If you do not have a liferaft, in extreme circumstances you may simply have to take your chances in the water; the chances of a person surviving in the water compared to being in a liferaft are significantly lower and your survival time will vary depending on the location, the time of year, the weather conditions and the water temperature.
It is not mandatory for private pleasure craft under 13.7 metres in length to carry a liferaft, but when deciding whether or not to do so your proximity to other boats and emergency services who can render assistance if you need to abandon ship, should be taken into consideration.
Your liferaft must be capable of being launched quickly and easily in an emergency. It is critical that it is stowed correctly otherwise it might not be accessible if it is needed. There is no single best solution, but good practice dictates that wherever that is, it should be capable of being launched in 15 seconds.
If you normally keep your liferaft in a locker, possibly to prevent theft, then make sure it is not covered in clutter that you have to remove first to get to it. Better still, move it to a more accessible position particularly when making offshore plans. If it’s stored on deck it needs to be somewhere that does not risk accidental deployment in heavy weather or get damaged from being stepped on or sat on.
Think what would happen if you capsized – could you get to your liferaft? It is becoming more common for liferafts to be mounted on the coachroof or aft of the cockpit with a hydrostatic release unit (HRU). However these only release at about three metres below the surface and that might not be deep enough for an inverted boat. Even if the HRU is triggered the liferaft may well not float free if not stowed properly.
If you intend to use an HRU, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that it will function properly. You should also make sure that you can launch your liferaft manually – a Senhouse slip/Pelican hook is ideal. If you have to take to the liferaft there is no point in being in the water hoping for the liferaft to float free. The HRU should be viewed as a last resort rather than the primary means of deploying the liferaft.
Don’t overlook where you stow your liferaft, it should be an important part of any offshore passage preparation and not an afterthought.
Visit the RYA’s online safety hub at www.rya.org.uk/go/safety or a wealth of practical advice and safety ‘top tips’ covering a vast array of boating activities – and look out for the Safety Advisory videos on the RYA’s digital channels on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.