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Thread: Liferaft vs. Immersion Suit

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    15

    Default Liferaft vs. Immersion Suit

    Having priced liferafts at the boatshow recently, I have been thinking about alternatives. The minimum size liferaft that gets the ISO/ISAF nod is a 4 man raft priced around $2,000; weighing in at about 60 pounds and requiring a re-certification every three years at a cost of about $1,000. A five year average cost of ownership is about $400 to $500 per year.

    Would an immersion suit be a better alternative? An immersion suit with an Epirb with a rab bag for water and other emergency supplies might provide a safe method of passing time until help arrives. These low tech solutions are available for $100 - $300 with no ongoing liabilities for repacking; regearing or recertifying. Given that most rescues are initiated and concluded within 24 hours, what does the raft really provide that justifies its price?

    Sailing in high latitudes or in extreme conditions probably warrants a life raft, but most of us transit the ocean in sub tropical or tropical waters.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    235

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    Water temps off San Francisco for at least 500 miles (and more) certainly are not tropical or subtropical. And it might be just a matter of luck that your time to be saved might take 3 or 4 (or?) days. I've survived a few dangerous situations in my life, but floating in a rough ocean at chin level would be really stretching your odds of survival. It likely would not be a mill pond out there when you would like it to be...ask Mr. Murphy!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    15

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    In the 30 to 40 year history of the SSS, how many cases have there been of single handed skippers actually using their liferafts?

  4. #4
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    Sep 2007
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    2,810

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    Only Space Cowboy comes to mind (and that was "voluntary") but SSS is a small group.

    Outside our group there have been two in the last two weeks - both sailboats and both doublehanded. The incident off Monterey was only 17 miles offshore so they didn't have to jump in the raft before the Coast Guard showed up (but they had one). The other incident was 90 miles offshore and they were pulled from their raft.

    Four of my J World friends are still around because they had a liferaft (their J/120 hit a whale off Mexico and sank). The Barrans hit a whale off Hawaii after a Pacific Cup and their boat sank - they were rescued from their raft.

    With all the post-tsunami crap floating around and frequent whale encounters, I like the idea of having something else to climb into. Maybe I'm paranoid but in a gumby suit I'd look a lot like a seal to the great whites we have around here.

    Besides, rent a raft from Sal's - it's much cheaper for the number of times you'll be required to carry one.
    Last edited by BobJ; 04-15-2015 at 10:30 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Posts
    193

    Default

    Steve, there was QUITE a discussion of this topic in the last Singlehanded TransPac thread. One person life rafts are available, built (I'm told) for pilots who bail over the ocean and are picked up quickly. Doug Paine on JACK and Brian Cline on MARIS were two promoters, as was the General from earlier years. Brian Boschma uses a. Dry strict interpretation of ISAF, ABS & USSailing rules.

    And, rental every other year at $400 is less expensive isn't it?

    Finally, there is Rob Tryon's approach: buy it and sell it. (That was the tradition with spare autopilots for years, according to Mr Wonderful.)

    Lucie

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    235

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    I had a one man raft once, having seen another competitor in another race "getting away" with one. Those were killed with a rule change which required a "self erecting" hood. In addition, such a raft would not be large enough to hold my "overboard bag" and me! Just get yourself a nice 4 or 5 man raft and live with it. Mine came from England tor a good price and has served me thru 10 SHTPs. That calculates to $160 per race as far as the price was concerned, and about $300 per race for the once every two years repack. My re-packer says once a year is not necessary. So I have been only repacking biennially for the last 10 races.
    Never had a raft until required by the race rules. Did a 10,000 mile south Pacific milk run and 3 or 4 Hawaii round trips without one. just fortunate, I suppose, altho I believe the best life raft is your boat! Work toward keeping it afloat.........

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    46

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    The raft I have was made by Switlic for the military. The website for information on the raft is:
    http://www.switlik.com/aviation/isplr

    The raft has a complete canopy, it self inflates (not not the canopy however), and comes with the usual extras (sea anchor etc.) Some of the required items would need to be carried in the ditch bag (flares, food and water, etc.), but to honest, I kept the reft IN my ditch bag as it was small and light enough. If I need to use it I plan to float the ditch bag attached to the raft in lighter weather, and put in the raft in the heavier stuff. It is a sealed unit and only needs to be repacked every 5 years at a cost of about $90.00. I bought the one-man it after being assured that it would need the life raft requirement for the Transpac, only to have that opinion reversed a few days prior to the start. I ended up taking my large raft that weights close to 100 lbs and costs $400+ each to repack. I am waiting to hear from the race committee as to whether the small raft will be acceptable for the LongPac as I can not afford to repack the large one each year.

    When I view the life raft question I try to define the use it would be required to serve. We carry extensive communication/location equipment and sail in routes that are not all that remote. I thought the odd were overwhelming that a rescue would be affected within two days of the abandonment of the primary vessel in the sailing we do. The small raft I feel can do that task effectively, inexpensively, and more efficiently (I sail a 25' boat with very limited space). I would like to see it as an accepted option to the larger heavier, more cumbersome, and much more costly larger rafts.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    I completely agree with Jack's request to have the Switlik single person liferaft added to the Longpac/Transpac minimum equipment requirements. The chance of spending more than 24 hours in a liferaft prior to rescue in the waters between California and Hawaii is extremely low. Adding an immersion suit to the Switlik solution would be cost effective and even safer. The crew of a yacht in distress off Monterey last month lost its liferaft overboard when attempting to deploy it. The crew needed to be airlifted off as a result. Lugging 50 to 100 lbs of gear around the deck of a small boat is potentially more dangerous and less effective than deploying personal gear which weighs less than 10 lbs.

    I use the SSS MERs as a way to safely prepare my boat to venture offshore. However, I believe that the increasing cost of more and more requirements is driving skippers away from offshore events. The FAA has approved the single person Switlik raft for pilot rescues. Why should our requirements be more rigid than theirs? The only ISAF/ISO approved liferafts are for four people. How is this a cost effective singlehanded solution?
    Last edited by Grace; 04-22-2015 at 08:14 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Discovery Bay, CA
    Posts
    398

    Default

    A comment on the dry suit. I have two of them. They also require inspection periodically assuming you want to be sure you survive. I think it is every three years. Zipper, leaks and so forth. Sal's did mine the last time. It is pretty cheap, something like $50 per suit. But I don't think you would want to depend on one then find it has a leak. He pressure tests them.

    Also, try it on!! It is a unique fit. Very snug around the shoulders and neck for obvious reasons. My son and I climbed into suits at my condo one day just to see how they fit. It was hilarious as we bashed around the living room trying to get them back off. The gloves don't allow you to grip much of anything. For a moment I am thinking please God, don't make me have to call a neighbor or the fire dept. to help us get out of these things. Now that I think about it, I don't know how I would have made a phone call.

    People who think they will climb in one of these things and start operating a HH radio better think again unless they buy the gloveless version.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    46

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    The powers that be have decided the one man life raft is cannot be used to meet the life raft requirement for SSS races. It was stated that you would be sitting in below water level, likely in a pool of water. How is this different than any other life raft that does not have an insulated floor? How is it that the military, with all of their extensive research and experience, find this equipment acceptable but the SSS does not? Oh well. This is not the first time this issue has left me on the short side of a decision by the SSS. As a result I will not be racing the Longpac as I had hoped to, nor any other race in the foreseeable future. Have fun all, I wish I could have been part of it.
    Last edited by sdpaine@cox.net; 04-28-2015 at 01:20 PM.

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