HOW TO BUY A LIFE RAFT part 1
The acquisition of a life raft represents a major expenditure for most yachtsmen. Generally speaking, life rafts are not cheap. They are built to rigid standards and must be able to withstand both long-term storage, as well as the wear and tear of an actual emergency survival situation.
Every aspect of your vessel contains some degree of compromise. Life rafts are no exception. Most often, the decision concerning what type of life raft to buy and how much to spend will be dictated by such factors as available storage space, the number of crew on board, the type of cruising involved, and most obviously the budget you can afford.
Some yachtsmen feel that a life raft is an accessory item, and therefore feel hesitant about making a large expenditure on an item that they might never use. A life raft, however, should be regarded as a necessity, and it’s far better to balance the budget in other ways than to compromise the integrity of the safety system. The cost of a life raft is usually minimal compared to the total investment of the boat and its relation to the safety and well being of the family.
How to Purchase a Raft. Many financing institutions will include the extra cost of purchasing a life raft in the original financing of the vessel. A thorough investigation of prices available from the manufacturers will give you a good idea of the reasonable market value for the particular raft you have in mind.
You might find it advantageous to “bargain buy” on the market place, but always scrutinize the product care fully and keep in mind that the savings of a few hundred dollars by buying a “demonstrator” model or a second hand raft could have catastrophic consequences if serious defects are present. Life rafts are just that: life-saving instruments! Just as you would not expose an expensive sextant to unnecessary handling, neither would you want to have your survival system compromised.
Choosing a Raft. The next decision pertains to the size and design of the raft. (Figs. 1-1 through 1-4). Ideally, the size of the raft should be determined by the maximum passenger capacity of the vessel. For instance, if the vessel has ten berths, then the life raft should accommodate ten people. Many yachtsmen, however, choose a more practical approach by purchasing a raft with a carrying capacity equal to the number of crew that is regularly on board.
Fig. 1-1: One type of life raft. (Manuf. AVON INFLATABLES)
Ultimately, the decision is left to the captain of the vessel. You might want to allow an additional margin of safety and comfort by purchasing a slightly larger raft or even an extra raft.
Choose a life raft that is sufficient for your needs, but that is still small enough and accessible enough to be launched under even the most adverse conditions. Remember, you might need to launch the raft in heavy seas or stormy weather, at night without lights, or while sinking or capsizing. Even the weakest crew member must be educated and drilled in launching and using the life raft before an emergency arises.
Fig. 1-2: Life raft. (GIVENS BUOY LIFE RAFT)
Fig. 1-3: Life raft. (SWITLIK)
Fig. 1-4: Life raft. (VIKING LIFE-SAVING EQUIPMENT)