Survival at sea...teachers in a liferaft!

Learning how to survive an emergency at sea is an important part of our teachers' training before they join the ship. All six of them underwent a full day's training on Personal Survival Techniques at the Warsash Maritime College, just outside Southampton. The course is a mix of classroom-based training and the dreaded practical session - 2 hours in the pool putting their skills into practice. Getting into a liferaft sounds easy, but it's definitely harder than it looks!

Gillian writes:

"The Personal Survival Training course was quite a day. I had heard so many scare stories from one source or another I wasn’t quite sure what was in store for us. I arrived with my head full of images of having to jump 10m from a diving board into a cold dark pool with fire hydrants spraying on us and I wasn’t quite sure what was ahead of me. In the morning there was lots of useful theory and then in the afternoon a practical in the pool where we had to don a lifejacket and perform the survival techniques. The most difficult it turned out was not the jump but the very undignified scramble into a life raft. I found this almost impossible. I hope that in a real situation the adrenaline would kick in to give me the extra boost required! After that we had to make a human chain in the water, clamping our legs around each other and using our arms as oars.

A great sense of team work developed with people I had only just met. Everyone wanted their fellow capsizes to succeed in their rescue. Then the whole process was repeated in the dark and with cold hoses spraying on us. This was very realistic and it felt very different under those circumstances. It made me realise that what we are about to do at sea is serious stuff and we need to be well prepared in every way. Lots of people have lost their lives at sea and if they had only known a few simple techniques it would have saved their lives. At least I have an idea now of how to tackle a disaster at sea. At the end of a long day I felt as though I had achieved a lot. Let’s hope I don’t need to use it!"

Eduard writes:

"I arrived at the Warsash Martime Academy feeling quite nervous, thinking about all the comments I had heard about the course. Even the title 'Personal Survival Techniques' was quite startling for me and I would by lying if I told you that I was anticipating an easy and relaxed day. The first half of the session was in the classroom and started with loads of advice concerning what to do in case we have to abandon the vessel: listen to the Master, don't panic, how to put on a life-jacket… I was trying to understand everything the instructor was explaining. As a non-native English speaker I was afraid of missing any important information. Now I can say I learnt a lot, more than I could imagine, and I hope I don’t ever have to use it. Despite the serious matters we were dealing with, the instructor managed to explain all the important information in a relaxing atmosphere (even when he showed us some photos of the effects of hypothermia!).

After lunch, we went to the swimming pool to get soaked. Like everybody else, the first thing I realised was the height of the diving board (about three meters). At first it is a bit daunting but, luckily, after jumping you are not scared any more. We then started some exercises with our life jackets on, imagining that we had left the ship and we were in the middle of the ocean. At the beginning I felt like a first-timer in an aerobics class - when everybody was going right, I was going left! Fortunately, very quickly I got the rhythm. I specially enjoyed the part where I learnt how to turn over an upside down liferaft. It looks easy but it's not, especially because the surface of the raft could be slippery if you do not lean on it correctly.

Just when I thought that all the activities in the swimming pool had finished, the instructor told us we were going to simulate an abandon ship situation. Suddenly, he switched off the light. We had to do it in the dark and with another surprise: with cold hoses spraying on us! Fortunately, the water in the swimming pool was nice and warm. This was our chance to put all the skills we had learnt in the previous session into practice. Seeing all my fellow students working together, jumping into the water and scrambling into the liferaft was really exciting. We all did it quite well. Once we got into the raft, the silence came. It was the first peaceful moment of the day. We were staring at each other. We didn’t say anything, but I felt that all of us were thinking about the same: It has been just a simulation, it has been fun, but I hope this is the first and last time I have to do it. We were waiting for the call of the instructor. While we were waiting, I thought to myself: imagine this is not a simulation, what now? Be calm, my survival chances have radically improved..."

[photos and video clips coming soon....!]

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