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Thread: Liferaft vs. Immersion Suit

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    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
    Posts
    235

    Default

    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
    Posts
    15

    Default

    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
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    2,871

    Default

    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 11:30 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
    Posts
    235

    Default

    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.........

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