Akuna Bay Cruising Club

Report on ABCC Members' Sea Survival course

Wednesday 14 October, 2009

Yachting Australia Safety and Survival at Sea.
2 day course held on September 26 and October 11, 2009

As you are aware, your Committee has an ongoing commitment to not only provide an active social calendar but also improve our knowledge on seamanship and boating safety.
This course was offered to members as part of this program and 8 of us participated eagerly and gained great insights in terms of planning for and dealing with emergency situations at sea.

The course results in a "Certificate of Competency" from Yachting Australia valid for 5 years. We met a number of yachties who engage mainly in offshore racing and some were renewing this compulsory training. They asked why so many power boat skippers were doing the training (only 1 yachtie amongst our group)! Really the relevance to us all became very obvious when we consider how many of us do some offshore coastal cruising and the emergency situations that may arise, even in the safety of the marina or Refuge Bay. Also many of us aspire to do some long haul cruising to warmer climates such as Hamilton Island.

We all agreed that "stinkies" are more sensible as we generally turn left once out of the Heads while yachties turn right to cold places like Hobart!

Day 1 - Theory Discussions
In the clubroom we ran through the course material which educated us on safety and emergency planning and the equipment and technology required for this and for rescue situations.

The lesson for us is that many of us take this aspect of boating too lightly, given the friendly waters that we normally boat in. But emergencies are usually unforeseen and unpredictable and we should be prepared!

Day 2 - Training Pool at Qantas airport
Well what an experience for us pleasure boaties! We got to fully experience emergency simulations using our safety gear such as our Type 1 inflatable PFDs and 10 man liferafts. This was a great bonding exercise for participants with group exercises including survival strategies such as huddling together to conserve body heat! The simulated Abandon Ship exercise with 2 liferafts and 18 persons in the water in rain and darkness seemed very real and disorientating. This involved everybody entering the water then organising into groups and boarding liferafts- counting off everybody to identify anybody missing - and planning for survival and rescue.

Lessons here were very stark - firstly, we never want to be in these situations, or worse, and careful planning and awareness of cruising conditions and knowledge of emergency procedures are paramount. Secondly - all crew should be familiar with the location and usability of safety equipment. The inflatable lifejackets displayed the ability to self-right people in the water while foam jackets could not! These liferaft drills were eye-opening about survival at sea if the ship goes down.

Some Takeouts
Without attempting to be comprehensive, the following thoughts summarise some of our learnings:
" Familiarise yourself with your own vessel, its safety equipment and their deployment eg lifejackets, rafts, radios, EPIRBs, etc.
" Reliability of equipment cannot be assumed despite regular service - do your own inspection of equipment on a regular basis. One of our PFD's stitching gave way during usage and others proved to be defective in design. Also your fire extinguishers should be routinely checked - as most are Powder types this tends to compact over time and needs dislodging.
" Put in place stowage plans for your vessel about your equipment, shut off valves etc.
" Put emergency procedures in place for various situations, such as Man Overboard, sea anchoring, emergency steering, bar crossings.
" Planning for offshore trips is key with respect to likely weather and sea conditions.

To encourage safety awareness we will be arranging some sessions at the Marina, such as a Man Overboard drill. Also we hope to have a Training Expert do a short presentation to Members one Friday evening.

I encourage you to be more aware of the available training scheduled by your Committee in addition to the usual fun that the Club is renowned for. Thank you to Past-Commodore Stephen Smith for arranging the above course.

Happy and Safe Boating

Jeff Sheehan