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Having seen the mention of survival gear, and having been in "survival mode" once before thought I would see whom has survival suits and the emergency rafts. Brands, cost considerations and actual experiences desired.

For me this about the only two items that I do not have. I think the biggest issue is cost, availability at local stores, and the minimum / rare / maybe never usage - I would see. However, to perpetuate a argument in my own views - I have plenty of safety gear that never sees use but is there "in case that one time"...

I just find it cost prohibitive to spend 3-6K for a 4-6 man survival raft that needs to be shipped off to the manufacturer to be certified every X number of years. Survival suits are also way more expensive than the foul weather units and would only be worn on the occassion one is out in the worst of conditions.

Does the fact that we see that we see limited usage as most of us are coastal or if we do a oceanic jaunt - that it is of short duration? Is it the costs that prevents most of us from having them. For those that have them - why did you - and honestly - how many times have you used as such? Which do we recommend in terms of brands etc....

Should you be licensed before you can purchase either (sorry CD - just had to add it)...:D
 

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Well

All the bigger boats i race on have rafts BUT only keep them onboard for races that require them as most of the other races in this area are within eye sight of land during daylight hours
 

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the pointy end is the bow
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We have exposure suits on the work boat. I feel a lot better having one on board because we are often out in snotty weather and often when there aren't many other boats around. I've gone in the water in an exposure suit once and I feel pretty confident about staying alive long enough in one to be rescued.

I don't know yet what we're going to do when we go off-shore with our boat, but I don't like the idea of having to recertify a liferaft either. In coastal waters, we're usually dragging a dinghy around behind us and that's what we'll be stepping into if we ever sink the big boat.
 

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What's the difference between a good one ($4-6K) and a cheap one? I don't presume to know. A quick google turned up a raft for $1500 and a gumby suit for $400. I know that's the bottom of the barrel for quality and price. Throw in an EPIRB and you're in really good shape to survive.

unlike this guy:

S/V Freefall

Given what I know about about CG rescues, I would not go offshore without one even if it was really cheap. Historcally, the CG finds people pretty quick if they have any kind of cummunication and some way to stay warm and afloat.
 

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1 have both a raft & survival suits,they are mandatory when[and still is]iwas commercial fishing as well as an eprib.all this heavy gear is aboard all the time. the coast guard has a rule that if the air and water temp does not add up to 120 then they have to wear a survival suit[mustang type]....i have never used my gear but when things get dicey it sure is nice to have them in my possesion....
 

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We have a 6 man off shore raft that will fit 4 comfortably. A big difference in price comes in the difference of near shore or off shore and the extras packed inside.
 

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I am not entirely sure what constitutes a survival suit but if you sail in the PNW this time of year you will need a reasonable facsimile. I was out twice in October and to withstand the elements I wore a Helly-Hanson softflex floater coat with floater bib pants and rubber boots plus all the fleece layers underneath, it was cold out. The HH pants and coat were not cheap, I paid good $$ for them and am glad I have them. For the most part folks are within CG rescue distance in this area so one would have a fair chance at being found provided a mayday was sent. My coat has lots of reflective tape, bright red, is quite warm and between the coat and pants I am unlikely to ever sink but at some delayed point the cold would cause hypothermia. What I wear may not qualify as total survival but I am not sure it is required, but rather, a reasonable facsimile will do just fine. I will never be out of sight of land or help. Many years ago I was in a survival situation from an overturned canoe in the Broken Island Group (Barkley Sound) and I almost met my maker, only a few minutes away, fortunately I lived to tell about it. I do not take such risks anymore but that was when I was young and foolish. My only emergency raft is a dinghy I tow when on extended trips, I carry the usual safety gear on board all the time and exercise due care and attention so that I may live to sail another day.
 

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Courtney the Dancer
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We have always carried survival suits on board (2) the boats (ebay and craigslist are good sources for used ones) and we have a Viking coastal raft in a valise that we swap back and forth between boats. Offshore I would have a raft in a canister with hydro realease. Things can happen quickly, at night, in adverse conditions so you might not have time to grab anything. We also have a floating ditch bag with emergency supplies in it and an automatic deploying epirb.

With summer water temps a balmy 50F you are only going to survive about a half hour here in the PNW and even less further north where we will be cruising.

I think of them as insurance, there when you need it but you hope you never need to use it.
 

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unlike this guy:

S/V Freefall

Given what I know about about CG rescues, I would not go offshore without one even if it was really cheap. Historcally, the CG finds people pretty quick if they have any kind of cummunication and some way to stay warm and afloat.
That was pretty harsh. While I've read a lot of tales of idiot sailors in unprepared boats losing fights with gales here, I can't say there is enough information there to judge. If they could still float, why the night rescue? Did the old guy have a heart attack? Did their boat suffer a dismasting or a rudder failure?

While it seems that a lot of people call the CG if they see a whitecap or get an ouchie, there are a lot of people who do the opposite and try to deal with a worsening situation until they shout MAYDAY! when it's almost too late.
 

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Telstar 28
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Valiente-

IIRC, Freefall was taking on water and in the process of sinking... :)
 

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Jody,
I just did a class at Elliott a few weeks ago. Many people have all this equipment on their boats I found. I don't yet. It is important to have that raft if you are going off shore. A gumby suit is cheap and definitely should be in all boats in cold water. An EPURB is also a must have and most people I found have it.

