Yorkshire Divers - Sea Survival Course
  • Sponsors

  • Sea Survival Course

    I step off the transom of the boat into cold clean air and clasp my lifejacket just about as hard as I could. The rush of freezing water over my un-hooded head is such a shock my first words on surfacing was a very choice and totally sincere expletive! Since I was wearing a lifejacket and no hood, you have probably gathered this was not actually a dive – I was doing the wet drill of my sea survival course in Scalloway, Shetland….in December, in minus 3.

    The course covers in a safe environment exactly what goes on when your boat sinks and mine was taught with stuff provided by “SeaFish” which was very good – lots of real life footage of boats sinking, enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up!

    The main thing I got from the course and from the incident last year involving Howard, was most divers will have very little idea of what actually happens when a boat sinks.

    First of all I would say this is totally and utterly no substitute for doing the course. But in one of the worst situations I have ever been in information I had read on here helped me, so maybe it will do the same for you.

    Firstly, a liferaft is compulsory on any vessel taking paying passengers. It is usually stored in a white plastic or glass fibre container which can be a barrel shape or smaller ones can be a rectangle. They are designed for a maximum number of people which will be marked on it somewhere. I have seen a group organiser actually go and check our raft for being in date and thought a lot of him for doing so. Any skipper who has kept his or her raft up to date should not mind you looking.

    A liferaft has to be serviced. All good boats will have this done whenever the liferaft warrants it and it will be marked on it when it was done or when it is due. Ours is done every year, in fact if you are a boat nerd, you will probably notice that our liferaft changes shape every year – this is because we hire one rather than own one and are assured a fully working fully serviced raft from the professional company. Good to know

    The next thing is liferafts take time to deploy. A raft is fixed to the boat in a place where it is not obstructed by anything above it – a boom, bits of boat kit etc should not stop it floating free from its mounting. It is held in place by straps and a special clip, plus a hydrostatic release. A hydrostatic release looks like this and will have an Out of Date sticker on it showing when it should be replaced:

    Hammar Release (in a classroom)

    It contains a small chemical charge which when exposed to a depth of between 3-5m (it varies from release to release) will allow a small but very sharp knife to cut the line holding the straps and let go of the canister. This will then float to the surface but will still be attached to the boat via a painter rope. As the vessel sinks this pulls out the painter rope and after a certain amount of line will deploy the gas canister and inflate the raft which pops out like a manic hissing, farting, bouncy castle. Once the boat has sunk to the maximum stretch of the painter, the line snaps via a weak link and the raft is set free.

    If the boat is taking more time to sink, or it is on fire, you do not need to wait for it to disappear onto the dive site list before you can launch the liferaft. Undo the clip (or cut the straps) and attach the painter, which is the bit of rope sticking out of one end, to something solid and chuck it over the side. You need to pull on the rope for a bloody long way before you feel resistance on it, I think the one we had was 14m. One short sharp tug will open the gas canister and inflate the raft.

    Do not undo the painter until the vessel has sunk or you are in imminent danger. In the Fastnet yachtie race they found liferafts with bodies in them and the yacht they had abandoned was still afloat. They drift like buggery and you can be miles from the site before help arrives. There is a knife hung on a bit of string right in the middle of the raft – it should be hanging down in front of your face as you climb in – this is for knifing the bastards you don’t want inside…only kidding, its for cutting the painter loose if you have used it

    Other stuff:

    To flip a raft that has opened upside down, find the gas bottle and there is a righting ladder. Climb up on it and it will flip the right way up with your weight, but beware of the thing landing on your head – holding an arm above you will help.

    Climb don’t jump into a raft if you can help it. If you have to jump into the sea wearing a lifejacket, for gawds sake hold onto the fecker or you will end up with a bloody nose as they ride up and smack you in the face. A drysuit is a good idea, but is not a lifejacket. It might keep you warm and dry but to be honest if you smack your head on the way in you will drown being face down (but be warm and dry) while a lifejacket will turn you face up. A no brainer to be honest.

    There is a big cardboard carton inside the raft. This contains all your supplies, flares and instructions on how to manage the raft , such as chucking in the sea anchor or drogue, how to use the pump to inflate the floor to insulate you from the cold and how to make maximum use of your supplies. Take the sea sick tablets right away. No matter how strong your stomach or how flat the sea, you will hurl your guts up and get dehydrated.

