Liferaft, mandatory or not?

One of the more expensive investments you make, that actually offer no pleasurable experience at all like new sails do or a new or refurbished engine does, is the purchase of a liferaft. You can not play around with it and it adds nothing extra to the experience of sailing. No none of that, but without a doubt it is one of the most important safety features a sea going vessel should have on-board.


Which countries in Europe demand you have a liferaft on-board?

In countries around the Mediterranean sea, like Spain and France, it is mandatory to have a liferaft on-board your vessel, regardless of the length.  In the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom, vessels shorter than 24 meters are not required to have a liferaft on-board but it is advised.


If you are off for a one-time sailing holiday in France, you may want to consider renting a liferaft, instead purchasing one. Do make sure it meets the safety standards.


When having a liferaft on-board, it has to meet the ISO 9650 standard. So cheap knock-offs that do not meet the ISO 9650 norm, which you bought directly from the manufacture in China, will not do.



The inspection

Liferafts should be formally inspected every three years if you want assurance all works when needed. A malfunctioning liferaft is every sailors nightmare when in need. Again, an investment one should not want to economize one.

Depending on where you reside, but an inspection of a liferaft can take as long as a number of weeks, especially when the season is approaching. The best period, therefore, is to have your liferaft inspected is well out of season.



Types of liferafts

Liferafts come in a number of sizes and varieties.


  • suitable for ocean crossings
  • 4 to 12 people
  • single- or double-flooring
  • survival kit that will last you 24 hours or more


  • suitable for coastal- and inland-waters
  • 4 to 10 people
  • single-flooring
  • survival kit that will last you 24 hours


Then you also have cased-liferafts and types that fold-up in a carrying bag. Cased-liferafts are far better protected against foreign objects and general wear. They are generally speaking fixed to the vessel and take-up more space.

Liferafts in a carrying bag on the other hand can be stored any ware you like but have to be within reach when needed.





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