Switlik Survival Gear
If you read PassageMaker regularly, chances are pretty good that you’re either an accomplished long-range cruiser, or you’re an aspiring longrange cruiser interested in serious coastal trips or transoceanic passages. Either way, a serious investment in safety gear should be configured into the cost of any boat purchase, and far too many boaters take this lightly. We’re not talking about properly sized and rated PFDs—because, duh— for this exercise, we’re talking about everything else: Personal locator beacons (PLBs), AIS-equipped man overboard devices, and satellite phones are just a few of the extras you could acquire to ensure, as best as possible, anyway, the long-term safety of you and your crew.
The grim reality of pleasure boating is that sometimes it is far from pleasant, and there are moments for the unlucky few who will need to abandon ship. Tenders are dicey and often difficult to get into the water under the worst sea conditions. What’s more, while they are fairly seaworthy craft, they are not designed to serve as an emergency option during an abandon ship.
In these instances, the best option is to carry an invaluable, albeit expensive, piece of equipment: the offshore-rated life raft. A familyowned company, Switlik offers safety equipment for a variety of hard-duty applications, including pleasure boats. Products such as the Offshore Passage Raft (OPR, for short), have specific engineering and design considerations to survive and wait out rescue.
Starting at the bottom, the boarding ladder can be used to right the raft in the event that wind or waves caused it to inflate upside-down. Four boarding ladders and stability water pockets around the skirt allow passengers to board without worrying about the craft flipping back over of the top. The OPR comes standard with Switlik’s Convertible Canopy System whose inflatable arches remain stowed even at the time of the craft’s primary inflation. This makes boarding from a vessel or the water much easier. When all passengers are on board, a separate CO2 charge will inflate the canopy’s sides, where there are built-in cutouts (to provide horizon visibility and thus a reduction in seasickness). An additional feature to reduce seasickness, Switlik made the inside of the canopy opaque blue, with the outside a highly visible orange-and-yellow combination, with loads of light reflectors for rescuers. Apparently the color orange has a seasick-inducing effect.
The canopy serves to protect passengers from sun and harsh elements, and can be completely enclosed if the conditions are nasty. Once rescue is imminent, it can be quickly deflated to allow easier offloading to a boat or helicopter basket.
Additional features include Air Charge Inflation that allows the raft to have a “go/no-go” pressure gauge, an optional toroidal stability device designed to resist downdraft from helicopters and high seas, as well as an industry-leading five-year service interval.
Switlik seems to have considered everything, and we recommend investigating such a life raft for anyone making passages far from shore, or for anyone who just wants that extra peace of mind. n More at: www.switlik.com/marine