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Old 09-25-2021, 10:24 AM   #1
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Life rafts?

Have always had both a boats epirb and a ocean rated high quality ocean rated life raft on every prior boat.
Was taught the smallest, weakest person should be able to deploy the raft by themself and the raft should be large enough to save all souls aboard. So came to prefer Winslow rafts as they are the lightest and very well made. Supplemented with a fully stocked ditchbag so always felt good to go. Usually the Winslow was in a valise so it could be stored below to prevent theft ( a big thing in the Caribbean) and be out of weather (rafts have a tough life in canisters).
Now will be coastal (within 50nm of shore).
Questions are:
Is a ocean rated life raft truly worth the boat bucks in a coastal setting?
Valise or canister? Manual or hydrostatic release?
Is a ships EPIRBS truly necessary?
Some of the worst weather I’ve seen has been coastal and fire, thru hull, stuffing box failure can occur anywhere. Been in very remote places coastally with no local SAR that has fast arrival times. What decisions have you made?
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Old 09-25-2021, 10:43 AM   #2
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I’m interested in the answer here for coastal cruising. For British Columbia I haven’t carried one. EPIRB yes. I’m often towing my tender though. If I go to Alaska then I would.
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Old 09-25-2021, 10:47 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Hippocampus View Post
Have always had both a boats epirb and a ocean rated high quality ocean rated life raft on every prior boat.
Was taught the smallest, weakest person should be able to deploy the raft by themself and the raft should be large enough to save all souls aboard. So came to prefer Winslow rafts as they are the lightest and very well made. Supplemented with a fully stocked ditchbag so always felt good to go. Usually the Winslow was in a valise so it could be stored below to prevent theft ( a big thing in the Caribbean) and be out of weather (rafts have a tough life in canisters).
Now will be coastal (within 50nm of shore).
Questions are:
Is a ocean rated life raft truly worth the boat bucks in a coastal setting?
Valise or canister? Manual or hydrostatic release?
Is a ships EPIRBS truly necessary?
Some of the worst weather I’ve seen has been coastal and fire, thru hull, stuffing box failure can occur anywhere. Been in very remote places coastally with no local SAR that has fast arrival times. What decisions have you made?

We just went through this, though our use is a bit different.


My original plan was to have one canister and one valise raft, each 6 person. Either could carry a typical crew providing redundancy, and if we happen to have more than 6 people we would be covered as well, though not with redundancy. And with both a canister and valise, there is flexibility and redundancy with respect to deployment. Sounded great, until...


A friend with the same plan tried to pick up the Valise raft and realized most aged people like ourselves were not going to be able to deploy without extreme effort. At over 100 lbs, I agreed and we both switched to two canisters.


These are Viking rafts, offshore. If the Winslow coastal raft is light enough to realistically handle, then a valise I think provides some flexibility. But it also requires that you haul it out and deploy it. A canister requires that you free it and shove it overboard, but any installation will have it located right at the edge of the boat so nothing more than a shove is required. I think in most cases this is an advantage over a valise. And further, if you aren't successful at manually shoving the canister over the side, it will automatically release once submerged, so you have another chance at deployment even if you can't do it yourself. I think this is a significant second advantage over a valise. The only down side that I see to a canister is that it's in a fixed location, and who knows how hard it will be to get to it. But in many ways the same is true of a valise. Presumably you can get to it, haul it outside, and shove it overboard, but maybe not. It's a crap shoot whether luck will be with you or against you in both cases.


But in total, I think chances are more on your side with a canister (with hydrostatic release). It's already at the edge of the boat ready to be shoved in the water, doesn't need to be hauled around anywhere, and will automatically deploy if you fail to get to it yourself.
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Old 09-25-2021, 10:51 AM   #4
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I’m interested in the answer here for coastal cruising. For British Columbia I haven’t carried one. EPIRB yes. I’m often towing my tender though. If I go to Alaska then I would.

In many ways survival suits are more important.
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Old 09-25-2021, 12:05 PM   #5
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This is an excellent thread. I am coming up to this decision within the next year or so.


Our Waypoint Coastal 4-person liferaft has been serviced at every three year interval - but I think it is reaching end-of-life with respect to age, as it's now 12 years old. I will most likely not go through with the next service and buy a new life raft instead. Decisions, decisions.


