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Former account manager at Superyachtimes.com, Riejanneke Niesert, was invited to Warsash to follow our STCW Basic Safety Training course, a mandatory programme for anybody aspiring to work on board a merchant navy vessel or superyacht.
STCW Basic Safety Training provides a solid basic training in order to guarantee proper qualifications for seafarers, including all crew on board superyachts. As it is Riejanneke's ambition to work as a superyacht stewardess, she spent five days being trained in personal safety and social responsibilities, fire prevention and fire fighting, personal survival techniques and elementary first aid.
Riejanneke successfully completed the course and within two days after arriving in the South of France she found a job on a 60m superyacht.
Like every day during the training, the first day started at 08.30. An introduction to the course was given, followed by a passport check and filling out several forms. As soon as the paperwork and a classroom safety brief were completed there was a short break. It was at that moment I realised I was the only girl doing the course with 20 men: all British and aged 30 years and over. With the exception of a few, most of them had experience at sea, working in commercial shipping. So initially I was a bit hesitant as to whether or not I would lack any kind of basic knowledge for the course, or maybe run into a slight language barrier. However, the lecturer for the Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities course was very friendly and spoke slowly, using plain language which allowed non-British students, ie, me, to be able to stick with the programme. To ensure maximum involvement and concentration, our teacher asked ample questions and a lot of short breaks were included into the schedule. During lunch we had more time to explore the campus, and the restaurant offered a great and affordable menu. In the afternoon we began the second course for this week: Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting, given by Dave Dowds. After a brief introduction - because many new students only attend the fire fighting training, which is therefore one of the busiest parts of the course - the necessary forms and a classroom safety brief, the course commenced with a wide range of examples, photographic material and short films. An important part of the programme was an in-depth discussion of different types of fire prevention and the classification of fires.
Day two started with the second half of our Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting theoretical programme and took place in the fire school. Teacher and fire fighter, Kev Murphy – ‘Spud’ for the insiders - walked us through a number of examples, audiovisual material and, excitingly, an introduction of the equipment that we would be using later that day. Spud taught us the first steps of the breathing apparatus and also gave us some insight into the next day, during which we would undertake the practical part of our fire fighting course. After lunch Dave Dowds gave lots of practical examples by using small fires to show how fires in various classifications could start. By the end of day two, we had been taught all the fire classifications, associated materials, the extinguishing methods and the extinguishing medium. In short, it was a highly productive and interesting day.
Wednesday started off with all students changing into their fire fighting outfits. With the right clothing we were allowed to enter the fire fighting zone, where we would be putting out small fires of different classifications. We were divided in two groups and learned how to use the different types of extinguishers. After these small fires, we were prepared for the larger fire that we were going to have to put out at the end of the day. After trying different nozzles, to find out what works best for each person, we learned how to make a jet and a spray with two different nozzles. After the break we were divided into small teams of four students, with each team designating a leader. The teams were brought to a replicated ship, which would be the setting for the next level in our training. I was lucky enough to be assigned leader of my team, so I led my team into the ship where we had to work out the layout and search for casualties in the dark. After lunch, a new team leader was assigned. This time we had to enter the ship with flashlights, search for a casualty and put down the fire that was initiated in the basement. For the duration of the practical exercises we were accompanied by eight professional fire fighters who helped us out greatly and made the entire day an unforgettable educational and rewarding experience. At the end of the day, I got a tour from Ben Benson, one of the Academy’s lecturers. He showed me around the large campus with all its classrooms and facilities, such as the gym, library, engineering building, simulation rooms, and much more. He explained that the STCW course I was following is in fact a small part of the range of courses and programmes that Warsash Maritime Academy has to offer!
Thursday was all about the Personal Survival Techniques course. It turned out to be an extensive day, starting with the theoretical part of the course. This began with the demonstration of life jackets and immersion suits, which some of the students tried on. Some of the suits were rather funny, but the course took a more serious turn when the subject of life rafts came up, along with all the aspects of search and rescue, factors affecting survival and medical aspects of survival. All of this was accompanied by an extensive power point presentation with photos and videos. With me being afraid of heights, the worst part of the course started after lunch: jumping off a four-metre high platform into the pool, wearing a lifejacket. We learned how to stay warm in the cold water, how to stick with the group, and how to form a line, swim and get into to a life raft. The day was rounded up with a staged survival situation: jumping off the ‘yacht’ into the cold water, surrounded by rain and smoke, searching for the group and entering the life raft.
With everybody feeling rather tired, the last day – Elementary First Aid – was quite tough. However, the lecturers managed to make it a successful day again. Because of the size of the group we had two lecturers: Paul Dumbleton and Derek Hatch. After an introduction and the theory of incident management and management of the unconscious casualty, we were ready for the, rather difficult, practical part of the day's programme. With so many things to keep in mind, I was happy we had the chance to practice for a while, to get a better understanding of what to do when someone is choking or in shock. By the end of the week, although exhausted, I realised how much I had learned during the programme.
Thanks to the Academy's great lecturers, our group of students easily bonded, which made the week a lot more fun. The courses were taught in a fun, energetic and enthusiastic way and the combination of theory, short films and photographs, and extensive practical elements were very well balanced. We received handouts at the start of every course, and although there were a lot of topics, the course has really managed to teach me and my fellow students a lot!
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