Sea Survival Skills – with Survival Wisdom

On Monday and Tuesday of last week the team and Doris were down in Plymouth with the amazing Survival Wisdom (www.survivalwisdom.com) for 2 days of sea survival training.
We arrived at the Survival Wisdom centre at the beautiful Mount Edgecumbe country park, accompanied by the brilliant Dean from Timecode Pro (www.timecodepro.co.uk), who generously came with us to film our training.
The day began with a welcome cup of tea and introductions to our instructors: Richard, Jase and Alf. The team at Survival Wisdom specialise in “giving you the resilience to deal with challenging environments across the globe and enduring, crucial skills for any situation”. They have a scarily impressive portfolio of military experience gained working and training in some of the most challenging environments in the world, including sea, jungle, desert and extreme cold environments, so we were in very safe hands!
Monday was a day in the classroom broken down into 4 main sessions:
(1) Overview of sea survival and a discussion of hazard awareness and risk reduction specifically in the context of our Pacific Ocean row
(2) The psychology of survival
(3) A discussion of the safety equipment that we will have with us for our row
(4) A ‘dry’ run through of life raft drills, man (or lady!) overboard drills and use of flares
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The sessions were incredibly valuable. The Survival Wisdom team had done their homework and had a close look at our planned route and equipment list, so all of their advice was tailored toour challenge.
It is crucial to our team that we approach our row as safely as possible and reduce all potential risks as much as we can. As part of this, we will be making sure that we have all of the best safety equipment and know how to use it. Before we go, we will also identify all potential hazards and prepare detailed ‘what ifs’, setting out the actions that we will take if particular sets of circumstances arise. It was reassuring to run through some of these scenarios with Survival Wisdom and to hear their positive thoughts on our approach and to get some brilliant additional suggestions from the team.
The ‘dry’ run through was a good learning experience, as well as great fun. We started with a quick session outside where Jase went over how to activate white collision flares. We then headed back to the classroom to practice the actions required for getting ourselves into a liferaft. Doris is a completely self-righting boat, so we should never need to get into our Crewsaver Life raft, however we need to be well prepared for the worse case scenario.
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On Tuesday, we had a chance to put the previous day’s learning into practice. We headed out on Doris early in the morning from the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth, who generously hosted us for the day (www.mayflowermarina.co.uk), and rowed out into Cawsand Bay. Conditions were windy and bumpy enough that 3 of us were a little sea sick. That didn’t hold us back though, and we met Richard and Jase from Survival Wisdom out in the bay with Alastair and one of his colleagues from All Marine Engineering Services (www.allmarineengineering.co.uk) with their boat.
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We started off by practising our liferaft drill. We were wearing our amazing Crewsaver ErgoFit smocks, salopettes and 190N life
jackets and we jumped off Doris into the water with our grab bag of crucial safety equipment. We grouped together into a ‘crocodile’ and swam together to the liferaft.
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Once inside, we ran through the list of immediate actions to be taken on entering the liferaft (bailing excess water, inflating the final bits of the raft, closing the doors, deploying the para anchor etc). The conditions were choppy, which made the drill more realistic. We even spotted a twister on the horizon(!) and Emma and Laura were battling with sea sickness throughout, but they didn’t let that distract them from the task in hand.
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After the liferaft drill, we practiced our man over board drill from Doris. Getting back into Doris from the water was more challenging than getting into the liferaft, but we all managed it unassisted. We also practised lifting an “unconscious” Laura into the boat. After the successful drills, we headed back into the Mayflower Marina and to Jolly Jacks Bar Bistro for a well earned fish and chip lunch and a debrief. There we met Sally Baum, Heather and the team at Jolly Jacks who came on board as sponsors of our row after just a quick meeting and we were completely blown away by their kindness, enthusiasm and generosity.
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There isn’t room in this blog to set out all of the numerous learning outcomes of our sea survival training, but if there are 3 things that we will all take away from our time with Survival Wisdom, they are probably these:
(1) Everything we take on Doris must have a purpose (and, if it can, more than one purpose, as there isn’t much room on
board!)
(2) Be aware of possible risks, or ‘lemons’. Identify them and don’t let them accumulate – we don’t want too many lemons on the boat!
(3) When faced with a challenging situation, there is no substitute for having a cup of tea and taking the time to make a good team decision about how to deal with it.
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A huge thanks again to Dean from Timecode Pro, the teams at Survival Wisdom and All Marine Engineering Services, the Mayflower Marina and Jolly Jacks for all of your support and for making it a great couple of days in Plymouth.
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2 Comments

  1. Richard says:

    Great to work with you all on such an amazing challenge, we are fully behind you in your endeavours!!! Glad you liked my “cup of tea shot!” Rich and the Team at SW!

    • Natalia Cohen Natalia Cohen says:

      We loved our time with all of you incredible SW guys! You’re amazing and we can’t thank you enough for your support and invaluable advice.
      Your “cup of tea” was a classic and we look forward to our paths crossing again in the next few months.
      The Coxless Crew Team x

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