Liferaft is a necessary part of yachting equipment which can save your life. As with all the other parts of the safety kit, it’s better to have a liferaft and not need it than to need and don’t have. All the characteristics of the liferaft affect survivability: size, shape, equipment, type, etc. So it is better to be sure in the liferaft your boat is equipped with. A well-made liferaft is not a cheap piece of equipment. However, the waters (not only great, but coastal too) don’t not forgive mistakes.
Standards: As all the parts of safety equipment, liferafts are divided into 2 types by ISO 9560 according to the navigation type.
Type 1 (ISO 9560-1) is for those rafts which were designed for long voyages in offshore waters. It also has an internal division into 2 groups:
- Group A: liferafts designed to inflate the environmental temperature from -15 to +65 celsius degrees with an insulating double floor
- Group B: liferafts designed for temperature range from 0 to +65 celsius degrees temperature range with a single floor
Type 2 (ISO 9560-2) is for those rafts which are designed for coastal waters and have a possible temperature range from 0 to +65 celsius degrees.
How to choose a liferaft? Before buying and equipping your yacht with a liferaft, you should determine and find out some factors.
- How long until rescue: the more you can spend time on board the liferaft, the more substantial and autonomous liferaft you will need. The time depends on how far you sail from land and common shipping lanes and how accessible the emergency communications will be at the area you are going to sail. It is not easy to predict the time you will spend there, but taking the worst-case scenario will minimize all possible risks.
- Water temperature: it is obvious that you can be damaged by hypothermia in cold water; and not only if you are directly there. Water ‘mirrors’ all the temperature effects on its surface and objects there, including vessels. An insulated floor of a liferaft can save your life. Also, as we have already mentioned, there are 2 main types of rafts according to ISO 9560.
- Crew size: all the liferafts are divided by crew size too. For 4, 6, 8 etc. crew members. As with other criterions, the best approach is to take the worst scenario.
- Yacht’s space: not all the yachts have a specialized yacht stowage. Don’t forget that the liferaft should be accessible and easy-to-deploy in case of an emergency situation.
- Countries you are going to visit: usually, liferafts require approximate maintenance. Some rafts use CO2 canisters to inflate it, and it is considered as a hazardous substance in several countries. We advise you to learn the legal base of your marina and countries which aquatories you are going to visit.
- Legal basement: you should also remember about the legal requirements in your marina and countries which aquatories you are going to visit. It is important for choosing a raft for your boat.
- Your trip type: either recreation or sports. For example, there are some international standards for race boats, and no certifications for recreational ones. The most common certifications are: ISO 9560—Type 1 & Type 2 (for different temperature and distance ranges), SOLAS (location and the number of liferafts) and International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Life Raft specifications (size & weight ratio).
Classification and features. Generally, there are two major types of liferafts: offshore and coastal. A standard offshore raft is more expensive and autonomous because it is designed to protect the crew in stormy, cold and rough weather for more than 24h. All the offshore liferafts typically have those features:
- 2 or more separate flotation chambers
- insulated floors (2 inflatable layers or with an insulating material)
- large ballast bags stabilizing the raft in high waves and winds
- a boarding platform for an easier entering the raft
- an inflatable canopy covering the entire raft
- a substantial survival kit with food and water for 24h+
- an automatically deployed anchor or drogue
Coastal raft is usually designed to provide 24h survivability in warmer and inshore waters. The features list is smaller than the offshore raft’s one:
- Usually only one flotation chamber
- A single-layer floor
- A partial inflatable tent covering the raft
- Small ballast bags
- A boarding ladder made from webbing to assist entry into the raft
- A small survival kit with some food and water for approximately 24 hours
- A sea anchor with manual deployment
It is important to mention that the list is not 100% universally used: each manufacturer has one’s own features and specifications for their life rafts. This is just a sample of features for 2 kinds of liferafts.
Raft capacity. According to the standards, 4ft² per one person is the common space. The fact is that it can be not enough, so think about getting an in-advance liferaft if it is possible.
Raft containers. There are 2 most common raft containers: canister and valise. Most manufacturers recommend a canister type because it provides better raft protection. However, it should be mounted on an on-deck cradle. However, the choice mostly depends on the space of your yacht. Don’t forget about the fact that the liferaft should be stored at the place where it will be easy to deploy it in an emergency situation.
Liferaft servicing. The maintenance, servicing and inspection should be performed according to the manufacturer's recommended service intervals. Most of them name 3 years as a service interval. The inspection, repair and repacking of the raft usually takes 4 to 8 hours.
Liferaft is a necessary part of yacht equipment. A lot of various factors can influence a choice and there is no universal strategy or 100% only raft model. The choice will be different in each case. However, you can fully trust Marine Expert because we provide only certified and time-checked liferafts for your yacht. Just open our catalog and choose the one raft for your yacht.