1) Manufacturer: Waypoint service outlets are not plentiful in my cruising areas. Brexit has further complicated that, as the UK is where the service points in much of Europe need to send the life rafts for service. For the next one, I will be taking a close look at Viking, which has a strong presence in Scandinavia and elsewhere. Much stronger than Waypoint. Viking, I think, has a much stronger reputation.


2) Capacity. 90% of the time, it's just the two of us. 8% of the time three. 1% of the time four. 1% maybe 5 or 6. We do mostly coastal cruising (i.e. <50nm offshore). When we have more than 3 on board, we probably don't venture more than 5 miles off shore. So, while our boat is rated for 8 passengers (unthinkable in a practical sense), we will probably stay with a 4-person raft. This is because it's enough to cover 99% of our usage and small enough to handle in valise form. Interesting note here: I attended an information/demonstration/deployment evening by the Viking distributor in Malmö and it was a great educational event. I asked about capacity and said...what if...we were in an emergency situation where we had 6 people on board and the raft is rated for only 4. Should the others hang on the side, so as not to risk damaging the raft? They said no. The others should climb in, if a way can be found for everybody to fit. The capacity rating is primarily for passenger "comfort" vs. what the raft can hold without being damaged. They told me there is a LOT of margin-for-error built into the Viking life raft construction.

3) Canister or valise? I so much want a canister, as only one of us is strong enough to lift the 38kg valise. But, we cannot seem to find an appropriate location for the canister on our small boat. Have been thinking about bolting a canister to the deck of our flip down transom/swim platform, but am worried about how that might perform if it self-deploys in the small cockpit, as it's most likely we will not have the luxury of time to fiddle with the flip-down transom in an emergency. Furthermore, it requires 12v DC to flip down. Might not have that either in an emergency.

As far as a Ship's EPIRB is concerned, I wouldn't travel without one, even as a coastal cruiser. And oh -- don't forget that these too have service (i.e. battery replacement) intervals. I don't know about elsewhere, but in Scandinavia the battery replacement service costs about 60% of the price of a new EPIRB. Ouch!!
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Old 09-25-2021, 12:13 PM   #6
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What could be the reason to abandon ship. Most boats can take a beating far longer than the crew. It becomes a personal choice then to have redundant backups. No right or wrong.
Survival suits. Even cruiser suits, floater coats with beavertail.
For offshore personal Epirbs, not so much for the boat.

Those with liferafts, have you ever deployed one under calm conditions, gotten into it as a dry run. I ask because so far I have only talked with people that have them. There is a need to have them repacked/serviced every 3 years? Many forget, so will it work if needed.
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Old 09-25-2021, 12:38 PM   #7
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Winslow originally built for the airplane market where weight is a big concern. Our ocean rated 4 man in a valise was small enough is easily fit under the cockpit helm seat and was light enough the bride could easily deploy it. It didn’t take up deck real estate. If a canister is mounted on a rail vertically they nearly invariably leak. Water leakage and heat are the two most common reasons for premature aging of canister packed rafts.
They say you’re safer in your boat, even if disabled, than a raft. Many say they would only get into a raft when the boats decks are awash. Still, with some emergencies particularly fire it may make sense to deploy the raft early. Then it won’t burn and if you’re successful in putting out the fire you’ve lost money not lives.
I’ve never understood the rationale for “coastal “ rafts. Always thought do it or don’t. Now wonder if that opinion was too harsh. Coastal rafts are smaller, much lighter and less expensive. Do you really need the two tubes, canopy and all the bells and whistles that come with a ocean raft?
Agree Vikings are very heavy so at 6 man there’s no viable choice but a canister but Winslows aren’t. You pay a premium for a Winslow which are generally more expensive than other brands. About 1/2 of life rafts and pfds don’t properly inflate upon deployment. We’re real anal about safety stuff. Also go to the repacking and get to pull the string ,watch it inflate and crawl inside. Winslow has been spot on every time. They’ll repack it to any rectangular shape you want. Have a under settee spot in the salon in which it would fit. But also have a spot on the boat deck a canister would fit.
Do people here use coastal rated rafts? If you boat in cold water areas have you decided to go ocean even though you only do coastal?
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Old 09-25-2021, 12:38 PM   #8
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In my British Columbia head, 50m out there on the great green pond isn't coastal. Follow the path of the usual cruise ship in the "Inside Passage" to Alaska, that's coastal. And for coastal BC in my mind you don't need an Epirb, if in lieu of that you can carry spot or Garmin Inreach. Even the basic Spot will work quite nicely which you can purchase used for about $25 (subscription necessary).Spot trivia - one of the earliest rescues using an early Spot alert was a sailboat off the coast of Australia.

