Abandon Ship, Abandon Ship!

So your ship is going down….things are looking very grim….what do you do?  How will you react?  Will you make good or bad decisions? 

We all like to think that we will do the right thing in a crisis, but rarely we do.  I remember once frozen to the spot as rapid gunfire went off all around me while living in war torn Northern Uganda back in 1999.  What I should have done is hit the floor and not look around for where the sound was coming from!  Nowadays… people take the Darwin awards that one step further by getting out their smart phones and start recording such scenes!

One of the ways to find out how you will cope in a tight situation is to put yourself on a course that 1) will teach you the theory of what to do if you find yourself in one and 2) a course that then puts that theory you have learnt to the test!

Enter Andark Diving and Watersports based down in Swanwick, Southampton.  Andark run many different types of training courses, but it was their RYA Sea Survival Course that Jim Molyneux our club Building Officer on the Committee organised a trip for any interested club members to attend in May 2018. 

Now, BSAC do offer many skills development courses; one such is the Practical Rescue Management which our Tony and Elaine organised last year at Wraysbury, which focuses mainly on what do with an injured diver in the sea and how to manage their rescue and evacuation.   

There is obviously some repetition on the RYA’s Sea Survival course such as ‘human factors’, first aid, radio work, flares and helicopter/boat transfer (a good refresher)….but this course answers questions like….what if your ship is sinking, types of life rafts, life vests, sea survival gear and what you need in your grab bag to survive?  

Split into a morning of theory and an afternoon of practical drills in Andark’s own purpose built training pool the course was non stop and fun…something for everyone!

The day (27th May 2018) started at 9am with 9 members of Kingston and Elmbridge Sub Aqua Club joining four other sailors who would use the training on their own boats or required the qualification to further their commercial captain ratings.

The day’s training was led by an RNLI trainer, who himself is a Cox from a nearby Lifeboat station and therefore brought to the training much more in depth knowledge and first-hand experience.

While the mornings theory session was comprehensive, for me the afternoon session was the real eye opener into how I would cope….little did we know what was in store for us!

After lunch we made our way over to Andark’s indoor swimming pool used for Recreation and Commercial Diving training and HUET training.  (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training).

We all changed into our old clothes and donned life vests before jumping into the swimming pool and proceeded to learn how to keep warm, how to keep together in a ring, placing any injured people in the centre.  We then practiced how to move in one line linked together by our toes under the arms of the person in front – in a move called the  ‘crocodile’ (or as any funky dance floor king or queen knows it’s – ‘oops upside your head’ dance move) .  This formation reduced the chance of people being separated and is useful in ‘dragging’ any one injured through the water.

Next we each had a go of getting into a 10 man life raft from the water, which was actually quite tricky trying to stand up on a rope ladder that was determined to fold under the life raft!  We then practiced how to use the equipment we ‘brought’ in our grab bag and how to right a capsized life raft…again, quiet hard work if you didn’t know the technique required (glad I practiced it).

We then all had a go jumping off a 3m high platform into the pool to simulated what it would be like to jump fully clothed with life vest on from a high sided boat.  It was such a long way down, but eventually everyone successfully achieved this and felt good for doing so!

The final activity and one I wasn’t expecting was when our trainer took the two groups we had previously been placed into two different changing rooms.  Our group was then briefed as to use any means at our disposal to try and put the other group off evacuating an imaginary ship (pool side)into the life raft we had just practiced using.   When we returned from the changing rooms the team at Andark had darkened the whole swimming pool by covering all the windows and had switched on the sprinkler systems to replicate rain.  We were then given a cold water hose, lots of different buckets, whistles and wooden boards to make as much noise and splashing water as we could when the other team came out of their changing room. 

This was so much fun for our group….not so much for the other, however after they had successful evacuated their ship into the water, then into the life rafter and rowed back and forth a few times in the pool it was our turn!  Revenge was sweet for them!

I may not have done or remembered everything correctly that day, but by practicing the skills we had learnt I can definitely say we are all better prepared should such an unfortunate event happen to us in the future.  

Thank you Jim for organising such a fun and informative day!