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Huge waves are common during Winter months
Life boat on Davit
Life Boat Drill
Toot….toot….toot….toot….toot….toot….tooooooooot. Six short
blasts on the horn followed by a long blast. All of us on board know this
by heart. It means "Abandon Ship"!
Luckily, this is not the real thing! It is just a drill. Seamen working
on foreign-going ships often have lifeboat and fire drills. The voyages
are long and very often the ship is the only large object in the vast
ocean for hundreds of miles.
The temperature outside the ship was cold, the sky was cloudy, but the
sea was relatively calm. We could hear people moving out from their cabins
towards the lifeboat deck. All of them were familiar with the muster list
posted at the alleyways. Each person knew his duties.
Generally, deck officers, with the Captain, will take the leading role
in this drill. The engineers will test the lifeboat engines, or help out
with machinery like hoisting motor, gravity brake. The catering department
will be in charge of blankets, and other necessities of survival. Because
of the cold weather, all that took part in the drill wore woolen
to keep warm. Each person wore his own life jacket.
As they assembled underneath the lifeboats, one group to port and
another to starboard, their names were called up. The deck officer in
charge of that lifeboat will verify the names to make sure that nobody is
missing. In this case, the engineer on duty was exempted from the drill.
He had to look after the engines. The ship was still running at full
speed. The cold winds and the splash of the waves sprayed salty air into
everybody's faces. All around, the waves were a grey color. Patches of
white dotted the ocean all around as the waves broke into foam.
The 3rd Officer moved around his group and inspected their lifejackets.
Were they worn properly? Was the whistle still intact? Were the
lifejackets in good condition? He made sure that all of them were normal.
The orders come from the Captain through the walkie-talkie, "Lower
the lifeboat on the starboard until flush with the lifeboat deck."
All the crewmembers from portside went over to the starboard to witness
the lowering of the starboard lifeboat.
The starboard crew swung into action. The deck crew dismantled the
turnbuckles and cables, removed the lifeboat tarpaulin cover, and made
sure that the lifeboat was free to swing down.
When the boat was ready to be lowered down, one of the senior crew, an
AB, lifted up the braking lever by hand in a slow and controlled manner.
The lifeboat was lowered down, on its own weight by gravity. The boat was
lowered until the level of the lifeboat deck.
The gravity davit is the hanging device for the lifeboat. It is
designed to make use of gravity to lower the boat. In actual use, this is
the position where all the people will board the lifeboat. The boat will
then be lowered onto the water below, and the hooks suspending it will be
able to work loose once the boat is floating on water. Sometimes the boat
will be lowered onto the water when the ship is at anchor. The person who
lowers the boat will climb down the side of the ship by using a rope
Usually, the boat will not be lowered. Usually, the drill is just to
ensure that all the crew knows what to do when abandoning ship. Usually,
the lifeboat engines will be test started as a regular routine for the
engineers, regardless of whether a drill is carried out or not. When
testing the engine, and propeller, it is necessary to check that the
latter is clear to turn. Since the boat is not floating on water, the
engine will only be run for a short while. This is to prevent overheating
and damages to the shaft seals. During cold weather, it is often difficult
to start the engines. The engineers have to ensure that the engines will
start when needed, in all kinds of weather.
After ensuring that the boat could be lowered smoothly, the boat was
brought back up again. To do this, an air driven motor was connected and
operated. The boat could also be raised up by manually turning a handle.
In this case, once the boat was put in place using the air driven motor,
the final movements was made manually. The cables, turnbuckles, and
tarpaulins were put back and normalized back.
Another lifeboat drill was successfully carried out.
There is another
type of boat called the inflatable
boat. Seaworthy enough to be used by people who sail the oceans on
sail cruisers, and very portable, they are certainly worth some consideration from people who
wants to go to sea, but does not want the hassle of carrying trailers or other
cumbersome equipment around.