Sometimes sailing is not, well, plain sailing. Anyone with any boating experience will almost certainly have encountered unexpected situations whilst at sea, from minor mishaps and illness to more serious problems such as serious accidents, faulty equipment leaving you adrift, or worse.
But for anyone who is thinking of heading out to the open waters of the sea, danger is always around the next corner – even when the sea doesn’t have any corners to see around! The prime purpose of the RYA/MCA Sea Survival is to ensure that anyone on board a boat or yacht is aware of safety procedures, understands the correct use of safety equipment, has at least some degree of first aid capability and knows how rescues at sea operate.
In other words, an RYA/MCA Sea Survival prepares you for the unexpected, for the potentially dangerous situations you could find yourself in thanks to a number of unforeseen circumstances, from a rapid change in weather conditions, damage to the craft, a collision or other serious accident.
An RYA/MCA Sea Survival is not for the skipper alone, but for anyone on board a boat. It’s important that everyone on board a sailing yacht or other craft has at least some basic grasp of safety as there is never any guarantee that the skipper or senior crew members will be available to assist.
The RYA/MCA Sea Survival is therefore an extremely important course, and one which is readily available throughout the UK and abroad, and comes highly recommended.
Usually at least part of the RYA/MCA Sea Survival course takes part in a swimming pool, although there obviously will be ‘open water’ elements included too. Often students are encouraged to bring their own wet gear and life jacket if they have them so that they can become familiar with getting into liferafts whilst wearing this equipment and clothing. This in itself is often the first time for many people.
• Understanding how to operate, use and get into lifejackets and liferafts
• The basic principles of how to survive in both cold water and hot water for extended periods of time
• Recognising and understanding the different types of lifejacket and their operation and features
• How to correctly launch an inflatable liferaft
• How to board a liferaft whilst both wet and dry (there is a considerable difference!)
• How to correctly right a capsized liferaft
• How to survive safely in a liferaft
• A basic introduction to first aid (highly valuable, but we recommend not to be relied upon as the only first aid training if you’re heading out into open water)
• Understanding the general arrangements for search and rescue at sea, including rescue techniques by helicopter, lifeboat and ship
• How to safely fire flares, send a Mayday broadcast and activate an EPIRB (Emergency Positioning-Indicating Radio Beacon)
As you can see it is a comprehensive introduction to sea survival, and essential for anyone heading out into open waters. Although basic first aid is included we recommend looking at some of the more comprehensive RYA first aid training courses as these will allow you to go into more depth looking at situations you are more likely to encounter when on board a yacht. For example, knowing how to put someone in the recovery position whilst in the confined space of a boat, how to deal properly with hypothermia or heatstroke, and what first aid is necessary for someone who has been close to drowning.
Whilst sailing is statistically very safe, it is very much the case that your safety is much more likely if you are properly prepared, and this RYA/MCA Sea Survival course is definitely an excellent step in the direction of achieving that level of preparedness.