Whether you’re on a tiny little fishing boat or a supersized tri-deck yacht, safety should be the highest priority. That’s why all boats come with safety features that make sure accidents are mitigated, and in case one actually happens, no one gets hurt.
The yacht is often recognized as a premier recreational watercraft that’s for those with a slightly more sophisticated taste (and a bigger budget.) And because they’re pretty expensive, you might expect those things to come with serious safety features. So, do yachts have lifeboats? Here’s what you need to know.
What is the Purpose of a Lifeboat?
Now, this one should be pretty obvious, but for the sake of information, we’re sharing anyway. A lifeboat is exactly what its name suggests. Developed to provide passengers a safe escape from an otherwise damaged, sinking, or capsized vessel, a lifeboat is a protective measure that reduces the risk of maritime deaths.
But it’s more than just a ‘nice little safety feature’. Lifeboats are required by law for yachts and cruise ships to name a few. These regulations were put in place by the United Nations International Maritime Organization as well as the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS.)
According to the regulations, there should be enough lifeboats on board to accommodate the maximum number of passengers allowed on board at any single time. The law also stipulates that passengers must be informed of how to use these lifeboats in case the need arises while they’re underway.
Different Types of Lifeboats on Yachts
To answer the main question, yes, yachts have lifeboats. But smaller vessels that can’t accommodate lifeboats for storage capacity limitations must have at least enough life rafts on board.
Another thing about lifeboats is that there are lots of different designs available, and yachts might carry different models depending on a variety of factors, including passenger capacity, distance of travel, and size, to name a few.
Life boats can either be closed or open, which already tells you what to expect. A closed lifeboat is entirely sealed to provide evacuees extra protection. The open lifeboat looks more like a small boat and doesn’t have a roof. They’re operated manually or by a small ignition engine.
Today, the open lifeboat is generally not recommended because of their exposure to the elements and the potential for waves to overcome the vessel when there are strong winds. They’re still found on smaller vessels though.
The freefall lifeboat is a closed lifeboat that essentially looks like a submarine since it’s completely enclosed to protect its passengers from water, heat, rain, and the elements. The ultra buoyant design is deployed via a short freefall from the side of the yacht. They’re typically seen on larger vessels and are preferred for their ease of deployment.
The hyperbaric lifeboat is the most sophisticated lifeboat you’ll find, and they’re usually deployed from within the vessel itself. The lifeboat comes with a control system, an onboard generator, and even equipment for the crew. These are found on superyachts and cruise ships that carry several hundreds of passengers.
In some cases, it may be necessary for a yacht to have a fireproof lifeboat especially in situations where they might be at risk of catching fire. These lifeboats are designed with lots of insulation, helping to keep the vessel protected from fire damage.
They can be either closed or open, depending on the manufacturer, but typically use fire retardant materials to shield passengers from flames and explosions on the water.
Lifeboats vs Life Rafts
While some people use the terms ‘lifeboat’ and ‘life raft’ interchangeably, they’re actually two completely different vessels. In general, yachts are required to have lifeboats. But since these boats tend to come in pretty large sizes, smaller vessels might not have the space to accommodate them. In that case, they may need to take on a few life rafts.
The main difference between a lifeboat and a life raft is sophistication. Most life boats are designed so that passengers can operate them with a motor, but life rafts are essentially floating rafts that just serve the purpose of keeping passengers afloat while they wait for rescue.
Other than that, the life raft is designed for limited storage. These rafts collapse into compact little packages that fit into a fiberglass tube. They can be stored almost anywhere on board since they’re exceptionally small. On the other hand, lifeboats are full-sized boats that can’t be otherwise folded or collapsed to fit into a smaller space.
In essence, a lifeboat is designed so that it can allow its passengers to escape an otherwise damaged yacht and make their way to safety. The life raft on the other hand has limited features that let passengers steer and move through the water, so they’re really just something to hold on to while you wait.
Finally, there’s the question of deployment. On average, life rafts are easier to deploy because of their simple mechanism and lightweight design. But then again, they may be punctured and torn when improperly handled, leading to a useless raft.
On the other hand, life boats aren’t prone to the same puncture damage that life rafts are, but because they require specific deployment procedures, there’s always the risk of failure especially due to human error.
A Safety Measure Worth Having
No doubt, nobody really wants to be faced with a situation that calls for a lifeboat. But it’s one of those things you’ll be happy to have around especially when the need arises. There are lots of different kinds of lifeboats that provide various benefits and distinct functions, but the end goal is always the same.
So, do yachts have lifeboats? The answer is yes, they all should have. If you’ve got a private yacht and don’t have enough room for a sophisticated lifeboat, make sure you’ve got a bunch of life rafts on board. Affordable, easy to deploy, and compact, life rafts are a simple yet essential for keeping a smaller yacht or vessel safe for the sea.