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The type of life rafts you carry on your sailboat will vary depending on the type of sailing you do. If you sail a dinghy, it can act as a raft since it will maintain buoyancy even if it takes on water. But you decide to venture offshore--or do any type of long distance sailing--you should consider life rafts an essential part of your boat gear.
If you venture into rough seas or cold water, you should have a life raft that is capable of offering you and your crew complete protection from the water, not just a way to hang on until help comes. Even what most sailors consider warm water will draw heat away from the body and cause hypothermia quickly. Many life rafts, sold at sailboat equipment stores, also come with a canopy that will protect you from the sun. Additional features of these rafts include the ability to be instantly inflated, safety lines ringed around the edge, and a type of 'anchor' that hangs beneath the raft to hold it near the vessel that has capsized.
Depending on the type of sailing you do, you may not need this type of sailing gear. But, never assume the worst won't happen when sailing. It is better to be over-protected than under-protected when sailing. Additional safety sailing supplies include life vests for each passenger, safety harnesses and a throwable life ring or sling for pulling someone back to the boat. These items are essential even if passengers are good swimmers. Keep in mind anyone who goes overboard is likely to weak from fear, fatigue and water temperature.