The Liferaft

In Chile, if you want to navigate south of Mocha Island, south from about 38 degrees southern latitude, (even in coastal waters), you must have a life raft according to the regulations. I initially purchased a dingy, but when I began planning navigation to Laguna San Rafael in the southern fiords, I had to replace it with a liferaft, otherwise one would run the risk of not getting the zarpe, the sailing authorization.

When setting sail from a port in Chile, one has to obtain a permission from the authorities, and in theory they can come and check out whether you have a liferaft, among other things required by the regulations. So far this has not happened to me (i.e. no one ever checked by safety equipment, despite having obtained about 12 zarpes already), but I have heard stories where this indeed has happened. So you really must have a certified liferaft on board.

My attitude to liferafts is ambivalent: most people tend to abandon ship too early, and if one does this in a storm, often this will be the last someone will hear about you again. The safest way is to stay on board till last.

There are only two situations where a life raft can be a real life saver: if you have fire on board and if the boat is sinking.

I went to great lengths to make my Catalina unsinkable and added positive flotation, so that sinking was almost out of question. Only the fire hazard was real.

I purchased a cheap Chinese life raft for 4 persons which was type "B," for coastal navigation. Its cost was 800 USD, plus certification which costs another 120 USD. All life rafts in Chile must undergo a yearly certification, which is basically a test to check that the life raft operates correctly, does not leak, and has the correct safety equipment. Only authorized servicing companies can do that, and the certificate must be kept together with other ship documents to be shown to the authorities.

The Life Raft Stored on the Rear Berth.

I decided to store the life raft inside the hull

The main reason was that I did not have much room on deck, and also because it would elevate the center of gravity - the life raft weights about 36 kilograms. The life raft is prevented from moving by means of two wooden chokes which have stainless steel pins which fit snugly into the holes in the berth liner. The life raft does not move at all in strong seas. Only if the boat overturned or was laid flat, then the life raft would be dislodged.

In the hind sight, I again made a mistake of not buying the life raft with "A" packet, which would allow to navigate in open ocean. I am not at all sure whether I would be able to get a certificate for off-shore navigation here in Chile for my Catalina 22 (there are other consideration besides life raft), but without the life raft there is no way to get it. And a "A"-type life raft costs about 1500 USD, not much more expensive than the cheaper "B" type.