location of life raft

john martin <symoondog@...>

Recently there were some posts discussing various locations to put our life rafts, other than where Father Amel intended them to be. It seems some people want quick access to them so are stowing them on deck. I was just thinking about this .... has anyone ever heard of an Amel sinking in a storm ? I'm not talking about sinking on a reef, at a dock, or on a mooring or at anchor... I mean sinking offshore during a storm.

I recently read "Rescue in the Pacific," a book about a group of sailboats who were caught in a ferocious Force 12 storm lasting 2 days in 1994. The only people who died were the ones who elected to abandon their boat and get in their life raft. The Coast Guard recovered that life raft and evidence showed that the crew had been tossed out of the top of it, as the top was entirely torn away.

During the storm, seven boats were abandoned after their crews were rescued, and the rest of the boats (about 30) made it through the storm. Of the seven boats abandoned, two were sunk intentionally by their owners (to prevent a hazard to navigation) and one was sunk (unintentionally) by damage caused by the rescue ship that tried to tow it to safety. The remaining four abandoned boats were eventually found floating and in reasonable condition; one was even found six months later (anchored nicely by the anchor the skipper had thrown in during the storm to act as a drogue !). When they interviewed the survivors after the storm, they all agreed that they did not think they would have survived in a life raft in those monstrous seas and 60-90kts of wind.

I was thinking after reading this book, that if no rescue ships had come and everyone had stayed with their boats, it is possible that every person and every boat would have made it through one of the worst storms in recent history.

I believe that if a skipper is worried about getting the life raft quickly out of its designated locker, the skipper should wait until the time of danger is becoming "likely," then pull it out and lightly secuire it in a position more ready to deploy. Crisis situations rarely occur instantaneously and there is almost always ample time to see an abandon-ship situation develop. In the "old days," before satelite navigation and AIS, situations requiring immediate deployment of a life raft, (i.e., hitting a reef suddenly in the middle of the night, or being brutally crushed by a large ship), were real possibilities, but nowadays, assuming that no-one is completely "asleep at the wheel" and not paying any attention whatsoever, such occurrences should be rare indeed.

John Martin
SM 248

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