Liferaft [Updated Jun-2017]

This is part of a series describing some of our common boat systems and their operation. 

We refer to these often not only for our own use, but also when asked specific questions about systems on Denali Rose, and when participating in discussions on various forums. 

We aren't implying our choices are the best or only way to go; they just happen to be the decisions we made [...or sometimes, as in this case, what came with our boat...] 


––––––––––––––– Updated 16-Jun-2017 [by Bill] ––––––––––––––

When we purchased Denali Rose, we had the Winslow 6 person offshore liferaft that came with the boat re-packed/re-certified.



We learned a lot taking it to a resource that performs a lot of commercial work, but caters to recreational vessels as well.

They opened and inflated ours and spent 2 hours walking us through everything [down to the smallest detail] in our own raft. 

Don't miss that opportunity- we learned a lot including:
  • The liferaft painter includes a small metal shackle that is designed to break-away based upon liferaft buoyancy if the vessel sinks. [Instead of pulling the raft underwater...]
    • i.e., Attach the metal shackle to the boat instead of cleating/tying the painter directly...
    Enlarge photo to see the break-away shackle [on the end of red painter] that should be used to attach to mother ship...
  • The insulated floor needs to be inflated manually [using a hand pump in our case...] 
    • We practiced this while sitting in the raft.
  • How to use the lifelines around the perimeter to rotate the raft in the water, following the arrows, to the entrance ladder.
  • How to 'climb' the webbing ladder on the bottom of the raft to right it if upside down:
  • How to enter the raft from the water using the ladder and then pulling yourself in using the tight webbing ladder installed on the inside. 
  • How to get one person into the raft so they can assist others.
  • How the raft inflates with half the canopy open so we can jump in [board] from the main boat with the raft alongside.
  • Where the [specialized] knife is located in its built-in pocket.
  • How the repair kits work.
  • Light placement and how they automatically illuminate.
  • Inspected the emergency supplies, and learned the sunscreen had leaked over everything, ruining some items, and rendering everything else very slippery and slimy.
    • Lesson learned? Vacuum bag everything...
    • We also added a few items of our own including:
      • A vacuum bagged PLB [much smaller than the EPIRB it replaced] 
      • Spare prescription eyeglasses
      • etc.
  • ...and so much more...Here is a brief video of a raft like ours showing people practicing entering from the water, and righting an inverted raft...
I asked our re-packer what shortens a raft's lifespan. He indicated heat was #1. Hence he recommends valise rafts where feasible so they can be stored away from heat. He also mentioned vacuum packed rafts fare better and live longer...

When we were finished, I asked the owner what raft/brand we should buy for offshore work once the Winslow ages out. Without hesitation he recommended the Viking RescYou Pro. [And that was not a brand they sell...]

Armed with that information, I stopped by the Viking [and other liferafts] booth at the Seattle Boat Show in Jan-2015. They appeared to be very high quality at an excellent price. If there was one downside, the tubes are black rubber, and smell like it. I suspect it would be unpleasant at first to be confined to an inner tube that smelled like one... [But that would be the least of my worries...]

Another comment re: using a commercial re-packer: I asked if they had any expired pyrotechnics we could relieve them of. He asked me what and how many. I asked if 6 SOLAS parachute flairs would be greedy of me. We walked out with 2 large boxes containing commercial pyrotechnic signaling devices [smoke canisters, hand held flairs, dye packs, streamers, parachutes, etc.] what would have cost me $thousands, and most were only out of date by one year or less... [It never hurts to ask... Of course, we keep fresh dated signaling devices onboard to meet the letter of the law...]

How long do liferafts last? Our Winslow is 15 years old and- per our last re-packer- may re-certify once or twice again. [Giving it an estimated lifespan of 20-23 years... But only time will tell...]

On the other hand... In the past I owned a well known brand-name valise raft that I had for 12 years. It was stored in the climate controlled garage when not on the boat during the 4 month sailing season. That raft failed its 4th recertification [at the age of 12] The thing looked shredded like someone took a razor to it. I had it repacked every 3 years, so something happened those last 3 years, and this was in Alaska so it never saw any real heat (nor freeze-thaw cycles as during that time I was summer sailing only...) I figured it cost me over $800/sailing season [$200/sailing month] for that raft... This experience demonstrates why we have them re-certified...

Unless something changes, we will buy a Viking Pro for about half what the others cost once our Winslow bites the dust... [Of course we will remove our Pur6 manual watermaker and a few other goodies from the ol' Winslow first...]



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