The Very Short Life of a Life Raft

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 10 May 2018 02:07

Noon Position: 36 12.80 S  150 07.75 E
At anchor Narooma
Wind: N – F4 moderate breeze
Weather: Partly cloudy
Day’s Run:   121 nm

Last night, at midnight I came on watch (Kate had done a great job of keeping Sylph on course and safe) and started making myself a cup of tea. Conditions had gotten a little boisterous and Sylph was bouncing over some steep waves, when I heard a sliding sound from on deck, a bump, and then a whoosh of escaping air.  What was that? I thought, and then I realised what had happened.  The life raft had slid out from its inadequate lashings on the foredeck, gone over the side, come to the end of its tether and, working precisely as it should, self-inflated.  I went on deck and sure enough, there it was, half inflated, being dragged along astern.  A few moments later it completed inflating, the ballast bags would have filled with water and then it broke the weak point, parting company with Sylph and drifting off into the night, its strobe flashing brightly into the night. 

Oh bother!  I said, though I’m not sure that is what Kate heard.  I buried my head in my hands and had a good cry.

The wind was picking up and I had no immediate time to contemplate what to do about the raft.  I donned foul weather gear, clipped on and put a reef in the mainsail.  Once that was done I came below and had another bit of a feeling-sorry-for-myself moment.  I radioed the world on VHF to advise any vessels in the vicinity of the incident but had no replies.  I contemplated options.  I thought about turning around and trying to recover the raft, but conditions were rough enough to make such an attempt hazardous.  We continued south and I emailed Australian Maritime Safety Authority to advise them that our life raft was adrift and its position. 

This morning at 10.00, we motored into Narooma and have come to anchor in the river.  Since then we have been contacted by the Sydney Water Police who advised me that Ulladulla Volunteer Marine Rescue had the raft in tow.  I have spoken with the Deputy Commander of the Ulladulla VMR and it turns out that the crew of the rescue boat had to deflate the raft – with a knife!

Did I mention … Bother!

Meanwhile, Oli has recovered from his seasickness and, believe it or not, Kate is still smiling.

All is well.