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Although commonly found on a great many boats, Rebecca and I never bothered with acquiring a liferaft for ZTC. In the absence of a catastrophic fire, I was confident that our PDQ would remain afloat, even if it suffered a significant blow or was inverted. Even if there was a fire, we still had our tender. The Leopard is a different story though, especially given that we will be running it commercially. In this case, a liferaft is required.

When the 4600 was surveyed, there was a liferaft on board but we were told that it was not really included. Basically that meant that yes, we could have one but no, it would not likely be up to date. In order to be considered “legal,” a liferaft must be inspected and repacked at predetermined intervals of time. As we were not yet in Tortola, we arranged to have the raft picked up from the boat and delivered to St. Thomas where they would look after that inspection and recertification.

When we arrived in Roadtown last evening, our newly-repacked raft was waiting for us in a cart, ready to be loaded back onto the Leopard. I am going to say now that we had no idea just how heavy a 12-man liferaft is! With three of us working at the task, we managed to get it back into the locker where it will reside. Having done that, how any one person could deploy that raft, I don’t know. I think it would be a challenge for two people to get it out of the locker and into the water! Good thing we don’t plan on sinking the boat.

Our 12-person liferaft in its new home.


  1. They are heavy! Even on RG with just a four person raft, we were staggered. That’s why it is stowed in a cradle on the aft rail so we did not have any lifting to do. Maybe a handy billy and practise in setting it up would be a comforting thing to organise even if you intend never to need it. (Just like those flares, MOB kit and all the rest.)

  2. You don’t have an outside storage??? Like on the back of my lagoon…., thats scary , it should be held outside by a hydrostatic release…

  3. Well, Mike and Rebecca,

    A liferaft should be mounted up on deck somewhere. It should not be in a locker. Just sayin’…..


    • “Should be” is a fairly broad statement. The raft is meant to be stored in that locker. The manual says “in severe weather conditions it is recommended that the liferaft be removed from the locker and securely stowed under the cockpit table.”

  4. I guess you could have it pre-harnessed to connect to tackle overhead. As seamanlike as you two are, I’m surprised to see that electrical cord in that configuration.

  5. My dad used to say “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. So, even though you don’t intend to need it, it would probably be good to be able to use it if need be. A couple practice drills probably wouldn’t hurt, and may be good exercise!! πŸ™‚

  6. Is it “legal” there? or does it need to be out so it can self deploy?

  7. Maybe on your first charter you can do a practice drill. Find the strongest passengers to get it out of its locker. πŸ™‚

  8. Yes those puppies are heavy!! I can’t imagine a 12 person raft!! We bought a new 6 person offshore raft in the Canary Islands and I could barely maneuver it into place. We store our raft on the aft rail so all you have to do is pull out the release bar and it will fall in the water.

    Paul Shard
    Distant Shores II

  9. It looks as though you will need some chocks in that locker so that the life-raft can’t slide about. The pipes on the left of the raft look vulnerable.


    • There are u-bolts to tie wrap it down to. What pipes are you referring to?

      • In that picture there appears to be two thin pipes coming out of the fibreglass wall that are joined by a length of clear plastic pipe that is fixed onto the smaller pipes with hose clips.

        That is what I am referring to.

        If it something else then my original comment is irrelevant, sorry.


  10. What a monster!!! Almost silly having to carry that, but I get it.
    I’ve been hauling a 4 man valise style around for years, heavy enough. I just listed it on e-bay, pick up only of course! Way out of date but just may pass because I stored it carefully over all these years.

  11. Aft rail sounds better to me too.

    I’ve learned one should rather step on a raft than have to climb it. Some people don’t have the muscle power to climb on to it from water.

    On Your STCW course: how hard was the fire rescue part? Did You have some 90 kg dummy to drag out?

  12. I was going to make a case for outside storage, but looks like a number of folks are already on it. You really do need to re-think the location of said item. Adrenaline rush aside during an emergency, I would think that life raft was going to go down with the ship. Just sayin’

  13. Definitely would not be legal on a US boat in US waters if large enough to require a master’s license (i.e a vessel requiring USCG inspection). It would need to be above deck on a hydrostatic release. Honestly, even without the legal requirement, I would do that anyway. Seldom does one see even a six-pack vessel here without a self-launching raft if it is going offshore.

    One think I would do for sure: make certain that the raft is not self-inflating if it is going to live in a locker. If that locker floods, the raft will be useless in a hurry. So at the very least, remove the hydrostatic device from the inflator, if so equipped.

  14. Isn’t the internet a wonderful place for getting lots of (sometimes repetitive or undesired) advice? But the good news is that it sounds as though lots of people care about you and your safe voyaging.

    What do you think would have been the pros and cons of splitting the load by getting two or three smaller rafts? That would solve the weight problem, but I suspect the cost of both purchase as well as inspections and re-certification would be more, plus it would require more ditch bags and gear, and in an emergency would split up the crew and maybe leave a raft without experienced crew and be more work for SAR rescuers to find everyone.

    • Isn’t the internet a wonderful place for getting lots of (sometimes repetitive or undesired) advice? But the good news is that it sounds as though lots of people care about you and your safe voyaging.


      The truth is we never really considered it. The boat will be operated commercially in the Virgins, an area where you are never out of site of land. It’s all a bit overkill IMO.

