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Misfitting out 

James StevensJames Stevens laments the lack of stowage for liferafts...

Over the winter I have been fitting out a 34ft cruising yacht. This past month’s problem has been where to stow the liferaft.

Plan A

The normal position is to mount the raft in a hard canister under the boom just aft of the kicking strap, but this is one of the wettest parts of the boat on a rough day to windward.

The raft also acts as a convenient step for crew stowing the mainsail. At the end of the season the staff at the liferaft service station will be replacing a cracked seal and water damaged kit, at an eye watering cost.

Plan B

Plan B is a soft valise case stowed in the cockpit locker. Out of the weather certainly but to be any use it needs to really accessible, not in exactly in the place where the crew throw in fenders, warps, the boathook and the occasional sail. We are going to have to learn the art of meticulous stowage.

Another possibility is on a cradle mounted on the aft rail. This would be an improvement but unfortunately on my boat the pushpit gate is too wide to allow space for the raft.

Hopelessly out of date

In my view the idea of the liferaft being an afterthought is hopelessly out of date. About 70 years ago car manufacturers designed a circular space for the spare wheel. Boat manufacturers need to talk to liferaft companies and provide a dedicated recess in the transom.

The liferaft then becomes part of the boat, in fact the topsides would look incomplete without it. The transom is the obvious position, reasonably dry, out of the way and accessible even if the yacht inverts.

What about other dedicated stowage space?

While while we are on the subject of stowage how about dedicated spaces for the lifebelts, the EPIRB and fire extinguishers? I have a dedicated stowage space for the gash bin and charts but have to screw on pockets for the winch handles. I

t really cannot be that difficult to think of these problems before the yacht is built. We would have to put up with a standard size of kit but that has got to be an improvement on tripping over rusting fire extinguishers in the companionway.

New boats are attractive, they are easy to handle under power and sail, and they have acres of space below, but they are built with complete disregard of the normal equipment we take to sea.

My vacuum cleaner has better stowage for its accessories!

James Stevens, former RYA Chief Examiner and popular columnist.

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