What's the best way to fit and stow my new liferaft?
If you’ve either recently bought, or are considering buying a liferaft for your boat, it’s worthwhile thinking about stowage options at the same time. In fact the type of stowage you have available may even dictate the type of raft you buy. So here’s our handy guide to the different types of liferaft and stowage options available.
Types of liferaft.
Liferafts can be packed in two ways: Hard plastic canister, or valise bag. The hard plastic canisters are designed primarily for outside stowage. The plastic case protects the raft from damage by shielding it from sharp objects and the UV rays from the sun. Valise rafts are packed in a soft valise bag, this bag is designed to allow the raft to be packed as small as possible, but will offer only limited protection from sharp objects, and temporary protection from the sun. It is therefore advisable to store valise rafts inside the boat or a locker, for which they are optimised in terms of shape and size.
Thought must be given to the two types of raft when considering storage options. As stated above, the type of raft you buy will probably be dictated by storage options aboard your boat. As a general guide, canister rafts mounted externally are easier to launch, so this is normally our recommended solution, unless of course this isn’t possible. So let’s look at some external mounting options, and if none of these will work for you, it may be worth looking at a valise raft.
Mounting your raft on the pushpit of the boat is often the most preferable solution form an ease of launching perspective. The raft is already hanging suspended above the water, and the painter can be left attached permanently to the boat ready for immediate deployment. Simply undo the securing strap and push the raft in to the water – no lifting required. Space on the pushpit is often at a premium however, and not all boats have the room to do this.
Deck mounting your raft can be one of the simplest ways of storing your raft. It offers a reasonably easy method of launching, but bear in mind that if the raft is mounted on your coachroof under the boom, you will need to head up on deck to launch the raft – a daunting task when you consider the weight of the raft and a moving platform. The raft will need to be lifted slightly to remove it from a set of liferaft chocks, but can then normally be slid or pushed across the deck to a suitable launch point. We also offer cradles that can be used to mount the raft on the deck. If you are looking at mounting on a wheelhouse roof again please think through your launch procedure and factor in doing in bad weather. If you are mounting on a wheelhouse roof we strongly recommend you employ a hydrostatic release – see our release mechanisms section below.
Dedicated mounting spaces
Many more modern vessels have a dedicated raft mounting point fitted. This is often integrated in to either the transom or under a seat at the rear of the cockpit. Larger motor vessels often have mounting points moulded in to the sides of the flybridge too. Either way the raft will still normally need securing using one of the cradle or chock mechanisms above.
Whatever mounting system you use, the raft must be held in place securely, but available for immediate launce, ideally without the use of tools and possibly with cold hands or while wearing gloves. Security is another factor – rafts are not cheap and it’s worth making sure that when the boat is left unattended you can padlock the raft in place, if only to stop the opportunist thief. Make removing the padlock part of your pre-departure checklist however, it’s not something you want to find still in place if you need to launch in a hurry! You may also want to add a hydrostatic release mechanism, this will release the raft automatically should the boat sink before you are able to launch it yourself.
Mounting a Valise raft inside your boat.
If none of the options above will work for your vessel, or other factors dictate that you look to store the raft inside the boat, a valise raft becomes the preferred option. A valise bag will have large handles so that a raft can be lifted from a locker (canisters often have no handles). You will still need to factor in the weight of the raft and the strength of the people likely to lift it in to your equation however, rafts are heavy, and trying to get one out of a deep lazarette locker or up companionway steps can be tricky.
Further Considerations - Grab Bags
One more item to consider is your grab bag. We’ve published a separate article on what to pack in a grab bag so won’t go in to much detail here, but make sure that bag is accessible. Think about why and how quickly you may need to launch your raft. A sudden fire for example may mean that your grab bag is of no use under a berth in the forecabin. Make sure it is somewhere accessible, preferably from the helm or cockpit, and a sign or label should be used so that all crew members can find it easily.