When looking for a life raft, a question we get occasionally, ‘Why do I need a life raft if I already have a dinghy?’
Why a dinghy may seem like a suitable option, especially since you probably already own one, a life raft offers more inherent safety features that you need on the rough seas to make it home alive.
First, let’s take a closer look at the dinghy.
A dinghy is designed to run in short periods, taking you from point A to point B. With that in mind, a dinghy is not designed to float around for an extended period, most have low sides. In addition to the lower sides, most dinghies have no cover protection, exposing you to the elements.
A dinghy does offer a more reliable form of propelling the craft to land or into a shipping lane usually through a motor or sometimes a sailing kit. But if the motor quits or it’s too rough to sail, you’ll be bobbing around without a sea anchor keeping you from being blown away. Then, without land in sight or a deep geographic knowledge of the area, you’ll quickly lose your sense of direction.
How do you normally store your dinghy? If it’s deflated on or even below deck, can you re-inflate and launch it in time? Even if you keep it inflated or its hoisted on davits, will that hold up during a storm or will you even have an electrical system still working to launch it? Once you get it in the water, typical dinghies don’t have built-in features to prevent capsize. Once you manage to right it, can you get back in?
Finally, dinghies aren’t pre-packed with any survival equipment, you are solely responsible for having a separate ditch kit to bring with you.
How does a life raft compare?
Life rafts are designed to be visible for rescue, constructed from highly-visible fabric. Depending on the type of raft you purchase, rafts offer varying levels of freeboard, keeping the rising sea out while still offering an easy way into the raft.
All life rafts offer ballasting, with higher-end rafts offering toroidal ballast system which wraps around the entire perimeter of the bottom of the raft to keep the raft stable even when subject to the downdraft of a rescue helicopter. SWITLIK rafts additionally offer a convertible canopy system, which deploy separately from the main buoyancy tubes. Once inside the raft, a convertible canopy is separately erected then when the time comes to exit the raft, a convertible canopy can be lowered and stowed for easy exit without the need to get into the water.
Your life raft is ready to go. SWITLIK rafts have a visible “go/no go” pressure gauge that lets you know your raft is ready to deploy. Or you can opt for a raft with hydrostatic release which will automatically release the raft in the event of your boat sinking.
Life rafts are also packed with survival kits, containing a heaving ring, knife, manual pump, repair clamps, flares, limited medical supplies, flashlight, water and desalinator. SWITLIK recommends packing an additional ditch kit, as your needs will vary depending on your specific trip and when you’ll think rescue will come.
At the end of the day, when traveling offshore, a life raft is designed to keep you and your crew alive until you can be rescued and offers more benefits than a dinghy could. It’s the most important piece of equipment on your boat that you hope you’ll never use.