A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: Lifeboat Navigation Equipment
From: Jeremy C
Date: 2008 Dec 4, 04:33 EST
From: Jeremy C
Date: 2008 Dec 4, 04:33 EST
Excuse the delay in my answering as my sojourns to the internet cafe allow me to only download the queue of messages and then answer them back on the ship, and all replies must be transmitted the next trip to the cafe which can take awhile.
To answer your first question, the required navigation gear in a lifeboat consists of a magnet compass. That's it. Ships are required to have a SART (search and rescue transponder) and EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) with the assumption that both of these devices will be carried to the lifeboats/rafts as required, but I hesitate to call them navigational equipment. On the ship's I've been on (10 in total) over the last decade, no additional navigational gear was stowed in the boat, and only on the training ship was anyone given the duty to bring any navigation equipment to a boat. Even then the navigation equipment was not listed, but i can only assume it meant a chronometer, sextant, and a couple of books.
I think that the absence of navigational gear in lifeboat regulations and practice have to do with the zeitgeist of SAR these days. While there are a few old ships with non-motorized lifeboats out there (I've sailed with 2 that had Lifeboats fitted with sails), most have diesel engines; and the use of oars, while carried, is strictly for emergency maneuvering. Motorized Lifeboats have only a 24 hour supply of fuel at a speed of 6 knots. That is a range of a mere 144 miles. It is not expected that a lifeboat navigate anywhere per se, but rather exist as an emergency get away vehicle and shelter until SAR assets arrive on scene. Rafts fit this description even more so as they are impossible to maneuver, even with the paddles that come with them. There is such a sail area on a raft, that any wind at all will sweep them downwind very quickly. Location of the survival craft is provided by the distress signals generally (EPIRP and/or GMDSS radio), then pinpointed by the SART and/or visual sighting, especially from aircraft. If the distress situation is reasonably close to shore, we can hope to be a few hours or at most a few days from rescue without having to attempt to navigate across oceans. Given vessel traffic across the trade routes of the world, seeing a rescue aircraft of ship in this timeframe is not unrealistic if you can survive the hypothermia.
As a final note, the encapsulated lifeboats are the norm these days and are outfitted the same as the old open boat except for the addition of sprinkler and compressed air systems. Using the oars on these boats is even more difficult than in open boats. I do hope i never have to row one of those things.
I hope that answers your question.
In a message dated 11/17/2008 5:07:21 A.M. Korea Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
I am addressing this question to Jeremy as he is the only person on the
list that I know for sure is presently working on a large ship, but feel
free to pitch in with the contents of your perfect disaster bag for your
What navigation equipment is carried on the lifeboats these days? I
imagine the legal requirements are not much, but I was wondering if
anything was carried in addition to what was required. Didn't Bligh do
his famous lifeboat trip with only a compass?
The last course I took for my ROCMC certificate was all about the
electronics used these days where the emphasis is all on getting found
instead of rescuing yourself. Push the red button on the radio and the
radio sends out your distress call, and position if you have the GPS
attached unit.If that fails, activate the EPIRB and someone knows where
you are in something like 20 minutes. All very nice and I hope it works
all the time.
I am really out of date as the ships I worked on in my big ship days
actually still had open wooden life boats with oars and sails. I used
to know what was in inflatable rafts, when I took my last MED course but
I don't recall any navigation equipment being required. I know nothing
about the contents of encapsulated life boats that I see coming in the
harbour here all the time. They are used by the crews to get ashore for
a bit of liberty when water taxis are not paid for by the ship. They
seem quite hi tech and even have motors.
PS. That E-Bay bid on the star fixer jumped like a rocket!
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