The participants learned about cold water survival skills, maydays, EPIRBS, flares, man overboard recovery, immersion suits and PFDs, emergency drills, firefighting, life rafts, abandoning ship, helicopter rescue and conducting emergency drills on their own boats.
Half of the group taking the class were experienced mariners, while the other half were greenhorns, AMSEA instructor Julie Matweyou said.
“For some of them, it’s their first time in a survival suit,” Matweyou said. “This is a really good introduction for them, to see what dangers are out there.”
The class was very hands on. Every participant got a chance to practice pulling the cord to release a demonstrative life raft casing from its cradle, and lifting and moving the casing. They all tried on PFDs and immersion suits and practiced sending maydays.
Near the end of the life raft training, they pulled the cord on a real raft and watched it pop out of its protective cover.
Once it inflated, Matweyou demonstrated how to turn a life raft over, showed where the knives used to cut the line attaching the raft to a boat were stored, explained the survival kit, had a student toss the throwing line used to rescue crew members in the water, and explained the ballast bags that filled with water to keep the life raft from tipping over in the water.
Matweyou emphasized that different boats will have different gear, and not getting too used to one particular type. Different brands and models as well as older and newer life rafts will look different and have different features.
To get in the older demonstration life raft, there was a ladder made from webbing. On newer life rafts, Matweyou said, there are inflatable ramps to make boarding easier.
The class will fulfill the requirements for a drill conductor card for all the participants. This means the participants will be authorized to conduct monthly drills on their own boats, something that’s required for all documented boats fishing in federal waters.
“I’ve heard folks who’ve taken the class have gained lots of skills and have used them,” Matweyou said.
The class is offered in 10-hour and 18-hour versions, but this class was a modified 10-hour, Matweyou said, giving the participants about 14 hours of class time, including in-the-water practice on the second day. The participants will practice deploying life rafts and flipping it over and getting in while wearing an immersion suit. They’ll also practice swimming skills.
The most important things she’s teaching, Matweyou said, are basic safety and the ability to teach drills. “They take home the ability to conduct the emergency drills, which are required monthly on some vessels, and to practice those skills on the vessel.”
Contact Julie Herrmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.