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Old 02-09-2018, 03:49 PM   #1
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Raft or Suits

Planning a 5-month roundtrip from Tacoma to Whittier this summer and I'm starting to list needed equipment. Just ordered my Vesper AIS upgrade.

Seattle Boat Show broadened my thinking a bit. It seems the cost of a 6-man coastal raft is about the same as six good exposure suits.

While I have made this passage before without suits nor raft, this time it is my boat and the responsibilities seem to be weighing a bit heavier. So, which? both? neither? Discuss.

I know the dinghy isn't a lifeboat, but I do in fact have an "unsinkable" Bullfrog. Does that affect your thinking?

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Old 02-09-2018, 05:25 PM   #2
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Its always hard to balance risk and cost for someone else. So just some considerations.

If you have a raft and no suits, and do a water entry into the raft, you will have some mighty cold people. Hitting cold water can cause people to seize up and drown long before hyperthermia.

Rafts are expensive and need to be repacked every two years or so.

Suits are bulky to store, difficult to get into, require space to get into them, difficult to walk around in, and are impossible swim in unless you know how. It's back stroke only. At a minimum, be sure you and a crew member are practiced at getting into them so you can guide others. And be sure you know how to swim in one and how to get into a raft from the water. Its not easy.

Having both is probably the best answer, but it's easy for me to spend you money and take up space on your boat :-)
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Old 02-09-2018, 05:35 PM   #3
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The best would be both. But space and budget may not allow.

Considering your intended cruise on colder waters. Thinking 'out loud'.....

Raft:
  • Float free when the boat sinks too quickly for you to do anything.
  • Can, time permitting, with training and practice, be boarded from your boat.
  • Assuming the crew boards successfully all are together.
  • Carry survival provisions.
  • Easier for rescuers to find.
  • Provide little or no protection from cold water.
  • May inflate upside down and need to be righted, not an easy task at night in rough water.
  • Will need expensive annual service
  • Stows easily on a cabin top out of the way, ready to go.

Suits:
  • Provide excellent protection against cold water.
  • Provide excellent protection once ashore in a cold wet storm.
  • Carry no survival provisions.
  • Difficult for rescuers to spot.
  • Require direct action by the crew to get dressed.
    • In a typical trawler it will be difficult if not impossible for more than one person to don the suit at one time.
    • Experienced persons can get a suit on with good room on a stable platform in about a minute.
    • Say you can dress one person at a time, it's dark and rough and no one has drilled putting the suits on let's call it 3 min to get dressed. 3 min X 6 perons is 18 min.
    • Not nearly good enough in a fire or a fast sinking.
  • Once in the water it takes training and practice to stay together.
  • Require minumal annual maintenance.
  • Stowage will be challenging, six suits take a lot of room. And if tucked out of the way increase the time to get them on.

Reading my own thoughts if I had to choose on over the other I'm thinking for Seattle to Whittier aboard a 41' tri-cabin boat I'd go with a raft, a float free EPIRB, a well found ditch bag and some training on how to use the raft.
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Old 02-09-2018, 05:47 PM   #4
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Reading my own thoughts if I had to choose on over the other I'm thinking for Seattle to Whittier aboard a 41' tri-cabin boat I'd go with a raft, a float free EPIRB, a well found ditch bag and some training on how to use the raft.
Nice bit of brainstorming. While I and a couple of prospective crew have actually donned a suit, I'm hoping for a fair number of "drop-ins" over the course of the summer; suit training would be a pain, and probably hard on the suits. Guests will be in a variety of sizes too.
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Old 02-09-2018, 05:52 PM   #5
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I got my Gumby suits from PSI Survival.


Survival Suits
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Old 02-09-2018, 05:59 PM   #6
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Prince William Sound (PWS) is my favorite place to be. Moorage in Whittier is very limited, so make sure you contact the Harbor Office very soon. If you haven't already, get this:


https://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Guid.../dp/1877900176
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Old 02-09-2018, 06:14 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Alaskan Sea-Duction View Post
Prince William Sound (PWS) is my favorite place to be. Moorage in Whittier is very limited, so make sure you contact the Harbor Office very soon. If you haven't already, get this:


https://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Guid.../dp/1877900176
Yeah, haven't really decided, Whittier or Seward, but I have to lay over a couple days in mid-July to attend a wedding in Anchorage.

