Proactive Lifeboat


How is the Pudgy Lifeboat Different from an Inflatable Life Raft?

Lifeboat Reviews



Lifeboat Components

Lifeboat Photo Gallery

Price List

Owner's manual


Adrian Flanagan's "Over the Top"  circumnavigation (note Pudgy on deck): 1, 2

More videos on Lifeboat FAQs page


Portland Pudgy lifeboat during North Sea test (photo from Zeilen).

How is the Portland Pudgy Lifeboat Different from an Inflatable Life Raft?

The Portland Pudgy self-rescue lifeboat is different from an inflatable life raft in two major ways.

First of all,  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).

Cruise ship lifeboats, not life rafts.

To learn more, go to Lifeboat FAQs.  Back to top

Lifeboat/Self-Rescue Boat Reviews:

Zeilen magazine tested the Pudgy lifeboat in the North Sea.  "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..."

Zeilen, "Een Multifunctionele Levensredder,"  September, 2008.

The two-man crew were dropped 20 miles out in the North Sea, in rough weather, and sailed the Portland Pudgy to land.

Crew sailed Portland Pudgy proactive lifeboat 20 miles to safety. life boat

Sail Magazine editor-in-chief says he'd feel safer in the Pudgy lifeboat than in an inflatable life raft.  “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.

Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors writer says she'd feel safer in the Pudgy lifeboat than in an inflatable life raft.    ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOATS OF THE YEAR

"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.

Power Cruising says self-rescue lifeboat looks like a good idea., a liferaft alternative. 

"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"

Pudgy Owners:

"We 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.” 
Rolland T. (While sailing the Northwest Passage with his family, up from Michigan to Newfoundland and then over Canada to Russia and down the coast of Alaska, 2008-09.) Here's a link to one of the pages in his
blog where he talks about the Pudgy.

(After 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!
Don Q., Mexico, NY.  Click here to see the report of the incident.

Here's a link to a Pudgy owner's blog describing his Pudgy lifeboat test. (Scroll down to  the May 26, 2011 entry.)

back to top

Other pages

Optional Accessories
and Prices
About Us
Safety Dinghy/
Yacht Tender
Fishing Boat
Hunting Boat
Dinghy Towing
 and Carrying

Portland Pudgy, Inc., 200 Anderson St., Portland, ME 04101    207.761.2428 or 207.712.4027