Everything you ever wanted to know about life rafts (and that we explain to you)


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raft-rescueReady for the summer cruise? Remember that for sailing beyond 12 miles, a non-coastal life raft is mandatory on board. However, even boats that do not go outside that limit must have their own “raft”: this is the coastal raft (compared to the non-coastal raft, it has no cover), which has taken the place of the outdated “atoll,” from which it differs in size. Let’s see, together with Paolo Vianson, head of the Italian Yacht Club’s Deep Sea Sailing School in Genoa, what you need to know to avoid fines, but more importantly, to sail safely. First, check that the raft you want to buy conforms to the category in which your boat is registered, because regulations may change over time. You will need to purchase one congruent with the maximum number of people you can take on board: is it 12? You will need to own a model suitable for at least 12 people. Better to abound, perhaps equipping yourself with two rafts of 8.


Rafts can be standard, usable only on pre-2000 approved boats, or ISO 9650 compliant. If your boat’s type approval occurred after 2000, you will be required to have an ISO9650 raft on board: compared with traditional models, they have significant improvements, starting with reflective bands on the cover sheet and bottom, facilitated ascent, and the presence of 5 ballasts instead of the canonical 4 for greater buoyancy stability. The ballasts will be made of different material than the PVC of the tubulars, for more immediate activation (in standard rafts, they were usually made of PVC as well, and often attached to the tubulars, delaying set-up time): mainly nylon sheeting weighted with small leads is used. In addition, ISO 9650 is equipped with interior and exterior light, flares, fires, and safety equipment; the tent support arch (we are talking about the non-coastal version) provides greater height inside the cabin, and the inflatable double bottom, combined with thermal protection bags, allow the maintenance of an acceptable temperature even in intense cold. To increase the likelihood of survival, ISO9650s also provide food rations and a fishing kit, as well as drinking water divided either into tetrapak-type bottles or sachets and a first aid kit. Should you own a standard raft, or one that does not otherwise comply with ISO regulations, it should be your responsibility to prepare a grab bag with safety equipment to be placed in the raft, and perhaps some food (chosen in such a way that it does not promote loss of fluids). Many of the manufacturers, should you request it, can include additional equipment in the raft package, as long as it is small: a portable VHF, a telephone, a small solar panel.

source forum.amicidellavela.it
source forum.amicidellavela.it

On board, try to position the raft so that it is easily accessible in case of emergency. Avoid putting it below deck (it would be difficult to carry it outside, especially if the crew panics). Storing it in an outside locker is also not an advisable choice, as other stowed equipment would hinder its removal. There are many construction sites that have thought of creating special spaces for housing the raft, stowed in the case. Sturdy quick-release straps allow the boat to be set up as readily as possible. Be careful not to tie knots that may prove difficult to untie in time of need.

When you purchase a new raft, you will be issued an “owner’s manual” (on which to record mandatory revisions), accompanied by a user’s manual, which contains instructions for stowing, using, and transporting the raft. If you buy a used boat, check that the raft included was made after January 18, 2003: otherwise you will need a certificate issued by the manufacturer stating its build quality. You should have your raft serviced every two years at the manufacturer’s authorized locations. Overhaul costs, which also vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, will be your responsibility, so it is worthwhile to inquire well at the time of purchase. Also check where the nearest authorized center is located, and get a detailed quote before shipping the raft. When the overhaul is completed, you will be issued with a document that contains the results of the checks performed (usually checking the condition of the pneumatic part, accessories, equipment and the inflation cylinder, with its valves and operating head) and that should be kept on board at all times, under penalty of heavy fines. There are also “special” controls to be performed with longer deadlines: every 5 years the condition of the inflation cylinders must be checked, and every 6 years after the first packaging the raft is inspected for an overpressure test of 25 percent of normal operating pressure for 30 minutes and a tightness test at operating pressure for 6 hours.



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