There are different grades of life rafts. It depends on how long it is going to take to get help. In the sound a gumby suit would do with a epurb. On your way to Maui I would definitely have the EPURB, offshore life raft, and Gumby suit (survival Suit) It is a requirement for the fishing industry to do this training and the equipment. Fisheries can help you with your questions. The main question is most people on your docks do have all this, but they couldn't use it if their life depended on it.
Marc
 

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I bought a 6 person raft, rated for offshore use, since we normally have 4 people on board, and I probably take up more space then what they designate for "1" person. So we have a little room. We bring it on board when we go out of the harbor since there is a cold water current flowing south along the coast, but when in San Diego harbor, we don't. We have a ditch bag, handheld VHF, but no EPIRB yet. Still working on foul weather gear also. The raft was purchased and on board for our first ocean sail from Dana Point to San Diego when we moved the boat to its current marina. If you are along the Pacific Coast, I wouldn't go offshore without at least a raft.
 

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Jody - great thread. Thanks. I was wondering about the same thing. You don't hear it discussed much, so it's good to get some feedback. Especially since the Freefall incident was one where a suit would have been very useful it seems.

As for the life raft, in that case they were in ~50' breaking seas - and the CG life raft seemed somewhat useless. Could any of the rafts listed above (or any at all) deal with those kind of conditions? Honestly, don't know - just asking.

From that case, and from other things I've read - it seems like staying with the boat is always the best solution (unless it's literally going under of course). So the suits would be of paramount importance in a flooded-but-floating boat like the Freefall.

Finally, I've been curious as to opinions for a towed dinghy vs. one davited at the stern. The more I read about boat stability in heavy weather, the more the towing thing seems to make sense. What do you guys think?
 

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the pointy end is the bow
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We tow our dinghy everywhere around here unless it's crossing the Strait of Georgia, then we usually secure it on the boat. I would secure it on the boat once we go off shore too.
 

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the pointy end is the bow
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We have one of those fold up dinghies that we lash to the life line. Looks like a surf board. We purposely went to that type of dinghy to avoid the extra expense and hardware involved with davits. I'm basically cheap and would rather spend my money on booze and a good woman than extra hardware on the boat.
 

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Jody...you're right it is damned expensive to buy a raft and keep it certified. We never had one until we started going offshore...then I felt it was mandatory as we could no longer count on hopping in our dinghy if the boat started sinking. We started off with a raft in a bag rather than a deck mount and that saved a bit of money...but we got a full ocean rated raft rather than a coastal rated one so as to be able to deal with huge seas and winds better.
Never considered a gumby suit as I always felt that with the raft, we might be cold and wet but in no danger for a few hours till help came (EPIRB). But if I were cruising up in your neck of the woods I might have second thoughts about that.
BTW...I always stretched the certification/re-certification process out a couple of years since I figured government was being ultra-conservative and the industry just wanted a cash cow. Maybe dumb...but I saw the result of one 6 year recertification and that gave me confidence.
 

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We have one of those fold up dinghies that we lash to the life line. Looks like a surf board. We purposely went to that type of dinghy to avoid the extra expense and hardware involved with davits. I'm basically cheap and would rather spend my money on booze and a good woman than extra hardware on the boat.
Man I like your advice. Surfboard, hot chick, and booze. Who cares if the CG shows up at that point.
 

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Space is ALWAYs an issue on a cruising boat. But as you know you can't ignore safety either. Grrrrr... We offshore regularly and had to consider these things.

I scuba dive and have found space for both wet and dry suits that I figured would do as a survival suit if I ever needed it.

As for the raft - there was really no obvious space for one on our boat, and the $$ cost was very scary - especially considering that you had to then service it regularly (more $$) and you never really knew what was in that canister until your life depended on it.

Eventually we went with a compromise - a dingy that has a life raft option. We (still) don't have an outboard motor so our dinghy also has to be able to sail and row well (all the lifeboat / dinghy combination we have seen have the sail option - better to rescue yourself if you don't have to drift). First we went with a British version - the Tinker (http://www.tinker.co.uk/). This was nice, inflatable with a wooden floor reinforcement - and stowed on the foredeck. When we changed boats we had davits, and the tinker was too long. We could have got a smaller tinker but we didn't really like the sailing rig - so we then went with a Portland Pudgy - Portland Pudgy multifunction dinghy -- the fun boat that could save your life! - a hard boat. The things I love about the Pudgy are that all the "bits" store WITHIN the boat, so even if I row to shore I can always sail back if the wind is favorable. Also the sailing rig is much sturdier than the Tinker. While the pudgy is not nearly as comfortable to board as the inflatable Tinker after a bit of snorkeling - but perfectly do-able.Having a "life boat" that you can practice with is very reassuring.

I still hope I never have to need it - but we are very happy with our compromise(s).

If you think it would work for you, both the Tinker and the Pudgy come up on ebay from time to time. In the USA inflation cylinders cannot be refilled (any more) so if you want to practice you can orally inflate. I discovered this month (visiting a service center for life rafts) that they don't actually test the inflation from the cylinders either - they just weigh them to ensure they are still full.

By the way - if you haven't already read it a GREAT true story of life raft survival is Adrift by Steven Callahan - It certainly made me think! - Amazon.com: Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea: Steven Callahan: Books
 
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