I landed face-down in a puddle of water. Spluttering and clumsy in my oilies and lifejacket I struggled to get sitting up
You’ll learn how to swim on your back in a lifejacket, and how to stick together for safety. The strongest swimmers go first, the weakest one (me!) last.
You throw the raft in the water. Who should get in first? You waste time deciding – and it’s not ‘women and children’. The raft’s capsized! How on earth do you right it? More thinking time wasted, and a couple of failed attempts. Finally you’re all in. Now what? You need to cut the painter – who’s got a knife? Which end do you cut? (It’s important – you’ll learn why).
WET AND WOBBLY So, once we’d heaved the liferaft into the pool, we leapt into action. The strongest person climbed in first to help the others in. ‘Boarding’ from the side of the pool was fairly easy. The next task wasn’t – climbing in from the water. With your lifejacket inflated it’s almost impossible unless there are two big strong men to pull you in. (Women find it harder, says Ron, as they have less upper- body strength.) I let quite a lot of air out of my lifejacket and managed to get myself up but still needed a big heave from those
You quickly realise how easily you could drown from inhaling a wave – a sprayhood is essential.
inside to get me in. I landed face-down in a puddle of water.
Spluttering and clumsy in my oilies and lifejacket I struggled to get sitting up, when the next person landed on top of me and I was face-down again. Liferafts are wet, wobbly, disorientating and sick-making – and that’s just in a swimming pool. Ron had ‘disabled’ the raft a bit – he’d
Signalling for help – once safely in the liferaft your next job is to increase your chances of being seen.
broken the zips and was throwing buckets of water in through the doors. We couldn’t shut them. The raft was filling with water and Ron had stolen the bailer. I tried bailing with one of my shoes – hopeless. It was utter chaos. It was a couple of minutes before a natural leader started calmly to issue instructions and for followers to flounder around (which was the only possible mode of action) to help, but then Ron let us out for the next ‘game’. Imagine you were separated from the
raft. Ron showed us how to get someone back. Then capsize drill. We each managed to right the 8-man raft, which was much bigger than you’d normally come across. It was easy in the pool, but I hate to think how hard it would be in wind and waves. How we all felt at the end of the day depended on age and fitness. The young guys seemed exhilarated with new confidence that they had the basic skills they could call upon in an emergency. Anyone who’s unfit or getting on in years might find this course a bit of a heads-up. It certainly reinforces the absolute necessity to avoid falling overboard in the first place, and to stay on your boat as long as you possibly can – a liferaft is not an easy place to be.
DO IT ONCE, AT LEAST What I’ve written here only scratches the surface of what we learnt that Saturday. I’m now working my way through the
RYA Sea Survival Handbook, trying to apply the advice to my family’s cruising boat. I have started looking for a new, higher-spec lifejacket with built-in hood and a light, and have checked all those on the boat for wear. And I’m telling all my family and friends to get themselves booked on a course – soon!
Take a look at page 13 to see more information on the syllabus. The list of centres running the course starts on page 17.
Navigation and Specialist Short Courses 2011/2012
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