A sinking ship: It’s a dramatic and frightening disaster no one should ever hope to find themselves in, the stuff of Hollywood movies and harrowing survival novels. Anyone sailing out on the open water should make sure their ship and its passengers are fully prepared for any of the most common disaster-causing situations such as bad weather, fires, or collisions with another object in the water. Weather: Modern weather surveillance technology is excellent at predicting and charting a storm’s path. Fires: Fires on ships are more common than you might think for an object completely surrounded by H2O.
Collisions with other objects: Ships may collide with reefs, rocks, ice, and other vessels.
The most common reasons for a life raft to be deployed are fire or collision with an object in water. Taking the time to select and properly equip your ship with a life raft is an essential part of your water safety. Life rafts are available for vessels ranging from privately owned boats, large yachts, to commercial vessels.
An insulated floor layer will protect you and your fellow passengers against hypothermia from the waters below, and it also adds an extra floatation chamber layer beneath you. A canopy, much like a tent that covers the life raft, will offer greater protection from the sun, wind and rain and help keep the occupants dry and warm. A manually deployed life raft requires you to activate it, it’s the “throwover type” you physically launch yourself by throwing it into the water. Stow enough life jackets, your life raft, EPIRB, and ditch bag in easily accessible area topside, usually in a life raft or underseat locker. Seasonal professional inspection and service of your vessel’s life raft is required to keep it in peak operating condition. The vessel skipper should always ensure that each passenger knows where to find the life jackets, life raft, ditch bag, fire extinguishers and all other safety equipment prior to setting sail. Most life rafts are stored vacuum-packed in sealed bags, to prevent any water from deteriorating the material of the raft while it is stowed (that is of course presuming the bag remains fully intact.) Material that has become wet and allowed to stay stored without being dried off will inevitably deteriorate over time. A properly equipped vessel should see the results of rescue efforts within mere hours if they are within range of a land based rescue operation, or within a few days if they are far out at sea on a life raft.


If you find your ship in danger of sinking, an activated EPIRB alerts search and rescue services who can find your life raft based on your location. Modern devices such as GPS and satellite phones greatly reduce your risk of being lost  for an extended length of time at sea.
The ditch bag: Your ditch bag is an essential sack of survival items to take with you in the event you need to board a life raft if your ship is in trouble. The majority of lives are not lost far out at sea, as one might think, but within the coastal waters – within sight of land.
In bad weather or in the event of an emergency, all passengers should wear their life jackets. If close boarding can be safely accomplished by passengers aboard the ship, pull the life raft alongside the ship and hold it there until everyone onboard the distressed vessel has boarded the life raft. If you need to swim to your life raft because close boarding isn’t an option, jump into the water and stay together.
Try to refrain from drinking any of the water supply on the first day, typically it won’t be a life or death situation on the very first day of waiting for a rescue.
Establish a watch system – one person watches for an hour while others remain inside.
With any luck we hope to never be stuck in such a disastrous situation aboard a life raft, however that doesn’t exempt us from being prepared for it! Kit contains life essential items used for signaling rescuers, staying dry, starting a fire or treating an injury. Fortunately with the increasing use of modern technology, quality life raft features, and increased awareness of safety practices your chances of survival on the open seas are better than ever before. Weather, fires and collisions with other objects are three of the most likely causes for a vessel in distress. Even though commercial vessels and most private boat operators closely monitor storms electronically, weather can change course or become suddenly worse than previously expected. The possibility of the fire consuming the vessel or rendering it inoperable is still very real and should be taken seriously. Generally, passengers survive the actual fires and collisions, and even subsequent sinking of their vessel.


A proper sturdy life raft is a platform of survival that will protect you and all passengers against the dangers of hypothermia, unfriendly sea creatures, rough waters, exposure to the sun, rain, wind and other bad weather. Once aboard your life raft you can manually activate the EPIRB or it can automatically activate after an incident of distress. However it is sometimes advisable to keep the life raft a safe distance from the sinking vessel to prevent damage to the life raft from fire or snagging on the sides of the ship. Swim to the raft, allowing the strongest person of the group to board first (life rafts can come equipped with boarding steps and ladders on some models) – that way they can assist the others into the life raft with less difficulty. In extreme situations, passengers adrift at sea have even ingested the blood of sea animals such as turtles they’ve managed to catch. If something does go wrong, your knowledge, preparedness, and reliable safety equipment will be the most important assets. Protect your investment by keeping a few tow ropes or tow straps with you for those unexpected situations out on the trails.
Before you set sail, take the time to prepare yourself with some safety knowledge and equip your vessel with a life raft and necessary survival equipment.
Radio communication, maritime charts, and electronic navigation equipment help prepare ships for what lies ahead.
But unlike on a dry life raft, the human body cannot survive long in the water in a life preserver. On a privately owned and operated vessel the best practice is to equip it with a life raft sized for the rated passenger capacity for the boat. Fire or water could make access to your life saving equipment impossible on a fast sinking ship, if stowed below. If you have a 406 MHz EPIRB, the signal emitted from the device will be instantly detected by geostationary satellites. A life raft should be easy for most inexperienced passengers to understand how to get in quickly.




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