Many do have some type of rescue life raft along the BC coast, but many like me don't as well. we rely on our dinghy instead. Most go out cruising in the summer with decent ocean conditions so a run to the closest boat or port is within reach.
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Old 09-25-2021, 12:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soo-Valley View Post
What could be the reason to abandon ship. Most boats can take a beating far longer than the crew. It becomes a personal choice then to have redundant backups. No right or wrong.
Survival suits. Even cruiser suits, floater coats with beavertail.
For offshore personal Epirbs, not so much for the boat.

Those with liferafts, have you ever deployed one under calm conditions, gotten into it as a dry run. I ask because so far I have only talked with people that have them. There is a need to have them repacked/serviced every 3 years? Many forget, so will it work if needed.

About test deployment. Good question! Before sending our raft off for service at one of the regular service intervals, we gathered some friends and some not-so-lite beverages on the dock in front of where we live. Tossed the valise into the water and watched it inflate instantly and flawlessly. More interesting was the exercise in flipping it upside down and trying to see if one person can flip it over again. Can be done - but it's nice to have had some practice. This exercise makes packing for shipping to the service center a P-I-T-A. It also adds about 25% to the cost of the service, because more components have to be replaced. Regardless, I highly recommend this exercise for peace-of-mind.
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Old 09-25-2021, 12:58 PM   #10
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In coastal use I'd think the requirement for how serious a raft needs to be are less. Assuming you're in the raft, EPIRB is transmitting, etc. even if there are no boats nearby you're typically talking hours to maybe a day at the worst for someone to show up by boat or helicopter to collect you. A little different than far offshore where you could be in the raft for longer.
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Old 09-25-2021, 01:07 PM   #11
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Steve have watched boats sink. Have watched boats burn. Boats sink real fast. The amount of water that’s comes through a 1 1/2” or 2” hole is amazing and no amount of the typical bilge pumps people have has a prayer of keeping up. Boats burn amazingly fast as well. The smoke is very toxic so the interior is rapidly uninhabitable.
People have this concept they will have time to put on their Gumby suit, then deal with the emergency, then decide whether to abandon ship. Think that’s a joke. Think the more realistic approach is one person is immediately assigned to start the abandon ship protocol and the others simultaneously work to save the boat. Sure put on an immersion suit if you have time but understand you likely won’t. Think hypothermia sets in real fast as well. Short of spending the time (which you won’t likely have) to put on a Gumby or immersion suit suit they will be picking up a body not a person. Float coats and the like provide minimal if any hypothermia protection. Until the late fall coastal waters of New England are cold. Coastal waters of the west coast from Washington to San Diego are cold.
The USCG stays real active doing SAR in my coastal neck of the woods. The fires I’ve seen aren’t the gas people exploding at the fuel dock but scattered throughout Naragansett Bay and L.I. sound. From what I hear on 16 and see the sinkings are real fast. So there’s no question in my mind a raft is in the cards and having an epirb property mounted outside is a no brainer. Depending upon your dinghy is foolhardy imho. If it’s on a boat deck takes too long to deploy or is unapproachable in a fire scenario. Probably still true for most davits set ups. Except on the calmest of days towing isn’t a viable option.

