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Old 05-16-2022, 02:11 PM   #1
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Life Rafts, necessary for cruising?

Pearl, our "new" 2008 Beneteau Flyer 12 came with a Plastimo 8 person inflatable life raft, naturally it is beyond expiration date and requires a repacking service. As it is usually just the two of us Admiral wants to scale down to a 4 person raft while I'd like the extra room and extra "stuff"of a larger raft. Most of our prior cruising was around the Chesapeake, 2-3 day trips never really cruising. Now that I'm retired we're looking at longer trips from our base in FL, Bahamas, Keys, etc. Do most cruisers use or have life rafts, is it a necessary piece of equipment? A trip to the Bahamas would be with a group, Keys would be solo. I like the idea of having one on board JIC. Would appreciate thoughts & comments from our cruisers.
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Old 05-16-2022, 02:24 PM   #2
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Rafts are part of a survival plan....just one element.

If you limit your exposure to what might be long term sea survival, a raft while nice for comfort, is debatable as "necessary".

But .....you have to mitigate with backup all risks associated with where and when you cruise and how you plan on expediting rescue.

I feel if you plan and time cruises well, a good RHIB you can launch quickly, can suffice for coastal, Keys and Bahamas cruises.
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Old 05-16-2022, 02:24 PM   #3
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It's a personal choice. If it makes you and your wife happy, by all means do it. But with that itinerary, I'd spend the money/effort elsewhere. I don't know your boat but suppose it's fairly fast so you're not looking at extended travel outside of protected waters.

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Old 05-16-2022, 03:03 PM   #4
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We cruise in cold waters at times and plan to do long hops with our new to us boat. When doing passages think a 2 tube ocean rated raft is obligatory but coastal agree probably not. In my thinking there’s
Protected waters-not necessary except very large lakes
Coastal (inside 25nm of landfall) +/-
Near shore (inside 200nm i.e. heliocopter range) +
Offshore (outside heliocopter range >200nm) +++
Other than offshore/near shore) think a one tube device ideally with double floor suffices.
I prefer a valise as they don’t get stolen as much and aren’t out in the weather baking in a canister even when boat isn’t moving. Like a hydrostatic release. Insist the valise can be picked up and carried by the smallest member of crew so have always used Winslow.
Think fire risk is as great as sinking risk in small recreational trawlers. Both electrical and fuels. Don’t want to breathe toxic fumes. Therefore got rid of the ocean Winslow and got a coastal raft.
Most recoveries are within 24h when offshore. Coastal would suspect times much shorter so don’t believe expense of a ocean raft required. Like LRSE in R.I. for safety equipment. Size is number of crew.
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Old 05-16-2022, 03:13 PM   #5
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For coastal use, I can see another advantage of a valise vs a canister. If the situation makes it reasonable to launch the dinghy instead of going right to the raft you can have the option of taking the dinghy (being that it likely has propulsion unlike the raft) and still bring the raft along with you, giving more options after bailing out of the big boat if everything has gone irrecoverably sideways.
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Old 05-16-2022, 03:19 PM   #6
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Would say for anyone contemplating using a dinghy as a liferaft please think about it. As an exercise go out when’s there’s a good sea and wind running. Go into neutral and lie ahull for awhile. Many boats will lie at or close to beam too. Now try to launch and get into your dinghy. For us launchwould be an issue. We are dependent upon having electricity to operate the freedom lift. Same for those carrying a dinghy on a boat deck.
The Portland Pudgy is sold as a raft alternative. Imho not a decent option except in protected waters.
After trying to climb into a raft in a swimming pool know even that is hard. Want to step of a sinking boat only when I know it isn’t salvageable. Staying on the boat is safer. But I want to step into a raft. Don’t want to climb into a raft or dinghy. We are fortunate. Our aft side cleat is placed to allow this to nap from the swim platform.
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Old 05-16-2022, 03:25 PM   #7
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My thinking is the OP has a pretty fast boat and distance to Bahamas is under 6 hours so weather isn't going to be the issue for him so a dinghy is viable as long as it's reasonably accessible. Fire or some sort of sinking event is his risk exposure. Water is relatively warm.

It's a personal decision. For this cruising grounds, I wouldnt hold off going if I didn't have a liferaft. But I don't begrudge anyone who wants to have one.

