Dynamic Lifeboat or Passive Life Raft?

“It’s tough, functional, and practical, and if the choice came down to climbing into a traditional life raft or boarding the Pudgy, I know where I’d rather be.” Portland Pudgy, a Tender That Can Save Your Life, by Peter Nielsen, Editor in Chief. Sail Magazine, September 2010.

The Portland Pudgy self-rescue lifeboat is different from a passive inflatable life raft in three major ways. First…

It’s an unsinkable boat. The Portland Pudgy lifeboat is made of the same rigid, rugged, intrinsically buoyant, UV-resistant material that heavy-duty ocean kayaks are made of. The space beneath the floor is filled with closed cell foam. The Pudgy (even without the inflated exposure canopy in place) has 1855 pounds of buoyancy. Unlike a standard life raft, the Pudgy doesn’t need to inflate and it can’t deflate or sink.  Unlike an inflatable life raft, it cannot be punctured by a fish hook, shark fin, or by sparks from a fire or flare.  The exposure canopy adds another 400 pounds of buoyancy to the safety dinghy. For answers to frequently asked questions about the Portland Pudgy lifeboat, click hereFor information on lifeboat componentsclick here For technical info about the basic hull, click here.

Second, unlike an inflatable life raft, the Portland Pudgy lifeboat is proactive:

You can sail, row, or motor it. (This is why it’s called a “dynamic” lifeboat.) The Portland Pudgy dynamic lifeboat concept respects the abilities and responsibilities of the sailor to protect himself and his crew. The passive inflatable life raft seems to encourage people to passively trust that the life raft will inflate and stay inflated, and that help will come, when unfortunately, too often this has proved not to be the case.
The Portland Pudgy dynamic lifeboat is a new concept that is actually the proud descendant of a very old concept (after all, Captain Bligh and Shackleton used dynamic lifeboats in their epic journeys). It challenges many of the assumptions we have grown accustomed to about life rafts. Life rafts have saved many lives, but tragically, many life rafts have failed. Sailors should do some hard thinking about what their options are in protecting themselves, their loved ones, and their crew.

Third, the Portland Pudgy dynamic lifeboat is a self-contained unit:

It is ingeniously designed so that all of the survival equipment fits inside the boat and/or can be pre-set, so that it is ready in an emergency. All of the survival gear, including sailing rig, sea anchor, exposure canopy, oars, ditch bag, provisions, and fishing gear can stow inside the storage chamber of the double hull (with the exception of the rudder and leeboards, which stow under the stern seat). You can also pre-set the exposure canopy and sea anchor.

For more information, see Lifeboat FAQLifeboat Components, and Owner’s Manual.

Note that large passenger ships use dynamic lifeboats, not inflatable life rafts (see photo above).