Select Page

A liferaft is an essential piece of equipment to carry on offshore or coastal passages and should be regularly serviced by professionals according to manufacturers’ recommendations.

Liferafts should be stowed where they are ready for immediate launching. All crew should know the location of the liferaft and know how to launch, inflate and board it. They should also know what equipment it contains.

Types of liferaft

There are two international standards for liferafts – SOLAS and ISO 9650. SOLAS are heavier duty types and may not always be suitable for pleasure craft. There are two categories of ISO 9650 – “Type 1” for offshore navigation and “Type 2” for coastal navigation.

Skippers should ensure that their vessel is fitted with a liferaft that is designed to cope with the conditions they will encounter, is equipped accordingly and can accommodate all crew. Equipment will vary depending on whether the raft is specified for survival periods of less than, or more than, 24 hours. However, in all cases the equipment packed in the raft will be of only a very basic level. This is why it’s important to also have a grab bag of essentials available, as well as emergency water in a portable container.

Typical life-raft contents

Basic specification:
  • Two paddles.
  • 2 red hand flares.
  • Bailer and sponge.
  • Waterproof torch.
  •  
  • Lifesaving signal cards.
  • Floating knife.
  • Drogue (sea anchor).
  • Repair kit.
  • 6x seasickness tablets per person.
  • Rescue quoit with 30m floating line.
  • Top-up pump.
ISAF specification:

As above, plus:

  • Water pack.
  • Additional flares.
  • First aid kit.
  • Thermal protective aids.
  • Signalling mirror.
  • Seasickness bags.

Grab Bag

In the event of having to abandon ship, it is recommended to have a designated waterproof dry bag to carry essential emergency items. These might include items already in use on the boat, as well as some already stored in the bag.

Minimum grab bag contents include a handheld GPS, handheld VHF, PLB or EPIRB, flares, sea sickness pills, duplicate medication for any crew members that rely on regular medicinal drugs, torch and batteries, first aid kit, thermal protective aids, water, ship’s documents and personal documents such as passports.

It’s worth noting that the biggest dangers to survivors in a liferaft are from exposure and dehydration. Even in the height of summer, in north European and north American waters it’s possible to die from hypothermia within a few hours, so staying dry and having a suitable supply of warm clothes are the most important priorities.

McMurdo Liferaft

Next is the need for water – while it’s possible for a healthy adult to survive for a few days without water, deterioration is rapid. However, we can survive with no food for much longer – up to a month in some cases – so food is much lower on the priority list than is generally realised. By the same token, a means of signalling distress – ideally an EPRIB – should be very much higher on the list.

This is a summary of the minimum grab bag contents the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) recommends for vessels used offshore:

  • Flares: 2 red parachute, 2 red hand flares and cyalume-type chemical light sticks.
  • Watertight hand-held Electronic Position Fixing System (eg GPS).
  • SART (Search and Rescue Transponder).
  • Combined 406MHz/121.5MHz or type “E” EPIRB.
  • Water in re-sealable containers or a hand-operated desalinator plus containers for water.
  • Watertight hand-held marine VHF transceiver plus a spare set of batteries.
  • Watertight flashlight with spare batteries and bulb.
  • Dry suits or thermal protective aids or survival bags.
  • Second sea anchor for life-raft with swivel and >30m line diameter >9.5 mm.
  • Two safety tin openers (if appropriate).
  • First-aid kit including at least 2 tubes of sunscreen. Dressings should be capable of being effectively used in wet conditions. The kit should be clearly marked and re-sealable.
  • Signalling mirror.
  • High-energy food.
  • Nylon string, polythene bags, seasickness tablets (min 6 per person).
  • Watertight hand-held aviation VHF transceiver (if race area warrants).
  • Medical supplies including any for pre-existing medical conditions of any crew member.
  • Spare unbreakable spectacles for any crew members needing them.

Propeller care and maintenance

Propellers are complicated and repairs should be done by specialists but owners can carry out checks and some routine maintenance themselves when the boat is in the boatyard. A propeller is critical to a boat’s performance, fuel consumption and ride, so it makes sense to keep a propeller in good working order.

Care of boat batteries

Boat batteries need to be kept properly charged, which means never allowing the batteries to discharge below 50 per cent of their total charge. As well as the batteries themselves, keeping a boat’s charging systems in good shape will also help to keep batteries topped up to a higher level of charge.

Tacking a sailing boat

Tacking is the sailing manoeuvre used to change a boat's direction through an oncoming wind. Tacking a sailing boat calls...

Boat Handling – anchoring

Anchoring your yacht or motorboat Anchoring is one of the most important boat handling skills. If you can set an anchor...