Peter

EDIT - if the OP isn't pretty good with weather with access to decent weather products, I would think that would be a better investment to reduce risk.
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Old 05-16-2022, 03:25 PM   #8
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Good point RS. Hadn’t thought of that. Thanks
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Old 05-16-2022, 03:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocampus View Post
Would say for anyone contemplating using a dinghy as a liferaft please think about it. As an exercise go out when’s there’s a good sea and wind running. Go into neutral and lie ahull for awhile. Many boats will lie at or close to beam too. Now try to launch and get into your dinghy. For us launchwould be an issue. We are dependent upon having electricity to operate the freedom lift. Same for those carrying a dinghy on a boat deck.
The Portland Pudgy is sold as a raft alternative. Imho not a decent option except in protected waters.
After trying to climb into a raft in a swimming pool know even that is hard. Want to step of a sinking boat onl when I know it isn’t salvageable. Staying on the boat is safer. But I want to step into a raft. Don’t want to climb into a raft or dinghy. We are fortunate. Our aft side cleat is placed to allow this to nap from the swim platform.
Sea conditions are absolutely a huge concern for use of the dinghy. But as you pointed out, one of the biggest reasons you'd have to abandon ship quickly would be a fire. And that could easily happen in fairly calm conditions. That's the primary time I could see going for the option of dump the dinghy off the davits, grab the raft valise and hop in. If it's got a full tank of gas, plenty of dinghies have 50+ miles of range so for a lot of coastal cruising it's got a shot at getting you somewhere.

FWIW, I haven't made the call to buy one yet, but even on the Great Lakes I've seriously debated whether we should add a raft to the boat (and maybe survival suits as well).

For many situations, I'd rather see people spend money on an EPIRB before a raft if there are decisions to be made.
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Old 05-16-2022, 03:31 PM   #10
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What's your life worth?

While running charters on my other boat, I added one even though it wasn't required. USCG regs required that it be annually recertified even though it wasn't required. On the trawler I have one also, but go longer between recertification.

While it's unlikely you will ever need it, boats can sink quickly. You may survive the sinking only to succumb to hypothermia. I consider it insurance, just like boat insurance that you pay for, and hope you never use.

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Old 05-16-2022, 03:50 PM   #11
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Survival gear is always a debate.

Not so much is it a good or bad idea...but how much is enough.

Look at the risks ... how can you mitigate them? If you foresee time to abandon ship is urgent or need to in severe conditions...or rescue time is excessive...then plan for each of them you think is a problem.

Based on my years of being out in the thick of it professionally, I tend to only boat in the most mild or safe situations. So my survival planning went from super thorough to pretty relaxed and simple.

Adjust yours as you see fit.

But I do admit, if you have the space and money, and have a clue how to prioritize and use it....survival gear for any contingency isnt necessarily a bad thing. That is unless you use it as a crutch for bad decidion making by being overly confident.
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Old 05-16-2022, 04:10 PM   #12
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It's why I like our tender on davits instead of a crane.

Can throw a couple of spare fuel and water tanks plus grab bag in whilst hanging
Hand operated winches so I could drop it in under a minute if need be, not pretty but doable.

And with a closed cell bouyancy foam Kapten Collar, virtually untippable and unsinkable.

Now I have a motorised "liferaft" with a small sea anchor, normal anchor sounder/plotter, flares, EPIRB, radio and capable of making way and a strong likelihood of self rescue

But, options are a bit limited on smaller boats
Saying that, from my sailing days, I never had a "death raft" then either and had an unsinkable tender akin to a motorised Carly float.

Warm water and wait out bad weather.
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Old 05-16-2022, 04:22 PM   #13
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I have a 4 person inshore raft. When I was solo cruising last year in cold water and more remote areas I added a survival suit.

After reading several threads here and trying out the suit I think I have more confidence in it than the raft to keep me alive in harsh conditions. My raft expires this year, but I don't think I'll pay to have it repacked unless I start adding crew/guests.

I think the 'stuff' in an offshore or larger raft is unnecessary, on the assumption that you're not going to be in the water long enough to need it. My working assumption is that I'll be rescued within 12-24 hours, and I'm not out boating during gales. That drove my decision on the raft I have. It's light and easy to store and relatively cheap to buy and service.

These days it's easy to have a ditch bag with the communications equipment to get a distress call out with position and communicate with local rescuers.

If it's just the two of you a pair of survival suits might save your life and could change the calculus on the raft.
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Old 05-16-2022, 04:41 PM   #14
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I took s US Sailing safety at sea course that had a real life in pool experience including into a life raft in a pool. We all had full foul weather gear on including an inflated life jacket. I was unable to get myself in with out help from the young ones that did get in. I weigh 185 and am in good shape from going to the gym 5 time a week. If you get a life raft make sure there is a usable ladder. They are useless if you can't get in.
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Old 05-16-2022, 04:51 PM   #15
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I have both a 4 person life raft and cold emersion (Gumby) suits. To get north I have some open sea to cross from the Columbia River to the San Juans. It all depends the area you cruise. For me our plan is simple if we need to abandon ship:

