The hairs on the back of my neck stand up just a little when I think about the fact that a required module of this course is essentially “ways to avoid dying at sea”. I’m paying attention to this one, even more so than yesterday’s “how not to die in a fire”.

Tomorrow we’ll be covering “how not to kill the crew with your cooking”, which I’m expecting to lower the drama level considerably.

There seems to be a theme to these lessons. They involve watching footage of a fucked-up situation, and then discussing how we make that situation never happen again. Today’s video was video captured by passengers on the Costa Concordia, which was a cruise ship that sank after running aground off the coast of Italy in 2012. This was our introduction to the fact that at some point we may have to leave our vessel, and how that can go very badly wrong.

The captain of the Concordia received a 16 year sentence for his part in the disaster.


Unexciting but necessary – we ran through all the personal protective equipment you might find on a ship, what it’s good for and when to use it. We covered types of life raft as well, from the small 6-man raft we have on the boat I’m sitting in to the torpedo rafts used on oil rigs.

The idea of having a grab bag to take into the raft with you was something I hadn’t considered before. There is usually kit inside a raft, but there’s not much and you might be in there for a while before rescue finds you. From water, food, and warm clothes, to signalling devices, cash and passports, there are lots of things that could help you get home safely. I’m tempted to go shopping this weekend to start my own bag.


I have a strong feelings about swimming. I’m pretty sure they invented boats because swimming is too damned hard. I’m not great at it. Pool work is not my favourite thing.

So we spent the afternoon in the pool. The ability to tread water for a minimum of 2 minutes without any assistance is a requirement of the certification, which is where we started, and then we moved on to working in life jackets.

The fun part of this was after getting past the basic entry-from-height and swimming in a life jacket parts when we started on techniques for working as a group. We formed circular huddles with interlinked arms facing inwards to be able to support people with gear issues or who were unconscious, outwards to be able to fend off sharks, and practiced transitioning from one to the other without losing strong connections between group members. We also worked on rescue tows between 2 people, and moving the whole group around the pool by shifting formation from a huddle to a crocodile (imagine locking your legs around the person in front of you, who does the same to the next person, and so on down the chain) swimming as one unit, and then shifting back to a huddle when we’d reached where we needed to be.

We rounded out the afternoon with a life raft, practicing getting a team into it, learning how to use the equipment in it, and ways to get the water out. We finished off with practicing turning over a capsized raft. That’s actually done pretty much the same way you right a turtled dinghy, and it’s a lot easier than I expected.

I am now utterly knackered. It’s been a physically intense few days. But good ones.