    Liferaft Carton Contents:

    Deploy the location aids – your raft might have a SART beacon, an EPIRB or you might have a VHF radio in a wheelhouse grab bag. Use them and yell for help. Sod knowing how to use these things, all of the important ones will have it written on them in idiot proof language and if you aren’t qualified to use a VHF press the button and yell help – the coastguard will talk you through the rest.
    Never fire flares unless you are in sight of land or you can see a vessel. Don’t fire parachute flares if there is a helicopter around – not a way to win friends and influence people.

    A ships epirb (which is on a float free mechanisim - it will deploy regardless of you doing anything to it) and a hand held epirb:

    A SART beacon (puts funny lines on a radar screen) and a VHF:

    Flares - learn how to use them and not by reading about it on the internet!

    If you are on a boat which is in an oh poo situation it can go nipples skyward so quickly. A ferry can turn turtle in a matter of minutes, so never let size fool you into safety. Google Bourbon Dolphin if you don't believe me, this was a modern vessel with all the safety gear.

    Know your exits and do what the crew tells you to do, we make a point of telling people where the lifejackets are and keeping exits free – listen! Do not linger to pack your bag or look for something valuable, its no use being a corpse wearing a rolex.

    __________________________________________________ _______

    I hope some of this is of use to you and in the same breath I hope you never need it.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Sea Survival Course started by Helen F H View original post
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. dry suit diver's Avatar
      dry suit diver -
      thank you very much for this. I might look into this , sounds like it could be a good thing for the branch to do.
    1. Rod's Avatar
      Rod -
      Only about £120-150 each so excellent value, hopefully you will never need it.
    1. Tilesey's Avatar
      Tilesey -
      Thanks for writing this Helen. Checking where the life raft is, is now one of the first things I do whenever I board a dive boat.
    1. soggybottoms's Avatar
      soggybottoms -
      Great write up Helen.

      I did sea survival when I learnt to sail and righting or getting into a liferaft is tough when you're in the water.
      We found the most effective technique was to get our strongest fittest person in first and then they could help the others in by pulling them up and out of the water.

      I'd endorse any sea going diver to take the course

      It's great fun as well - who wouldn't enjoy firing flares and arsing round in a pool with your mates?
    1. Marky Mark's Avatar
      Marky Mark -
      There's a place in Billingham does courses like this we did a taster one night, upside down helicopters and life rafts, great fun.
    1. purple vonny's Avatar
      purple vonny -
      Cor! I did this in a swimming pool and although you don't get even the slightest idea of how numbingly cold open water is, it was nevertheless sobering and scarey to think "what if" all the time we were doing drills.

      This is an excellent write up Helen, well done, I hope it drives home to people the importance of actually listening to the safety brief, trying life jackets on and to learning how to use flares.
    1. MartyC's Avatar
      MartyC -
      As always H, informative and well worth the read!
    1. Foggy's Avatar
      Foggy -
      Thank You H, also note that IIRC in the Sidney Hobart race, several liferafts disappeared in the wind before people could get into them - they make very good kites!

    1. aquamark's Avatar
      aquamark -
      Thanks for that Helen. I certainly learnt a lot of useful information that hopefully I will never need. Thanks again - Mark
    1. Blu DL's Avatar
      Blu DL -
      thanks. That was realy useful!
    1. alrhem's Avatar
      alrhem -
      Excellent article Helen! Very Informative
  • Sponsors

  • Recent Posts


    Convert audio files online for free

    Are you looking for a convenient audio converter that works in a browser and does not require registration? Do you want to quickly convert a file to mp3

    ElwinCropper Today, 06:49 AM Go to last post

    Now Hear This !

    I don't usually post much.., but I wanted to share this amazing audio book with you guys!
    https://amzn.to/39wchWF (and its FREE ! )

    joehank8 Yesterday, 10:44 PM Go to last post

    exercise before diving

    All divers should keep general fitness but certain exercises exactly relate to diving because divers use various muscle:
    The exercises you can

    DiveConcepts Yesterday, 12:21 PM Go to last post

    Strip poker?

    There are many poker strategies that can improve your knowledge at any stage of your poker mindset, regardless of your skill level. There are also life

    LaserQ Yesterday, 11:30 AM Go to last post

    Apeks XL4 Ex School Set

    Apeks XL4 Ex School Set On Ebay


    tompeter Yesterday, 07:53 AM Go to last post

    FUN88 Esports Cá Cược Liên Minh Huyền Thoại (LOL)

    FUN88 Esports Cá Cược Liên Minh Huyền Thoại (LOL)[/b]
    Làm sao để chơi FUN88 Esports Cá Cược Liên Minh Huyền Thoại

    baotp123 Yesterday, 07:04 AM Go to last post
  • Sponsor

  • YD Calendar

  • Recent Articles