To become a qualified crew member involves training and not all of it is theory, but practical. The training can include using the life rafts to pulling a dummy out of the water. In different situations, I have been trained or was even showing the public how to use a life raft. The practical lessons show you and the other crew how to work as a team. Also how the different types of equipment actually works.
Flares were something that we were taught to use. Since they were out of date and potentially dangerous we had to wear gloves and goggles. The gloves were for a good reason as I learnt. The first flare that I handled did the unexpected. After igniting it the flare did the usual thing of giving off a flame and smoke, although it was not meant to start burning from the bottom as well. It felt pretty hot and in the end I put it in a bucket of water to put it out. The next fun part was watching the rocket flares. We were next to the Tweed River down at Duranbah and the flare ended up on the Fingal side of the river, which is the other side. The training since then has changed, but flares are for emergencies only and we had the approval from the police to do this exercise.
I have had the opportunity on several occasions to train in a life raft. The first time was when new crew members had to jump in the water from around 3 metres and swim to the raft. They then had to get into the raft although you would be like a wet seal sliding in and on top of people already inside. The second time was actually a demonstration for the public of someone being airlifted from the life raft in the water onto a helicopter. I had a rescue person from the helicopter in the life raft with me and I had to let off a flare to show what happens in real life. The helicopter arrives and the person is picked up and lifted onto the helicopter. I learnt exactly what it’s like being under a chopper as it was pretty windy and the life raft did feel like it would tip over.
Other training we do can be throwing objects overboard to simulate a man overboard although we do have a dummy that can be used for this. This trains not only the crew to keep an eye on the object, but also the person who is driving the boat. The conditions out in the ocean are not always the same especially when you have to take the wind and what the ocean is doing into account like the swell and the currents. Navigation can be either following the GPS on the boat to a location or even trickier staying on a compass bearing to get to a location. I have been with the Marine rescue for around 8 years and have done much of the training although I have been on jobs where the training is needed.