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Launching and boarding a life raft

Having a life raft on board is important, but do you know how to use it?

Instructions for deploying and boarding life raft

There’s an old saying in our industry: ‘you only ever want to step up into a life raft’. They should be considered a last resort after every effort to save the parent vessel has failed and is no longer safe.

Most of the life rafts you’re likely to encounter are considered a ‘throw overboard’ type. This means exactly what it sounds like, it’s thrown overboard by hand or dropped off off the side from its cradle. They should require no equipment to deploy, the hook securing the life raft’s lashing is released by hand and the painter line will already be attached to the vessel. With the life raft floating in the water, pull the painter line until you meet some resistance and tug firmly until the life raft inflates.

If you’ve followed adage expressed above, you should be able to step straight into the raft from your vessel. However you’re more likely going to need to climb down off the boat or into the raft from the water. Be very careful with jumping into a raft, you could damage the raft, injure yourself or injure those that are already in the raft.

Once everyone is on board, find the knife attached to the top tube at the entrance and cut the painter line. Grab the paddles and move away from the sinking vessel – you don’t want to go down with it.

Now that you’re free from immediate danger, set off your emergency beacon and take the anti-seasick tablets.

These basic instructions are always included in the form of a diagram on top of the life raft’s container just in case you need a quick reminder. There are also fully fledged marine safety courses that will include the use of a life raft. If your job requires this or if just a safety conscious operator, look for AMSA approved safety courses in your area for more information.