Maybe PS will chime in. He has real world experience.
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Old 09-25-2021, 01:11 PM   #12
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Thanks rs. Agree the 48h of a ships epirb may not be necessary. The 24h of the personal devices probably would suffice. But I was more concerned about cold water and exposure. Weighing that against expense, space and weight when discussing rafts.
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Old 09-25-2021, 01:29 PM   #13
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As far as the sinking case, yeah, a 2 inch hole lets in a lot of water. But in my opinion, if your largest thru hull is 2 inches, you should have enough pump capacity to keep up with a total failure of that fitting. If you don't, add more pumps. A hull breach can still be a disaster, but a single failed thru hull or lost shaft or rudder shouldn't be. Given enough pumps, you'll have time to determine what failed and at least slow the ingress.
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Old 09-25-2021, 01:54 PM   #14
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Early detection of flooding is paramount, then shove something in the hole/wrap the hose. Then pumps should be able to handle.

Getting into a Gumby should be practiced and they should be readily accessible. They can be donned in the water...but fought conditions might make that impossible.

Bottom line is everything is 10X more difficult at night most of the time. If dark and rough....20X......unless highly trained and prepared.

Valise rafts can be stored outside in lockable storage containers/lockers for theft and elements protection, plus a little ingenuity can make launching them easier too.

Cannisters with hydrostatic releases can also be problematic if the boat just rolls or only partially sinks.

Boats do burn rapidly but takes awhile to burn down to the point where they sink. If you can help isolate the burning by deploying a drogue/sea anchor from the part of the boat furthest away from the fire, hopefully wind will slow its spread.

Dinghies can be suitable substitutes for rafts in near shore voyages with great weather cruising....they usually need modifications and rapid launch capability (without power assist probably).

Many variables when talking about hypothermia protection. You will die faster in a raft with none versus in the water in a poop suit all things equal in my experience. Float coats and other similar devices do offer some protection...but measured in minutes to a couple hours at best and depending on water temps and sea state.
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Old 09-25-2021, 02:05 PM   #15
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Yes, carry rescue tape and have plugs attached to every thru hull. Beyond the ditch bag have dedicated drawer with all self rescue supplies. Post a sheet which shows all thru hull and other hull,piercings. Have done SAS training. Have practiced with both Gumby and immersion suits, flipped and gotten into a raft. appreciated. Yes boats burn to the waterline but are inhabitable well before then. Up to 55g/m can come through a 2” hole at sea level from a cursory review. Batteries and connections get wet or depleted no pumps. Deeper holes more pressure and more flow. Believe SAR drops gas powered very high volume pumps on boats for a reason. Still, end of day continue to wonder
Valise or canister
Ocean or coastal raft
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Old 09-25-2021, 02:05 PM   #16
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My goal is to be able to stay out of the water if forced to abandon ship, and to be rescued as quickly as possible. For a coastal boat, a “coastal” life raft very well may be enough. The likely scenario for coastal cruising in most (populated) areas is that you will only be in the raft for a short time of minutes to hours. The features of an offshore raft of durability, shelter and supplies for an extended period aren’t needed.

We carry an EPIRB, a PLB and have multiple hand-held VHF’s. If we ever have a boat-threatening emergency, I know our best resource is getting outside assistance quickly. Almost always your fastest response will be from other boaters, so don’t underestimate the value of VHF distress calls, and a hand-held VHF helps keep that communication open even after you’ve left the helm. EPIRBs are important but the radio may bring help before the EPIRB even connects.

The farther you are from other boaters, the more you need to rely on EPIRBs, PLBs, and possibly a longer stay in the liferaft. For those that do summer boating along the coast of populated areas, almost any life raft is probably enough since help is all around you. Just be prepared to communicate in an emergency. Boaters will help boaters to an impressive extent, but they have to know help is needed.
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Old 09-25-2021, 02:19 PM   #17
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I carry Epirb, survival suits, and an old raft that gets repacked every 5 years.
Check the sea water temps for the area you cruise and season. Lookup the survival time by sea water temp. That will help you make your decision.
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Old 09-25-2021, 03:33 PM   #18
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Old 09-25-2021, 04:30 PM   #19
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Guy…. And Lepke we are brothers with different mothers. Agree with your thinking. But still welcome other opinions backed by the supporting thinking behind it.
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Old 09-25-2021, 04:41 PM   #20
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On most boats bilge pumps are not enough to evacuate as fast as water enters. As said have a pump that can handle the largest thru hull inflow.

But don't forget the raw water pump of the engine, that can move a lot of water. Close thru hull, remove hose and let the engine assist in removing water. Have done that and works great.
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