|© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London|
Used with permission.
Some definitions: A life raft is usually either packaged in a valise and stored in a locker, or packaged in a canister and stored on deck. If your boat is sinking, you toss one or the other into the water and (hopefully) watch your new plastic salvation inflate. A lifeboat is what larger vessels carry--I'm talking ships (remember the lifeboats on the Titanic?). They don't inflate, they just are.
Of course, the reason most cruising boats and other smaller vessels carry life rafts rather than lifeboats is size. Now our boat isn't any bigger than the average cruising boat (a bit smaller actually, at 39.1 feet LOA), and we certainly could not carry a dedicated life boat. But by dual-purposing our dinghy, we won't have to.
While adopting this approach puts us in the minority (way in the minority), we think it makes total sense. Following are the points I think are important when comparing the life raft to the dinghy-as-life-boat (DALB), as I see them:
Points Supporting Our Approach
|Portland Pudgy in full lifeboat configuration|
Points Against Our Approach
- A life raft with a hydrostatic release deploys automatically. If things go down hill quickly and you find yourself in the water, the raft will likely bob to the surface and inflate soon after. [A DALB will be secured on deck while underway and will have to be unsecured and deployed manually, perhaps in challenging conditions.]
|Typical life raft|
Following is a video interview with David Hulbert demonstrating the boat for BoatingLocal.com (read their complete review):
Also, the Pudgy offers other benefits over an inflatable dingy: it's fun to sail (doubling as an instructional water toy for the girls), it tows well (litlle resistance), it features internal storage (all of the safety and sailing gear are stowed aboard always), and it rows easily.
A couple months ago, Peter Neilsen, SAIL magazine's editor-in-chief, reviewed the Pudgy and wrote of the size: "The Pudgy is USCG-rated to carry up to four people, but they’d better be slightly built and very good friends; there are limits to what you can expect of a 7ft 9in dinghy with the floor area of a four-person liferaft."
He ended the review with the following endorsement: "It’s tough, functional and practical, and if the choice came down to climbing into a traditional life raft or boarding the Pudgy, I know where I’d rather be. For a cruising couple or a family with small children, the Pudgy makes a lot of sense."
Now, more on our dinghy motor plans in a future post...