1. Call USCG
2. Cut dinghy straps.
3. Don the gumby suits and activate PLB
4. Get in dinghy if possible with dich bag.
5. Activate raft.
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Old 05-16-2022, 06:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocampus View Post
We cruise in cold waters at times and plan to do long hops with our new to us boat. When doing passages think a 2 tube ocean rated raft is obligatory but coastal agree probably not. In my thinking thereís
Protected waters-not necessary except very large lakes
Coastal (inside 25nm of landfall) +/-
Near shore (inside 200nm i.e. heliocopter range) +
Offshore (outside heliocopter range >200nm) +++
Other than offshore/near shore) think a one tube device ideally with double floor suffices.
I prefer a valise as they donít get stolen as much.
I am always in protected or coastal but I also opted for small valise. Dinghy would be Plan A. I have a ditch bag with flares, handheld VHF, & PLB. Also have 1/2 dozen fire ext. scattered around boat and a boat epirb. Boats do sink on occasion.
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Old 05-16-2022, 08:28 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Easternshore View Post
Pearl, our "new" 2008 Beneteau Flyer 12 came with a Plastimo 8 person inflatable life raft, naturally it is beyond expiration date and requires a repacking service. As it is usually just the two of us Admiral wants to scale down to a 4 person raft while I'd like the extra room and extra "stuff"of a larger raft. Most of our prior cruising was around the Chesapeake, 2-3 day trips never really cruising. Now that I'm retired we're looking at longer trips from our base in FL, Bahamas, Keys, etc. Do most cruisers use or have life rafts, is it a necessary piece of equipment? A trip to the Bahamas would be with a group, Keys would be solo. I like the idea of having one on board JIC. Would appreciate thoughts & comments from our cruisers.
So <50NM Miami/FLA-Bimini, <100NM West End-Ft Pierce. Personally, I donít have one, or feel the need, perhaps if I was going down past T&Cís. Better investment is a good weather service, & cell-based access in the Bahamas, plus a back up tow system for your dinghy.
Beware group trips: like buddy boats, they can be great from a social perspective, but in reality, offer no help other than radio contact in an emergency, few buddy boats have the knowledge base or equipment to tow or render any type of physical assistance if TSHTF. Buddy boating may also lead you to make passages that are outside your comfort zone-which can be a good or bad thing dependingÖ YMMV.
Bahamian cruising is wonderful, avoid the marinas, get comfortable on the hook, embrace the local Bahamians in the small communities. Magical.
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Old 05-16-2022, 09:17 PM   #18
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As part of training had to put on a Gumby. It’s very difficult to do. Once on it hard to move around and do anything useful. Surprisingly hard to swim in one. My thinking is I want one person to launch the raft and for me and selected crew to have full mobility. That would allow us to continue to try to save the boat. If we are now dragging a unused raft or even if we just cut it away given I think you’re safer on a boat than in a raft and definitely safer than in a Gumby in the water I’ll don the Gumby in the raft if at all.
We have four Gumbys which came with this boat. I also have an immersion suit from prior sailboat. Think the immersion suit is the best cold weather foulies ever. But again it isn’t a raft. I want to be
Out of the water
Functional
Easy to see eve with epirbs personal AIS think this is important.
Still vote for a raft.
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Old 05-16-2022, 09:28 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Unclematt View Post
I took s US Sailing safety at sea course that had a real life in pool experience including into a life raft in a pool. We all had full foul weather gear on including an inflated life jacket. I was unable to get myself in with out help from the young ones that did get in. I weigh 185 and am in good shape from going to the gym 5 time a week. If you get a life raft make sure there is a usable ladder. They are useless if you can't get in.
You bring up a very good point. In those drills I used to be the first to board the raft and help the rest of the crew board. Then in my early 60s during training drills I was no longer able to board first unassisted. I was very fit at the time I was a competitive rower. Age takes it's toll even if you keep fit. Plan for it.

Also I've done that drill in a pool and cold water. What a difference cold water makes even in a gumby suit.
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Old 05-17-2022, 10:05 AM   #20
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Beware group trips: like buddy boats, they can be great from a social perspective, but in reality, offer no help other than radio contact in an emergency, few buddy boats have the knowledge base or equipment to tow or render any type of physical assistance if TSHTF.
Another reason to avoid or at least be very careful who you cruise with:
Every time I cruised with a buddy, with one exception, I have had to stop and fix other boats. Sometimes easy, sometimes not so easy or quick.
I've never needed anyone to help me, even though I almost always had the older boat of the group.
Also most are not skilled enough to know when to take action such as letting out more rode, putting out a second hook, when to turn around and wait for weather, etc. And sometimes that puts all in jeopardy.
Just be careful who you cruise with.
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