Sea Safety Training
We joined Hamble School of Yachting for three days of training, covering the RYA/ISAF Offshore Safety, RYA Sea Survival and RYA First Aid courses.
Why do training?
There is no substitute for the practical hands-on experience gained from spending time at sea, but despite what the ‘salty sea dogs’ say, there is always more to learn; and the best way to learn is from the experts. Our three instructors were all highly experienced – a professional delivery skipper, an ex-Royal Naval training instructor, and a Fire Brigade trauma care instructor – and their personal expertise was an excellent addition to the official syllabus.
Who takes part?
My fellow students were a mix of ARC and Rally Portugal participants, people considering long-distance cruising and partners who wanted to feel more confident onboard. Our ages ranged from late 20s to the mid-60s. Some were taking the courses as part of a wider range of formal training, others just looking to brush-up their knowledge. Five ARC 2012 crew had come out from Denmark specially to take the Offshore Safety and Sea Survival courses, as these are not available closer to home.
What is covered?
The courses are designed to improve your knowledge and help you to prepare for the worst situation. We learned practical tips for what to do if the yacht is holed or if a seacock fails; how to manage a gas leak; what to do in case of fire onboard; recovering a man overboard; helping a seriously injured or sick crew; clearing and managing a dismasting; and the ultimate worst-case scenario, abandoning the yacht.
Our instructors made us think about how we would equip and manage our boats in these situations, and how we would prepare ourselves if we were crewing or chartering. We learned about the different issues facing yachts and crews who sail outside of coastal waters, and we discussed the need for independence and self-reliance when ocean sailing.
Is it just sitting in a classroom?
The courses were very hands-on. We used the local swimming pool for lifejacket and liferaft practice, and we used the sailing school boats in the marina. We hoist storm jibs and tri sails, looking at the safety equipment installation and trying out man-overboard recovery systems; we fired handheld flares and fought imaginary fires with a range of real fire extinguishers; we cut wire and rod rigging with bolt croppers; we tried mouth-to-mouth and CPR on dummies; we practiced swimming in full wet-weather gear and lifejackets; and we launched and boarded a liferaft and then righted an inverted raft.
See the You Tube video clips below of us having a go:
Fire extinguisher (water)
Fire extinguisher (dry powder)
Fire extinguisher (CO2)
What did we learn?
At the end of the weekend I felt ready to consider how best to prevent emergencies onboard, and capable of managing the situation should the worst happen. The practical experience in the swimming pool and in the liferaft really brought home to me that abandoning to a liferaft is the really the last thing to do, only when all other options have been exhausted.
See a video of participant Christian Koefoed-Nielsen talking about what he learned on the training.
As Christian Koefoed-Nielsen, skipper of Psyche (GBR) said: “It has given me serious food for thought, and I am now more alert to what can go wrong and how to fix it.” Christian’s partner and crew, Suzanna, said that the courses were a real confidence booster: “As a less experienced sailor I found it massively helpful. I’ll never hear the words ‘grab and bag’ again without wanting to fill one up immediately!” Bernard Sumner, skipper of Siren (GBR) said: “You’ve got to think through the issues and to be prepared in advance for events without scaring yourself to death.”