Good news for all on Christmas Eve

Two sailors were rescued this morning in what appears to be a text book case of how the modern search and rescue system works.

  • They activated their EPIRB
  • Fixed wing aircraft located the stricken vessel
  • Helicopters attempted to rescue the pair
  • The final rescue was carried out by a merchant vessel
  • Everyone is safe

In the spirit of overspending at Christmas time, suppliers of marine life saving equipment must also be happy.

  • 6 life rafts were dropped by the search and rescue team, they will need to be replaced
  • The EPIRB used to notify search and rescue will need to be replaced, or at least serviced
  • Boat builders and equipment suppliers will be queuing up to replace the sailboat which appears to be lost

It is nice to have a safe ending to a disaster such as this, even better on Christmas Eve.

If you want to read more, click here for the Yachting World article.

Cold weather and life rafts

It has been quite cold here in the Pacific Northwest. You don’t have to go very far to get in to single digit territory which brings up the question of what conditions a life raft will operate in. As some of us remember from physics, everything else being the same the pressure of a gas will decrease as the temperature decreases. Since life rafts like to have around 2 psi of gas pressure, as it gets colder the amount of gas needed to reach that pressure increases.

Commercial life rafts are designed to work down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Rafts designed for recreational boats tend to have their lowest working temperature much higher, somewhere between plus 10 degrees to plus 40 degrees.


So what happens if your raft isn’t designed for the temperature range where you will be operating? Nothing good! If your raft is able to deploy itself out of its container or valise it will not fully inflate and will take a long time even getting to that point. Worse yet it might not inflate enough inside the container (or valise) to even deploy leaving you swimming in very cold water.

For most vessel operators really cold weather is not an issue. Wintertime is for skiing or trips to the sun, not boating. Still there are some of us who find being on the water in the winter really beautiful and without the crowds that sunshine brings. This group needs to be concerned and choose the right life raft. USCG approved commercial rafts are a great choice but tend to be pretty large to fit on recreational boats. Switlik’s new Offshore Passage Raft and Coastal Passage Raft also provide excellent cold weather inflation since they use high pressure air rather than carbon dioxide as their inflation gas. With high pressure air you get inflation times that do not change much as it gets colder. My guess is this is the raft Santa uses on his sleigh and the really good news is the material it is made out of is tough enough that reindeer hooves should not pose an issue.

Zodiac raft manual

One of the fun parts of servicing life rafts is seeing what comes in different rafts. Over the years a favorite has been the manual out of Zodiac life rafts built for the French market.


First we learn how to kill a seagull with a really graphic drawing. I guess the hat, shirt and pants outfit are required to do this properly. In order to clean up after preparing our meal, Zodiac teaches us how to prepare a bath,

again not what I would expect in a life raft manual. Still it is better to be prepared and this manual is really one of the best I have seen. It is 128 pages long printed on A4 size paper (similar to our letter size) so there is a ton of information for those stuck in a life raft as long as they are able to read French. I wish there was a version in English.