half can handle in an emergency in the event I am injured or otherwise unable to launch the raft myself and we/she needs to get off the boat. One of my greater fears has been the event of a fire aboard rather than a sinking in which case one must absolutely vacate the boat without delay. Our bail-out bag--attached to the raft via a long tether--is also equipped with an EPIRB and hand held VHF, just in case.

FWIW...
 

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It’s a just like a standard through hull fitting. It allows me to know if water is coming in the most forward part of the boat. I have a low and higher placed bilge pumps. They generate a warning light at the nav station and the cockpit. Occasionally the low goes on if condensation from the AC or other source collects enough. But if either goes on and stays on I know I have water coming in. My floor boards are all have turn locks to prevent them from wandering if there’s a knockdown. So this set up let’s me know if water coming in as my floor boards can’t go floating. In fact much earlier.
They say common places for ingress are instrument hull piercings (especially speedo and less so depth), then through hulls, then collision. I have a salt water manifold to eliminate a collection of through hulls but still have a few. Fortunately all in near each other. The valve for the collision bulkhead is under the same floorboard as the depth and speedo and wash down and salt supply for forward head(unused). It’s fairly easy to exercise every except the head exhausts.
Right down my issue is the very heavy rains in Grenada. We’re on the hard and have a fresh water leak. Seems from two bolts that hold down the traveler and a pipe used as a wire run to the hard Bimini.
The sailors bible
Keep the people on the boat
Keep the water out
Keep the boat moving.
Keep on keeping on.
 
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