Questions about the liferaft and abandon ship bag.

What type of raft do you carry?
We carry a Givens 8-person offshore raft in a hard canister.

How often do you get it serviced?
We generally service the raft annually to keep the yacht in Category I standards. We were unable to find a Givens service station in New South Wales last season so the raft went 18 months without service.

What sorts of problems have you found on service?
Other than normal service items such as batteries, flares, etc. going out of date, the only problem we have encountered with the raft was some leaky valves. We were able to get the parts and make the repair in New Zealand.

What kinds of gear other than the normal items do you pack in the raft?
The life raft canister is quite full, so the only thing that we could add in addition to the standard items was a Pur 06 hand watermaker. We keep an abandon ship bag in the lazarette near the life raft with additional items.

Here’s a basic list:
All the required flares for Category I certification-SOLAS grade
Handheld VHF radio
AM radio
Personal EPIRB
Handheld GPS
Extra batteries for all
Cutting board
Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen
Survival book
First aid kit
Seasickness pills
Passports and ships documents
Fishing gear
Wasabe and soy sauce

Do you also have your dinghy set up so it can be used?
Yes, the dinghy is always set up and stowed on deck and could be deployed if there were enough time, but we do not feel that a dinghy is a substitute for a life raft.

Any special precautions for the dink (like tarp, sea anchor, etc.)?

How/where is the life raft stored and/or fastened to the deck?
The life raft is mounted onto the stern pulpit with a stainless bracket. Pulling one pin deploys it.

What do you do for raft security in port? (i.e. lock? Or maybe you just don’t worry?)
The raft could be locked, but we don’t worry. It would take two strong people quite some time to remove the raft without it hitting the water.

As an aside, I would recommend that everyone going offshore have a look at their life raft the next time it goes in for certification. One’s first visit aboard their life raft should not be in an emergency situation.

As a prerequisite to the Auckland-Fiji race, we attended a Safety at Sea seminar on life rafts. In a wave pool with only one-meter waves, we had the opportunity to board a life raft while wearing full foul weather gear and PFD’s. Odds are 50/50 that the raft will deploy upside down, so we also practiced righting the life raft. West Marine also sponsors this sort of seminar in advance of the Pacific Cup race, and I would highly recommend that anyone going offshore should attend. 

The level of skill and fitness required to right and board a liferaft at sea when wearing full foul weather gear was surprising to most people who took the course.  This may cause you to evaluate your own level of fitness as it relates to offshore passage making.

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