Got a Lethcoe Guide left over from my one-week PWS cruise in 2006.

as Mr. Whitekeys has so memorably sung: "Nothing could be sh1ttier than to find yourself in Whittier..."
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Old 02-09-2018, 06:23 PM   #8
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No easy task, we have a dinghy, two rafts 10+4, life vests for all, floatation suits + survival suits. Survival suits takes a lot of time to put on, so I'd go with floatation suits and a good raft/dinghy. IMO
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Old 02-09-2018, 06:37 PM   #9
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Keep a couple of plastic garbage bags in the suit. Put them over your shoes before you start to put it on. The bags will let the shoes slid right in. You donít want to take your shoes off as they will help keep your feet warm.
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Old 02-09-2018, 06:48 PM   #10
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You can still freeze to death in a liferaft with no more protection than normal clothes.

Inland passage and picking weather...I would go survival suits, dingy and think of what else floars you can tie together to help with flotation.

Any measurable offshore legs and both are almost a must up there.
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Old 02-09-2018, 07:43 PM   #11
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i Would choose suits over a life raft. I will confess, I had both on my last trip up the coast, along with a Garmin inreach which I thought was just as important.
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Old 02-09-2018, 10:57 PM   #12
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I have to join in with the "both" crowd. Either one without the other is just inadequate.

Love seeing you go on up further in Alaska. Great trip although going May-September you are going to encounter some cold conditions. Still beautiful.
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Old 02-10-2018, 12:52 AM   #13
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We carry both. We have a liferaft with an insulated floor, plus survival suits.

The survival suits will be last choice. We have tested ours and you cannot do anything in them.

Our plan is to if time permits throw the survival suits in the liferaft, which is kept in the cockput of our boat where we can deploy it in a hurry.

My opinion if you could only have one, get a good liferaft.

Better than swimming, which is what you and your guests will be doing, for probably a couple of hours.

Oh, Bag Whittier, and come to Seward.

First you probably will be rafted off in Whittier. In Seward you will be given a slip or tie up at the transient dock. Seward is much better for a transient. Better food, actual grocery store, etc...
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Old 02-10-2018, 12:43 PM   #14
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Oh, Bag Whittier, and come to Seward.

...actual grocery store, etc...
Probably the most compelling argument.
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Old 02-16-2018, 12:08 AM   #15
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In really cold water, like Alaska, probably both suits and raft. A lot of Bearing Sea people died in a suit alone. I don't know the time limit in cold water, but it's not forever. Some people in the Gulf of Alaska survived in a suit long enough to be cast ashore.
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Old 02-16-2018, 12:53 AM   #16
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We're all going to die sometime. Is it best to die doing "one's thing/joy" or not?
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Old 02-16-2018, 04:15 AM   #17
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Suits and two rafts for us.
We have a auto deploy and a manual raft.
The manual one is a Secumar Island. Not made anymore I think. It's a great liferaft though, Hypalon instead of PVC fabric, good for cold waters.
Also it has a inflatable floor which helps with heat loss.
It has a roof structure that rolls it upright with no help.
It's a bit heavy compared to other liferafts though, 45 kg I think.
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Old 02-16-2018, 05:26 AM   #18
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2 things:
1. How long do you expect to be "lost" at sea? the Pac NW and SE AK is not the Indian Ocean. Get a raft AND PLB.
2. When I was in Maine, talking life-rafts for my Atlantic trip, it was recommended to get a 4 person, not 6 person raft, to stay warmer. I did.
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Old 02-16-2018, 08:29 AM   #19
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Go with the suits, but buy the ice rescue suits. They are much easier to put on than the gumby type suits and provide almost the same protection. Then think about a raft if you still want more protection.
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Old 02-16-2018, 08:44 AM   #20
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Quote:
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If you have a raft and no suits, and do a water entry into the raft, you will have some mighty cold people. Hitting cold water can cause people to seize up and drown long before hyperthermia....
Had my first experience with cold water swimming this summer when a rope found our prop shaft. All normal attempts to get it off failed, so into the water I went with the intention of cutting it free by hand. As soon as I was in the water up to my chest it was impossible to take a deep breath and hold it. (Luckily, a commercial diver was nearby).

This was near Klemtu, BC...in August.
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