The docks of Las Palmas Marina are buzzing with the crews of ARC January continuing their pre-departure preparation ahead of their departure for Saint Lucia on Sunday 9 January. After several glorious sunny days, clouds gathered today over Gran Canaria but the heat is on as the days tick down to departure.
On Tuesday, Roger Seymour from Hamble School of Yachting and leader of the Safety Team for ARC January narrated an air-sea rescue demonstration to a socially distanced crowd. The excellent demonstration saw an enactment of a hi-line transfer where a diver was dropped down from a rescue helicopter on a wire directly into the sea (sometimes they may be onto the vessel instead). “As the helicopter arrives they often fly over to have a look at the general conditions. They prefer to go into the wind so if you are given a course to steer, it’s normally 30 degrees off the wind, with the wind on the port bow,” explained Roger in his informative commentary.
“The helicopter prefers it if the boat is moving forward fast, if possible. Instructions are given on the radio before arriving and the briefing is internationally very similar. A course and speed on which to steer is then given and must be followed without deviation before being instructed on how they will lower a line to the boat. The hi-line is a long line with a weighted sack on the end. Normally this will be dipped into the water before it can be taken on board and grabbed; preferably with a pair of gloves on. It’s a good idea to have a bucket nearby so that as you pull the line you can coil the rope into the bucket so it doesn’t get tangled on anything. Never tie it onto your boat!”
As the diver came down on the wire, Roger explained that the person on the boat would pull the line, which can be quite hard, particularly if there’s a swell. As the diver on the wire gets closer to the boat he will give instructions visually on how and when he wants to pull you in. When he lands on the boat it’s normally on the port quarter and they drop him on the deck. As soon as he’s on the deck he will unclip himself from the wire and then the boat’s crew would feed the hi-line out again and the helicopter will back off. The diver will give instructions of whatever is necessary on the boat and if they are evacuating a person, the crew will then pull the hi-line back in.
“The downdraft on the heli causes spray so you need to prepare your boat before it arrives by removing any loose objects and anything that’s sticking up on the port quarter of your boat. The divers are very physically fit but think about what is the best access on your boat in the ocean in a swell. The diver will then take control.”
Taking photos and videos from the shore, the crew could experience the effects of the downdraft, and it certainly was good to view the event in practice, in the very unlikely event an evacuation would be needed from their vessel.
Adding to the education experience ensuring crews are rally ready, the day continued with online Q&A sessions on the topics of Communications at Sea and Provisioning. Ed Wildgoose from MailaSail has supported hundreds of ARC participants with their satcoms needs and was happy to advise and troubleshoot some hiccups that participants were finding. Communicating with email is one of the ways World Cruising Club support participants during their crossing, with daily fleet position reports and weather forecasts issued, as well as important messages about navigation hazards and happenings in the fleet.
The adage goes ‘a well fed crew is a happy crew’, and Clare Pengelly offered her provisioning tips in an online session on Tuesday to make sure crew were smiling all the way across. From meal plans to ensuring items are correctly stored on board, the middle of the Atlantic ocean is a long way from a supermarket and its an important part of the crossing experience to spend the time planning now. The local suppliers of Las Palmas are well used to ARC rally provisioners, and try to make it easy for crews to plan their meals on board with pre-packaged meat portions and ready to ripen fruit to keep them going for as long as possible.
This evening, Wednesday, is a chance for participants to enjoy a few beverages and tapas at the Farewell Drinks held at Tao. With a Caribbean theme, they can certainly start dreaming of the rising Pitons of Saint Lucia and enjoy a chance to relax before another day of checking off the jobs list tomorrow.