GEAR PROD­UCTS

Swit­lik Sur­vival Gear

Passage Maker - - Contents - BY JONATHAN COOPER

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

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