Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Life saving changes.

The black and white photo above is in this years calendar printed for "Scottish Fishermen's Organisation LTD.

It is in for the month of June and I have been looking at it every morning when I come to my computer.
The boy standing aft is me in my teens on the family boat Olive Tree which at the time was a modern fishing vessel, but each morning this month as I look at it I always notice something that has changed drastically, none more so than the life raft.

The oblong box on the galley roof just aft of the wheelhouse is where the life raft was situated at the time, which meant that if the boat was sinking two men would have to clamber up there to release the raft.

Their first task when they reached the wooden box would be to unhook the four hooks at each corner that held the lid fast, dispatch of the lid, grab hold of a handle situated on each side of the bag the raft was encased in and haul the heavy object out.

The rafts in those days were not made of the light materials modern day vessels carry, but of heavy waterproof canvass type stuff covering a heavy rubber compound and encased inside a canvass bag which made the task of removing the bag difficult in the best of conditions, e.g. when it was taken out in the harbour when its yearly check was due, and its survival contents renewed. (food chocolate tobacco flares etc.)

This was done when we went for our annual overhaul of the engine and a paint to smarten the boat up for the summer fishing, and I had to struggle along with another strong member of the crew to get the raft out of its box, then lowered onto the deck for collection with the help of our lifting derrick. It was then that I thought, what chance would we have if we were in a raging sea sinking, or on fire?

Time would be of the essence, a matter of life and death situation, and our task would be to struggle to get this heavy life raft into the sea which would have been our only chance of survival.
Clamber on top of the wheelhouse go through the motions I just described, then we had to tie a cord to a secure point on the sinking boat and throw the raft into the sea where on its contact with the water the cord should have by then been pulled with the throw and automatically opened and inflated the raft.

If by that time we still had some of the boat to stand on, or for that matter still alive, we then had to try to get on to that raft.

Many lives were lost because of the conditions I have described, with some but a few saved, where conditions might have been more favorable.

Thank goodness for the progress on vessels of today where the raft or rafts (some have and need two) are situated in easier accessible positions, made of lighter materials, and all you need to do is release the plastic casing with a quick release clip and throw.(A long cord was already attached to where the raft had been secured on the boat. This of course was needed to haul the raft into a position that would enable us to board it.)
The raft inflates in seconds, has a roof and provisions, as did the old ones, (minus the roof, which would have added even more weight) in case rescue was delayed for some reason.

The new ones also sends out a signal that can give your position and in some cases even inform the coastguard which boat is in distress.

That to me was one of the more important changes, not only to the fishing industry, but to all mariners who have had to abandon ship.

More emphases is put on safety every year on all types of craft, but to me when I look in horror at the box above the galley, I am so glad that we never had the misfortune to need its contents as I might never have been able to describe the most important life saving change I witnessed during my time at sea.

One thing to remember is that lives will always be lost at sea no matter how safety conscious we become as we will never tame the sea and there will always be a need for the brave men and women in the rescue services who never let us down in our time of need.

A big thanks always goes out to them.

I never thought I would end up as pin-up boy on a calendar. ha ha.

You can make out the new type raft in the first photo, just forward of the wheelhouse, and there would most likely be one on the side opposite.

Click on the photos to enlarge them and give you a better view.

Quite a contrast.

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