If your yacht is of an appreciable size it likely has an onboard tender. In the event of an emergency, many mistakenly believe that their tender can be used as a “life boat.” However, depending on the size of your tender, and the nature of the emergency, it may not be able to be deployed fast enough to serve the same purpose as a high quality life raft. So, just having a tender on board, does not necessarily rule out your need for a life raft, and, obviously if your yacht or boat is not large enough to stow a tender, than a life raft is a must.
Basically, you need to think about a life raft the same way you do about almost any piece of marine safety or survival gear: it is something you have and wish you never need, rather than something you need and wish you had!
Choosing the Right Life Raft for Your Vessel
The reason it is not necessarily a good idea to rely on your tender as a lifeboat, is because unlike a life raft, it has not been specifically designed to be a survival vessel. Life rafts, on the other hand, are. They have features and equipment on board that make them quick to deploy, easier to be spotted by rescuers, and maximize your chances of survival at sea. It is those features that differentiate one type of life raft from the other, and along with size and stowage, should factor into your decision of the type of raft you choose.
For the record, be assured that the situations in which you may need to abandon ship, particularly a well-maintained modern motor yacht, and survive, while awaiting life raft rescue, are indeed rare. However, do you really want to bet your life, and the lives of your family on “the odds?”
If you are doing any extended voyaging far from land, it just is smart boat ownership to invest in a state-of-the-art life raft. One of the key questions to ask yourself when trying to decide on the kind of raft you need is how long you think you may need to survive on it. The answer to that question has a lot to do with how far from shore you routinely cruise. The farther out to sea you travel, the longer it may take rescuers to find you. So, you need to be sure the raft is durable enough, and stocked with enough supplies and emergency gear, for the amount of time you anticipate awaiting help. Most rafts are designated as equipped for “less than 24 hours of survival,” or “more than 24 hours of survival.”
Types of Life Rafts
There are many different types of life rafts available. Unlike life vests, which are all certified by the US Coast Guard, there are several different agencies that certify and set the standards for life rafts. Any raft you choose should be certified by one of these agencies, such as Offshore Racing Council (ORC) requirements, or they are designated as meeting ISO 9650 guidelines.
Beyond that, rafts break down into categories based on where you are most likely using your boat, i.e., “in shore boating,” “coastal or near shore boating,” and “offshore boating,” with the size, gear and capacity differing accordingly.
Any raft you choose has to be stowed. So, where and how you will stow your raft will also have to factor into your decision making process. Generally speaking, life rafts are stowed one of two ways:
- Canister Stowage:If you plan to store your raft on deck, it must be enclosed in a “canister.” These fiberglass canisters are waterproof, and are designed for permanent mounting on a cradle or a lifeline stanchion. They’re manually released by pulling a pin on a shackle.
- Valise Stowage:If you plan to store your raft below decks, make sure you can launch it in 15 seconds or less, and get a raft packed in a valise. It will be lighter, somewhat cheaper, but much less waterproof than the canister model.
Ultimately, the choice between a valise or canister will be determined by where you can find space to mount the raft. Either way, you launch the raft by first tying its painter to a strong point on deck, then by throwing the raft in the water and jerking on the painter. It will auto-inflate within less than a minute. Rafts are fragile and easily punctured by any sharp object like a splintered hull, self-steering vane or part of a broken mast. Thus, you should launch the raft on the leeward side of the hull and keep it restrained by a short painter.
On Demand Yachting Provides Peace of Mind
Our On Demand yachting solution includes providing for all of your yacht’s safety and maintenance needs. When it comes to making sure you and all of your guests are as safe as possible, having the right crew is only part of the equation. You must make sure you have all of the right safety gear on board, and that it is all where it should be and functioning properly. That means, in the unlikely event that they are ever needed, your life raft, along with all PFDs, fire extinguishers, smoke and CO detectors, etc., are all serviced and maintained as necessary. You never want a piece of safety gear to fail, when you need it most!
Maintaining your yacht’s safety gear at operational readiness is just one of the services you can count on from our On Demand Yachting Solution.
Operating a motor yacht can be costly. You can reduce your expenses, and avoid costly repairs by keeping her well maintained. On Demand yachting from FYM can help. If you would like to learn more, or if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, do not hesitate to contact our Yacht Management specialists, or call us at (954) 900-9968.