Let’s discuss something that we boaters hope we will never have to use someday. A Life raft. For the majority of recreational boaters this is probably not even on their radar. For boating on protected inland or coastal waters its not an issue. But for those venturing further afield, a self inflating life raft should be of interest to them.
Self Inflating Life Raft. Who needs it?
Liferafts are standard equipment on all commercial ships and boats that ply the open seas. For recreational sailors and boaters its not so clear cut. The majority of recreational boaters do not even think about this. They use their boats for day trips and rarely leave protected waters or undertake long voyages. In the event of a mishap, the expectation and availability of rescue is imminent. Personal flotation devices are all that is required for the most part.
For the minority of us that do extended cruising or open sea voyages, the availability of a life raft is more important. For larger or commercial boats and yachts there are license issues that make having life rafts mandatory. It’s for the smaller yachts and pleasure boats that this issue becomes blurred. There are no hard and fast rules and its generally up to the individual owners to decide what is right for them.
Generally speaking, if your boating consists of day sailing. With the odd week or two vacation cruise and the odd longer or overnight passage. Then for you it may not be worth the investment in a life raft. Carrying your inflated dinghy or tender on deck, stowed on davits or even towed behind your boat, would be good enough.
Boats doing blue water cruising or extended sailing, especially overnight sailing. This is who should be concerned with having a life raft. There are pros and cons which we will get into next.
Pros and Cons
Really, this should not even be up for discussion but there are reasons for and against having a life raft. First of all, the biggest pro. It’s called a life raft for a reason. It’s there to save your life!. Many people forget this and thankfully the incidences of people actually having to use them is really small. As compared to the numbers of boaters out there.
This leads us to the major con. Price. I know…what price can you put on your life? Economics comes into everything. For those who can afford it, it also comes with peace of mind knowing that you have it. For everyone else there are trade offs.
Just about all cruisers and long distance sailors have a dinghy. Most times an inflatable dinghy. Many see this as their “life raft”. And for cruising where there is an expectation of imminent rescue this should be OK too. Especially if it is carried fully inflated in davits. Some carry them inflated on deck but this takes up lots of space on the average cruising yacht. It also makes it more dangerous to work on deck. Self inflating life rafts come packed in very neat containers that are easily stowed on deck until needed.
Also, there are emergency supplies included in the packed raft in most cases. Sailors should also have a “Ditch bag” of emergency supplies ready as well to grab if you have to abandon your boat in a hurry. A tiny downside to having a self inflating life raft is that you need to have them inspected and serviced on a regular basis. This is to ensure that the inflating mechanism will be reliable if you should ever need it.
Viking RescYou Liferaft
So, which is the best life raft to get. There are many companies out there who make life rafts and marine safety equipment. So there is a lot of choice. There are some great resources and reviews available online to help you. One product stood out for me as I was researching. As well as the fact that I have seen many of their products out there on boats. That is the Viking RescYou life raft. This life raft ticked all the boxes and was one of the quickest to inflate. It is also easily available, even on Amazon. Here is a video showcasing its features.
The decision whether or not to invest in a life raft is a tough one. To put out that money for something you may never use is hard. All you can do is to take a really good look at the kind of sailing you do and then decide. My personal feeling is this. If I’m going to be sailing in an area where I cannot expect rescue within 24 hours. Then a life raft is for me. It may end up that I never have to use it. But if so, it will be the best money I ever wasted. If for some reason I do have to use it. It will be the best money that I’ve ever spent.
Hope this is helpful and if any questions please feel free to contact me or leave a comment.