LIFERAFT SURVIVAL Pt 2: How to choose a liferaft

We knew our old liferaft was pretty basic, and probably would not be up to the task if we were to ditch in the Pacific. So what should we replace it with?

We found out just how badly we needed to replace our old one when we tested it in Part 1 of this Liferaft Survival mini series. After discovering just how difficult it was to get into a liferaft from the water, we were glad we had gone ahead and bought a new one with a higher spec.

The Royal Yachting Association website seemed as good a place as any to start looking for advice. This is what they say about the features to consider when choosing your liferaft.

Stability

  • Most liferafts are fitted with a number of water-ballast bags around the underside. These should be large, strongly constructed and fitted with a weight that will ensure they fill with water quickly when the liferaft is launched. As a minimum look for four water ballast bags, that make a total capacity of not less than 25 litres per person or 160 litres, whichever is the greater.
  • A drogue, or sea anchor, is also essential for stability. Drogues are often made of porous material and have short shroud-lines to reduce the risk of tangling. The drogue attachment line must be long (at least 30m) and should be 6mm nylon. The drogue should be streamed as soon as possible after the liferaft has been launched.

Canopy

  • An automatically erecting canopy is highly desirable. As well as protecting the crew from cold or the sun, the canopy and support arch should prevent total inversion if the liferaft inflates upside down or is capsized by a wave.

Boarding Aid

  • It is very difficult for anyone wearing wet clothes and an inflated lifejacket to board a liferaft from the water, particularly if there is no one else inside to help them. An inflatable step or ramp outside the main opening makes it much easier.

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Two-compartment buoyancy provision

  • This allows one or other of the buoyancy compartments to be damaged without compromising the buoyancy of the whole liferaft.

Inflatable floor

  • A double floor, which is inflatable with a pump gives very good protection against the cold.
  • A partially inflatable floor, which provides an insulating ring around the edge of the liferaft where the survivors sit, is a good compromise
  • A thermo-reflective insulated floor can also be considered.

But you don’t just have to rely on the RYA, there are many resources online. Try a Google search for more information, and check out YouTube for demonstrations and more ideas.

Up until recently, a new liferaft was beyond our means, and saving up for one was going to set our departure date back quite considerably. So when a fantastic benefactor (who wishes to remain anonymous) insisted on buying us one as a gift, we were humbled by their generosity and kindness. Thank you, thank you, thank you: you know who you are.

So what did we choose?

All this information led us to the Viking RescYou Pro, the 4 person version. With  the added bonus of being available in Thailand, so no additional shipping fees, it was a no-brainer.

The key features which Viking list cover off all the advice given by the RYA:

  • Fluorescent yellow canopy enhances visibility from a distance
  • Two separate buoyancy chambers, each capable of supporting maximum capacity
  • Four 55 liter weighted ballast bags for stability in heavy seas
  • SOLAS high-visibility retro-reflective tape on canopy, sides buoyancy chambers and under the liferaft
  • Automatic SOLAS/USCG exterior strobe light and interior light
  • Internal and external lifelines
  • Rain water collector
  • Base material of strong, flexible, natural rubber

We opted for the additional security of a Hammar H20 hydrostatic release unit for emergencies. It releases the liferaft at any angle when it is submerged between 1.5 – 4m and will give you a fighting chance of a survival in case of a catastrophic sinking.

Alister Dickson, a YouTube viewer, said,  “As an ex-survival instructor to the oil industry… I would say you get what you pay for. Most professional oil/marine companies use Viking – quite expensive? Yes, but worth it.”

Thanks to all our FTB Mates from Patreon and the Rum Fund for your continued support. You keep us motivated and focused. We love you!

Peace and fair winds!

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