Boat maintenance log

Keeping a boat maintenance log is an ideal way of reminding owners what needs to be done to a boat and when. Read on for some tips,...

ColRegs Nav Lights & Shapes, Rules Of The Road and IALA Buoys Apps

ColRegs Nav Lights & Shapes, Rules Of The Road and IALA Buoys Apps Make Learning Rules on iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android...

The Boatyard Book – a boat owner’s guide to yacht maintenance, repair and refitting

The Boatyard Book is a fully illustrated 224 page practical reference manual that provides advice for boat owners on planning and carrying out annual maintenance, repairs, upgrades and refits of sailing yachts and motorboats, up to 20 metres in length.

Wooden Hulls – Part 1

Traditional wooden boats have a plank on frame construction, a centuries old boat building method that is still in use today. Variations of the traditional method include carvel, clinker and strip planking, which all relate to the way the planking is attached to the frame.

Dripless shaft seals

Dripless shaft seals are designed to completely stop water from entering a boat’s hull via the stern tube. There are two main types of dripless seals known as face seals and lip seals which many boat manufacturers now fit to production boats.

Boat surveys

A full boat survey assesses the condition of the hull, mechanical gear and means of propulsion. The survey is carried out with the boat...

Anchoring – getting it right is not always straightforward

If you can set an anchor correctly with confidence and know your boat will be safe in a secure anchorage, then you can rest...

Top 5 Reasons Why an Inflatable SUP Should Be Your Next Yacht Accessory

In this article, inflatable paddle board expert Jason Paul gives the top 5 reasons why an inflatable SUP should be your next...

Boat Improvements

My Boat - practical improvements Author - Mike Rossiter Most boat owners who have had their craft for any length of time will have made what they...

Essential Knots: Bowline

Essential Knots: Bowline Use: Making a secure eye or loop in the end of a rope. Bowlines have many uses on a boat, for example to make a...

Seasickness – how can you prevent it?

Seasickness is a common problem at sea and affects both seasoned sailors and novices. What are the causes and symptoms of seasickness?...

Sail care and maintenance – Part 1

When thinking about the care, maintenance and repair of sails it helps to have some understanding of the properties of the ever growing range of modern sailcloth and the fibres they are made from, as opposed to the traditional canvas sails of the past.

Diesel engine winterisation

An inactive boat engine needs to be protected from corrosion during the winter, caused by the rising humidity levels through the cold months and the salty coastal air. This applies whether the boat is left afloat or hauled out over the winter. Read here about the two important stages of winterisaton for a diesel boat engine.

Jester Challenge 2022 – Sailing single handed from Plymouth UK to the Azores: Part 9 – Around the Azores

Jester Challenge – A modern experiment in old-fashioned self-reliance, self sufficiency, and personal responsibility. This is the ninth of a 10-part post where solo sailor, Bernie Branfield, shares his first-hand account of his single-handed, 2022 Jester Challenge, from Plymouth, UK to the Azores, in his 26′ Invicta Mk2, Louisa.

Repairing chips and dings in gelcoat

The gelcoat topsides of a GRP boat can be pampered and restored to their former glory relatively easily when it is ashore. Gelcoat is only a very thin outer layer of the hull, often less than 1mm thick, so you should avoid cleaning it with highly abrasive cleaners, or an-ything that could potentially damage its surface.

Sail trimming for cruisers

Sail trimming tips for cruisers. Whether racing or cruising, a well tuned boat will sail faster and tend to heel less than a boat with badly adjusted sails.

Sector lights, directional lights, leading lights – how do they differ?

Sector lights, directional lights and leading lights guide vessels safely through hazardous waters or narrow channels at...

Understanding marine sealants & adhesives

Sealants, adhesives and adhesive sealantsThere is a bewildering variety of sealants, adhesives and even adhesive sealants available for...

Repairing a leaking hull-to-deck joint

If you suspect a hull-to-deck joint has failed, then being absolutely sure where the actual leak is occurring is of prime...

Jester Challenge 2022 – Sailing single handed from Plymouth UK to the Azores: Part 5 – Boat Management

Jester Challenge – A modern experiment in old-fashioned self-reliance, self sufficiency, and personal responsibility. This is the fifth of a 10-part post where solo sailor, Bernie Branfield, shares his first hand account of his single-handed, 2022 Jester Challenge, from Plymouth, UK to the Azores, in his 26′ Invicta Mk2, Louisa.

Boat maintenance – what does it involve?

The maintenance of a boat involves things like cleaning, varnishing, painting, polishing, antifouling, servicing the engine, servicing the seacocks, and maintaining the gas and plumbing systems. It all amounts to a fairly considerable amount of work that can’t be ignored if you are to keep your boat in a safe and good condition.