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First of all, unlike an inflatable life raft, it’s an unsinkable boat, made of the same rigid, rugged UV-resistant polyethylene that heavy-duty ocean kayaks are made of. The Portland Pudgy is made of intrinsically buoyant polyethylene with closed cell foam under the floor, and has 1855 pounds of buoyancy. Unlike a standard life raft, it 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.
Second, the Portland Pudgy lifeboat is proactive: You can sail, row, or motor it. The Portland Pudgy lifeboat concept respects the abilities and responsibilities of the sailor to protect himself and his crew. It is carefully engineered as a tough, rugged self-rescue boat that handles well and incorporates many safety features. 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. 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 is a new concept that is actually the proud descendant of a very old concept (after all, Captain Bligh and Shackleton used proactive 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.
Note that large passenger ships use proactive lifeboats, not life rafts (see photo below).
"We found the Pudgy to be a successful boat...The benefits are obvious...before the next big crossing begins, take the dinghy you can use as a lifeboat, and put it on your deck or hanging in the davits. For a fairly friendly price you can buy a very nice piece of equipment..."
"Een Multifunctionele Levensredder,"
“Once, in the interest of research, I spent the afternoon bobbing around in a liferaft…I don’t ever want to spend time in a life raft again. The discomfort was one thing, and should not be downplayed, but what really got to me was the sense of helplessness. A liferaft is a passive device at the mercy of wind and waves, and once in it, you surrender any control over your future… [The Portland Pudgy safety dinghy is] tough, functional, and practical, and if the choice came down to climbing into a traditional liferaft 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. (He went out and tested it himself!) Sail Magazine, September 2010.
"This is a real boat, designed to do a real job...Given a choice on an offshore passage between the Pudgy and an inflatable life raft or the average dinghy, there's no doubt which I'd choose."
Gretchen Piston Ogden, March 2007, Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors. Boats of the Year edition.
"Because of its life-saving capability, we think that any serious cruising boat owner ought to give this tender a long look."
Chris Cornell, Power Cruising. December 2006, "A Dinghy/Life Raft Hybrid"
love our dingy. It is exactly what we needed. It has been instrumental
in saving our boat when we ran aground because it rows so well in rough
weather and can handle two 45 pound anchors being dropped in it for kedging
off a reef. It is a real workboat built for real world conditions. It is
incredibly stable. We wouldn't use any other. In the sailing we do a dingy
can mean the difference between life or death, and this isn't in reference
to the lifeboat abilities of the Pudgy just its stability and durability.”
saving a neighboring cruiser’s life) “I reached him just as he
let go of the ladder [of his own yacht] and he became a dead weight on the back
of my dinghy. I had no choice but to try and haul him in over the stern and
hoped that the dinghy wouldn't swamp with our combined weight of almost 400
pounds in the back of the boat. The Pudgy performed perfectly, I got a hold
of his belt and pulled him aboard without taking on any water at all. I was
pleasantly surprised to say the least...Score one for the Portland Pudgy,
the little boat that will save your life!”
Here's a link to a Pudgy owner's blog describing his Pudgy lifeboat test. (Scroll down to the May 26, 2011 entry.)
Portland Pudgy, Inc., 200 Anderson St., Portland, ME 04101 207.761.2428 or 207.712.4027 email@example.com