  15. Really a bad design.

  16. I think it needs to be on the trampoline, with a few extra straps. I’m sure those body-weight workouts with the TRX will seem easy after a few weeks with the raft strapped to your back!

  17. In the US, small vessels under 100 gross tons, carrying passengers for hire (more than 6 anyway) are subject to the following requirements in 46 CFR 180.130:

    c) A mechanical, manually operated device to assist in launching a survival craft must be provided if:
    (1) The survival craft weights more than 90.7 kilograms (200 pounds); and
    (2) The survival craft requires lifting more than 300 vertical millimeters (one vertical foot) to be launched.

    Of course, you’re not in the USA and I have no idea what the BVIs require. The 6 passenger liferaft that came with our Leopard 40 is stowed in a locker at the stern– a perfect location as far as we are concerned since it’s protected and easily assessable.

    Regardless, unless the law required it, if all our sailing was in sight of land, we probably wouldn’t carry one.

    And by the way, I’m guessing that the release on your raft works by pulling out the painter. Hydrostatic releases on on the cradles that store large inflatables and function to dump the raft into the water.

    Happy sailing.

  18. This is an academic / legal exercise, really.
    In practice, it’s nearly impossible to sink a Leopard. If someone uses an 80-foot fishboat to bash half of each hull into splinters, you’ll still have enough of the yacht left floating to keep the whole crew up and together until the Coast Guard arrives.
    Pretty much the only “Abandon Ship” emergency on such a boat is a major fire, and in that case you can deploy the dinghy (which is a real, navigable vessel) far faster than you can get everyone into a raft.

  19. Hi Mike:

    Sailed our Leopard 40 that we owned across the Gulf Stream and through the near and far Bahamas for a year in 2010. The life-raft locker issue on the Leopard is in my mind one of the very few deficiencies of the Robertson and Caine catamarans. Lagoon have got it dead right!! We relocated our life-raft out to the stern on the deck between the davits. I am a firm believer in “prepare in advance and execute with the least amount of fuss”. I have no idea how I could haul out a 12 person life-raft from its current location in a dire emergency. Our 8-man trans ocean was a real challenge for me on my own. I always assumed in an emergency that my remaining crew (my wife and two teenage daughters) would be preoccupied with readying the other emergency supplies and and preparedness we need to execute an abandon ship procedure.

    In that locker on board your vessel it really is out of sight and out of mind. When we moved our life-raft out, we had suddenly freed up tons of valuable storage space and I used the now available large secure cavity locker for all of my boat tools, engine spares and supplies – a mini tool shed if you wish.

    Just my two cents….

    Love the Leopard 46. The two of you along with the new owner will really enjoy her!!

    (ex S/V Mango Groove – Leopard 40)

    • In a charter boat running between the Virgins, I suspect a liferaft mounted on the deck would be more of a hazzard than any perceived issue with having it in the locker. That said, as you actually OWN(ed) a Leopard, your opinion is welcome.

  20. Mike –

    I know the problem. Please get a cradle for the liferaft and mount it on your hardtop bimini and add a hydrostatic release. It’s a pain, I know. But, you’ll end up with some extra locker space and more piece of mind.

    • As much as I would love more locker space (can you ever have enough?), the raft will stay where the Robertson and Caine designers intended it to be.

      • As R&C designed the 4600 primarily for the charter business, which is exactly what this 4600 is going to be used for, I think the locker, for which it was designed, is the most sensible place. Having said that, if you were taking One Love around the world across oceans, (which it certainly could do) then a different setup might be considered?

        But then again if using for extended cruising, would you need a 12 person life raft (as spacious as the 4600 looks, I don’t know if I’d want to be onboard with 11 others for an extended period of time!) rather than something for less passengers, which would be lighter and easier to handle in an emergency?

        • Have to agree with Dyce and you, Mike. For your chartering usage in the Virgins, the locker is THE best place for the life raft.

          As discussed, the 12 person raft is extremely heavy, none of the places suggested for storage are practical from a mechanical perspective. Rail mounting would lead to loss of the rail, the raft and other structural damages. Trampoline mounting would lead to premature failure of the tramp, loss of the raft and ruin the enjoyment of the tramp area. Bimini mounting would lead to undue stress on the bimini with long-term structural issues. R&C’s solution of moving the raft into the living area between the hulls, IF you are going sailing in severe conditions is the lesser of evils here.

          Finally (sorry this was sooo long!), if you have to deploy the raft, you will be very happy to have a 12 person model, because the “standard” for deciding on how many people can fit into a raft was developed for Munchkins!

        • The 12 man raft was on the boat when we purchased it. If I was buying knew, MAYBE I would have chosen differently.

  21. Hi. Just thought I’d not talk about life rafts; will you be posting about some of the charter related _planning_? I’m curious about itineraries and cooking … things that seem to me are HUGE and immediate concerns. Will morning workouts be compulsory πŸ˜‰

  22. Actually Mike we are boat less for the first time in 22 years. We have owned 8 different cruising cats, the last two being Seawind 1000’s with stern extensions. I’ve always appreciated the PDQ cats, especially the 36’er.

  23. Nope, never owned a Leopard. I guess all boats are compromises. My thoughts are if it takes three people to muscle that life raft into the locker it would probably take four to pull it out! Not what I would consider a good safety feature but chances are you will never need it.

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