“hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky,
let your sold and spirits fly, into the mystic..."
- Van Morrison
I love being out on the water. Van Morrison summed it up in those lyrics... smell the sea and feel the sky, let your soul and spirits fly... I. Love. It.
I am so very lucky to be involved in a research project that involves boating and being out on the water. When we take divers out to collect samples, the divers get into the water and I stay top side to take care of collecting samples using plankton nets. The species I'm most interested in live far deeper in the water column, much too deep for divers to see and collect by hand. During the 2011 season, there were days I was the only person topside. And I kind of loved it. It was quiet. I'd put the nets in the water and bask in the (usually) calm and nearly always quiet time I had on the boat. Last summer, we typically had two researchers topside doing sample collecting and being lookouts. I like that too. We are adding more and more research tasks to our time on the boat and it truly pays to have a second person on deck. We have too much to do and someone also needs to be lookout. I have spent many many mornings out on the water during our summer field season and, less often, out at BML. Through all of those days on the boat, rarely have I ever thought about how I'd handle an emergency... What if something goes wrong? A diver gets sick? Someone falls overboard? We run out of gas (oh wait, that happened last year!). You get the picture.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had zero training on how to handle a boating emergency. And even though I was 'trained' last year to drive the boat we use at the Wrigley Marine Science Center, I wasn't ready to handle an emergency. While a hurt diver is unlikely given the way the researchers dive - blue water diving, tethered to trapeze - an emergency can happen. Something as simple as a diver losing a fin can be a hassle yes (ever try to pull yourself into a boat soaking wet without fins on? Fins help - a lot.), but what if something serious happens. Could I pull a male colleague (a foot taller and 60+ lbs heavier than me) back into the boat. Um, I think I might have a hard time with that. So this year, my colleague Ann Russell thought it would be a good idea to complete a boat safety course. Ann took the class earlier this year and I recently completed the class at the Bodega Marine Lab with some really great instructors. The training starts in the classroom, but we also got to do some pool exercises where we learned to do rescues, pull boaters back into the boat, try on different PFDs - pulling yourself onto a boat isn't easy, add a water logged integrated PFD and it becomes WAY harder. We also did boating exercises learning how to dock the boat, we did man-over-board rescues, and some tricky boat maneuvering that was WAY harder once the winds pick up to 20-30 knots. And, importantly, I now know how to make a bunch of sailor knots. I've used a few already. O.k., so they were for tethering my dogs leashes together, but still, they are some handy knots.
This summer I will head out to sea feeling much more prepared to drive the boat and handle an emergency and will not forget the wise words of our instructor James Fitzgerald... Helm before Throttle - know where you are going before you try to get there, and most importantly recognize when not to go at all!
A special thanks to all of the instructors - James, Jason, David, Matt, and Alex - for your time and effort with the training.