A liferaft is essential for anyone going afloat as accidents can, and do, happen, the most common as a result of fires, collisions and rogue waves. Your choice of liferaft, knowing how to use it and what is included in the safety pack enclosed within it, is of great importance - it can save your life!
ISO/SOLAS liferafts - If you are day sailing where land is close and rescue services close at hand, a liferaft with ISO < 24 hour or SOLAS B certification will suit your needs. However, if going further afield or where help may take longer to reach you then you will need an over >24hr liferaft, ISO >24 upgrade or Solas A pack. The under 24 hour or SOLAS B pack has the basics for survival and aiding recovery e.g. flares, paddles, sea sickness tablets and signalling devices whereas the ISO >24 hour packs and Solas A packs also include food and water needed to survive for longer periods. Other essentials should also be considered in an additional grab bag, such as Epirbs, medication, cash, credit cards, copy of passport, all packed at service if possible.
Size - The size of liferaft you choose is very important. There must be sufficient comfort and headroom inside for everyone on board but don't go for something much bigger than you need, or it will not only be difficult for the occupants to keep warm, it will also be more difficult to maintain the stability of the liferaft.
Cannister or Valise? - A cannister can be mounted externally for immediate access either on a pushpit rail or deck mounted, in which case it is important to keep it slightly raised off the deck for drainage. Alternatively, the valise - like a soft suitcase with handles, is more lightweight and easier to carry around, but offers less protection to the liferaft and will need to be carefully stored and protected in a dry locker where it is easily accessable in a hurry. Either must be tied on with a painter line before launching and put in downwind to the leeward side of your vessel. In both cases a good hard tug once it's tied on and in the water releases co2, inflating your liferaft ready for boarding.
Hydrostatic Release Unit - A vessel can sink very quickly and it is important that a hydrostatic realease unit should be attached to the lashing of a fitted liferaft allowing it to launch automatically if there isn't enough time to launch it manually. It works by releasing the raft at a depth of 3m, the buoyancy of the raft tugging at the painter as it starts inflating and floating to the sea surface whilst the weak link, built into the painter by the unit, breaks the connection to the vessel and the raft continues to float to the surface and fully inflate. Be sure to fix the HRU exactly as instructed.
For further information view the videos and descriptions accompanying the products listed below.