Published on March 31st, 2022
by George Day, Blue Water Sailing
Life rafts are one of those items a lot of us carry on our boats that we hope to never use. Yet, we know we need to carry one and we know we need to inspect, resupply, and repack the raft every three years or so. Manufacturers will have their own recommendations and the Coast Guard has its regulations for commercial rafts. In the end, three years is the normal interval for repacking a raft aboard a cruising boat.
If possible, be present when the repacking professionals blow up the raft. You’ll want to see just how it inflates and check on what is in the raft. Also, you may want to get into the raft right there on the shop floor to get a feel for just how large or small it is. It is usually possible to add water, signaling devises, patching materials, space blankets, and possibly a battery-operated-VHF radio and spare batteries.
If you are sailing to far distance shores, make sure you buy a raft that has dealers in major ports around the world so you can have an authorized shop do the repacking. I’ve repacked rafts at authorized shops in the U.S., New Zealand and Spain. The costs were roughly the same at about $750. You can expect to spend more when it is time to replace water and other supplies inside the raft or if you are adding the gear mentioned above.
Although you hope to never use your life raft, if you do, you will want to be confident it is in the best condition possible. So, suck it up and repack your raft on a regular three-year schedule. Your crew will be glad you did.